007 questions now that Bond 23 is back on

A few key questions have been answered: we know Daniel Craig is coming back for his third 007 film, director Sam Mendes was finally confirmed and the names of the writers were disclosed. That just raises more questions about Bond 23, due to come out in November 2012. Here are some of the most obvious:

001. What’s the title? Remaining Ian Fleming short story titles include The Property Of a Lady (referenced already in Octopussy), Risico, The Hildebrand Rarity and 007 in New York. Few thought that Quantum of Solace would be used as a movie title, so the remaining are fair game, though it’s hard to imagine 007 in New York would be that appealing.

Of course, Eon bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli don’t have to use a Fleming title. Fans have also speculated over the years that chapter titles from Fleming novels might be used. Your guess is as good as ours at this point.

002. Who’s John Logan? He’s a 49-year-old, Chicago-born writer, who has written both movies and made-for-television films, ranging from a genre movie (Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002), to a big costume drama/action movie (2000’s Gladiator, where he was part of a tag team of scribes) to a TV movie about the making of Citizen Kane, RKO 281.

Logan also was nominated for two Oscars, for Gladiator and The Aviator, a film biography of Howard Hughes. So Logan sports a varied resume.

003. Does John Logan have more enthusiasm for James Bond than Peter Morgan did? Some time back, Eon said they’d hired Morgan, a writer of politically themed movies mostly to work with with writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who’ve hung around the 007 series since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.

Given Morgan’s comments after he stopped working on Bond 23, bordering on disdain for 007, it’s hard to imagine Logan has less enthusiasm compared to Morgan. It would be nice if Logan advanced further than Morgan did. After promising a story that would be “shocking,” Morgan never got past the treatment phase (essentially a detailed outline) and never even wrote a draft of a script.

004. Will Logan, Purvis and Wade pick up on that “shocking” story? After Quantum of Solace, we’d settle for an entertaining story. We’re also on record as saying it’d be nice if Bond 23 wasn’t “personal.” Time to give the “this time it’s PERSONAL!” theme a rest.

005. Is Judi Dench coming back as M? No word in the Jan. 11 press release by Eon Productions and MGM. Dench’s status is just one of casting questions, with others including who’s going to be the villain, female lead, etc.

006. What does Mendes coming aboard as director mean? It means that producers Wilson and Broccoli still aren’t giving up on their desire for critical respect after getting a taste of it for 2006’s Casino Royale. The question really is whether Mendes can do a better job that the one Marc Forster did with the muddled Quantum of Solace.

007. But aren’t you glad about this announcement? Of course. This blog has been getting more traffic about the new Hawaii Five-0 series lately than it has about James Bond. All those posts about MGM’s financial ills weren’t very fun. At least there’s something new to talk about.

Bond 23 “delayed indefinitely”

This just in off the PR Newswire:

Bond 23 Delayed Indefinitely

2010-04-19 19:45:59.645 GMT

LONDON, April 19, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — 007 producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions, today announced they have suspended development on the next James Bond film previously scheduled for release 2011/2012.

“Due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on BOND 23 indefinitely. We do not know when development will resume and do not have a date for the release of BOND 23,” stated Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli jointly.

EON Productions have produced twenty two James Bond films since 1962. In 1995, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took over the 007 franchise from Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and are responsible for producing some of the most successful James Bond films ever, including CASINO ROYALE and more recently QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The James Bond franchise is the longest running in film history. EON Productions and Danjaq LLC are affiliate companies and control all worldwide merchandising for James Bond.

Copyright (c) 2002, PR Newswire Europe http://www.prnewswire.co.uk

Provider ID: 30005922

-0- Apr/19/2010 19:45 GMT

For the moment, we have no additional comments, other than to say that we are shocked but not surprised. Heartbreaking news, indeed.

UPDATE: Because of this development, we have updated this April 15 HMSS Weblog post handicapping the prospects for Bond 23 and three other spy movie projects.

Some editorial pissing and moaning

Much as been discussed, amongst James Bond fans, about the current news covering the financial implosion of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as the once-great studio slides into ignominious dissolution. This article at Deadline Hollywood can bring you up to speed on all the details. Suffice it to say that the future of the James Bond film series looks a little dicey right now.

Most Bond fans, while not necessarily shrugging it off, point to the six-year delay (due to Danjaq’s lawsuit against MGM/UA,) between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye as evidence that the series has “survived” similar problems in the past.
MGM logo

Survived” being the operative word…

The difference between then and now is that, back in 1989, the series was running on inertia if not actually beginning to wind down. The success of The Living Daylights notwithstanding, Timothy Dalton wasn’t the big hit with audiences the studio was expecting, and Licence to Kill, capping off an uneven decade of John Glen cookie-cutter entries, sputtered at the box office during the summer of Batman. Nevertheless, there was in the background a continuing, palpable desire on the audience’s part to see Pierce Brosnan take up the role of James Bond. That unextinguished flame helped light the way for the triumphal return of the series with 1995’s GoldenEye. That was then.

Now we have a “rebooted” series, telling a (new) story of the 007’s career from the beginning, starring one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed actors in the role in history. Chapters 1 and 2 have been enormously successful, and worldwide interest in James Bond hasn’t been this high in decades. But, despite all that momentum, the producers got “tired,” distracted with other projects, and otherwise futzed around with planning the next film — so now there’s nothing in the pipeline when the studio goes kerflooey.

Here’s the situation I think the James Bond movies are in: the production company, which owns half of the property, is ambivalent about its commitment to the property. The bankrupt studio, which owns the other half, isn’t going to let one of its few remaining assets get away while fighting for its survival. So… nobody else can make a James Bond movie, and the people who can can’t afford it, and maybe aren’t all that interested in going to all that work anyhow. It’s probably going to take years for things to sort out, after which 1. Their popular leading man will, almost certainly, be gone — and with no heir apparent in sight; and 2. Audience interest will have found other things to glom on to.

Sorry to be pessimistic, but I think this is a serious setback for the James Bond movie series — a setback which it’s going to have to, once again, “survive.” How many lives does this cinematic cat have? It survived On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s box office drubbing because Sean Connery came back for one more; it survived Connery permanently leaving due to the popularity Roger Moore brought with him; it survived The Man with the Golden Gun‘s failure because EON (and newly-sole proprietor Cubby Broccoli) went balls-to-the-wall making The Spy Who Loved Me; it survived Licence to Kill because people still wanted to see Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

It’s been 47 years and 22 screen adventures for our favorite “gentleman secret agent with a license to kill.” But how many bullets can James Bond dodge? Will he finally succumb to inertia, or will he suffer the death of a thousand cuts, inflicted by the ones who can truly kill him — the lawyers and the MBAs and the accountants?

— Paul Baack

Bond 23: 2010? (Unlikely) 2011? 2012?

It’s looking like there will be at least a three-year gap between 007 movies. It wouldn’t surprise us if it’s four.

Last month, the Yorkshire Post published AN INTERVIEW with Eon Productions Ltd. bossman Michael G. Wilson. (We’ll also give a tip of the cap to the Commander Bond site that did AN ARTICLE where we learned about the Yorkshire Post piece.)

This is the Wilson quote that caught our eye:

“At the moment the third Daniel Craig movie is not even a glimmer in its mother’s eye. Filming Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace back to back took a lot out of time and energy so at the moment we are all just recharging our batteries.”

To maintain an ever-other-year pace in the past, the Eon team was at least starting to develop a script around the same time a Bond movie was being released. That would seem to indicate 2010 is out of the question, or getting that way fast.

The comment about how exhausting making Bond movies on a two-year schedule raises the question about a 2011 release. Wilson made similar comments about 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. An exerpt from ONE SUCH INTERVIEW.

What plans does Wilson have for the next film? “We don’t have any ideas at this point,” he says, contemplating the rounds of publicity still ahead of him. “It just seems that this one’s been particularly hard.”

Time off for good behavior seems to be where Wilson is these days. The next Bond outing is officially slated for 2002 – that’s an extra year off. What’s clear is that there is a desire to break free of the two-year production cycle that has lead to two scripts that haven’t lived up to expectations. The year off gives everyone time to recharge their batteries and come back with a Bond film everyone will be happy with.

That extra year off resulted in 2002’s Die Another Day. After that film, the earliest talk was of a 2005 release date, eventually getting pushed back to 2006. Admittedly there was a lot going on in that period over at Eon, including the 2004 death of Dana Broccoli, mother of both Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and the decision to recast Bond once more, with Daniel Craig replacing Pierce Brosnan.

Still, we can’t help but wonder if Eon has been running on fumes for much of this decade. Finally getting the rights to Casino Royale seemed to have recharged Eon. But that’s the past. And, assuming Eon’s policy of not using continuation novels (and avoiding paying the Fleming estate even a token second payment) holds, Eon has to start anew on a script. Plus, we can’t help but wonder if Eon will let Bond 23 slide till 2012, and tie it in with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No.

Whatever the reason, it seems safe to say the era two-year intervals for Bond movies may be at an end.

UPDATE: It would seem half siblings Wilson and Broccoli aren’t too tired (or have recharged their batteries enough) to do two non-Bond films, which would be the first since for the company since the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana.

The duo want to do both a non-Bond spy film and a re-make of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The latter is also based on an Ian Fleming novel, this one aimed at children. The 1968 original technically isn’t an Eon movie even though it was produced by Albert R. Broccoli. Broccoli formed a different company to make Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For that matter, Broccoli’s then-partner, Harry Saltzman, made non-Bond movies outside the Eon fold.

In any case, it seems clear Wilson and Barbara Broccoli want to spread their wings beyond 007. We’re reminded they spent a year developing a movie based on Halle Berry’s Jinx character from Die Another Day. That went nowhere but the duo seem to want to prove something. Barbara Broccoli previously was executive producer of Crime of the Century, a made-for-cable-TV movie about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case.

Now we’re wondering if Bond 23 can make a 2012 release date…