Tentative answers to 007 questions about Bond 23’s indefinite delay

Eon Productions indefinitely delayed Bond 23 production six months ago because of continuing financial trouble at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. At the time, we posed (00)7 questions about the move. There aren’t many definitive answers, but here’s what can be said about the seven questions:

001. How long is indefinite? To quote James Bond (Sean Connery) when he was in the pool with Bambi and Thumper in Diamonds Are Forever, “I haven’t found out yet.” However, one option being considered by MGM debt holders would turn control over to Spyglass Entertainment executives and involve a trip into bankruptcy court. That would involve a “prepackaged” bankruptcy where creditors agree on terms in advance. Still, that’s likely to take a few months.

Also, it appears the Los Angeles Times was correct when it reported in August that Bond 23 didn’t have a script ready for shooting. (We’ll get to that shortly.) Daniel Craig also is doing other projects.

So let’s see: possible trip to bankruptcy court, new management getting up to speed at MGM, a busy actor and a script that’s not ready. To get Bond 23 out in time for Christmas 2011, it’d have to begin shooting by, say, April 1 or so. That appears not to be in the cards. And given the Spyglass deal with MGM isn’t yet certain — investor Carl Icahn is pitching a merger of MGM with Lions Gate Entertainment — you can’t yet count on 2012.

002. Does this mean Daniel Craig has played 007 for the last time? Craig, in his public statements, has said he wants to continue. To read one such example from August in the Hero Complex blog of the Los Angeles Times, CLICK HERE. Still, Craig is a hired hand (albeit a well compensated one). We’ll chalk this down as a tentative no, not because of the actor but because of the uncertainty of the MGM situation.

003. Bye bye Sam Mendes? Mendes’s reported participation as director had generated some buzz about Bond 23 before the production shutdown. David G. Wilson, son of Eon bossman Michael G. Wilson, told the IGN Web site (CLICK HERE for the full post) that Mendes is “very excited to do this film — and it’s a matter of timing too. He’s a hot director, and there’s a danger he would have to go and work on something else so we have to be patient and optimistic.” Once again, we’ll chalk the answer to our original question as a tentative no. The younger Wilson’s comments seem to leave wiggle room that Mendes could depart while saying the director remains enthusiastic about Bond.

004. Bye bye Peter Morgan? Answer affirmative, courtesy of the screenwriter himself. In an interview on the Coming Soon blog said he never finished an outline for Bond 23 when the plug got pulled and he wouldn’t be returning to the project. Eon announced last year it would team Morgan with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But Morgan, in the interview, talks about his other projects.

005. Do the Broccolis take this opportunity to cash out? No.

006. Bye bye Judi Dench? Assuming continued good health, answer is likely no as long as Craig returns.

007. How much damage does this do to the 007 franchise? That’s still the biggest question and still the toughest to answer. There have been production shutdowns for about half of the 21 years since Licence to Kill in 1989. Twice (1989 to 1995 and 2002 to 2006) the normal two to three years between films has been extended by one kind of hiatus or another. The current hiatus since 2008 is likely to run at least four years before it’s over.

The whole point of rebooting with Casino Royale supposedly was to show Bond at the start of his career. The momentum of that idea seems blunted even assuming a Craig return in 2012.

Most of these aren’t satisifying answers, but little about the past six months has been satisifying to 007 fans.

007 questions about Bond 23’s indefinite delay

The announcement that Eon Productions has opted to delay Bond 23 “indefinitely” is generating a lot of questions. Let’s get to them.

001. How long is indefinite? Well if there was a specific timeline, it wouldn’t be indefinite, would it? Still, indefinite can vary.

Golfer Tiger Woods, in a Feb. 19 statement didn’t actually say indefinitely but used similar words when talking about when he might play in a tournament again: “I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out that it will be this year.” It turned out to be less than two months.

In the case of Bond 23, how long indefinite turns out to be is linked to the fate of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and, for the moment, it appears that’s going to take longer than two months.

002. Does this mean Daniel Craig has played 007 for the last time? This will depend, at least in part, on the answer to 001. But here’s something to bear in mind: Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as Bond couldn’t survive a four-year hiatus by Eon; Timonthy Dalton’s couldn’t withstand a five-year hiatus. Even if Eon got Bond 23 out by 2012, a dicey proposition at the moment, that would be a four-year gap since Craig’s last 007 appearance in 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

003. Bye bye Sam Mendes? Eon has never officially announced Mendes was actually going to direct the movie. If he has been working on the film, the indefinite delay may very well scramble that. Recall that Guy Hamilton was actually signed to direct The Spy Who Loved Me, but bailed out as the partnership between producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was coming unraveled. That event resulted in a mere two-and-a-half year gap between 007 films, which seems rather quaint now.

004. Bye bye Peter Morgan? Morgan, the scribe behind Frost/Nison, actually was hired officially. He indicated in a December interview that he hadn’t done any work on the project since October because of the uncertainty surrounding MGM. At this stage, it’s hard to tell if he’ll ever resume.

005. Do the Broccolis take this opportunity to cash out? We’ve noted before that producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli seem to show more enthusiasm for non-Bond projects. Also, Michael Wilson has talked since at least 1999 about how tired he is.

006. Bye bye Judi Dench? The Oscar winner is now 75 and potentially looking at a few more years before reprising the role of M. Part of the answer may depend on whether Craig returns as Bond or not.

007. How much damage does this do to the 007 franchise? This is the biggest question and perhaps the hardest to analyze. One the one hand, it has survived other long delays in launching Bond movies. On the other, how many of these shots can the Bond series take?