The faith-based James Bond movie

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

That, of course, would be Bond 25, the James Bond film without a distributor, a script, a director or even a confirmed James Bond.

More than 16 months after the release of SPECTRE, much of agent 007’s next film adventure is a matter of faith, not fact.

Example: There’s IndieWire’s March 21 story that proclaims:

For Bond fans wondering what might lure Daniel Craig back for “Bond 25,” it just might be the opportunity for 007 to metaphorically save the world from the Orwellian nightmare of Trump, Putin, Brexit, and WikiLeaks.

At least that’s the hope of long-time Bond scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have been hired to write the script for “Bond 25.”

This passage is based on a January interview The Telegraph had with scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. In the interview, Purvis said, “Each time, you’ve got to say something about Bond’s place in the world, which is Britain’s place in the world. But things are moving so quickly now, that becomes tricky.

“With people like (U.S. President Donald) Trump, the Bond villain has become a reality. So when they do another one, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the fact that the world has become a fantasy.”

Since then, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported Purvis and Wade were hired to script Bond 25, their 007th Bond film writing effort.

So, IndieWire takes the leap of faith that Bond 25 will take on Brexit, Trump, etc., and that will entice Daniel Craig to come back for a fifth 007 film.

And as Bond co-producer, Craig would help shape the story by Purvis and Wade. So maybe, like Bond, he just needs a break before returning to active duty, putting on hold any notion of being succeeded by such leading contenders as Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender or Jack Huston.

Of course, almost all of this is conjecture. Granted, Bamigboye has a record of scoops concerning Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven to be correct. But the Daily Mail scribe **has not** described any details of a possible Bond 25 plot.

And Purvis, in his January interview telegraph described *the difficulty* of writing a new 007 film. His comments about Brexit, Trump, etc., were not about anything concerning Bond 25’s story line — which, at best, is in early stages of development.

It shouldn’t be needed, but here’s a note of caution anyway. Weeks ago, Bond fans were going crazy over word that Eon Productions had bought an old helicopter. Surely, the fans thought, it must be for Bond 25.

It wasn’t, as noted by the MI6 James Bond website. It was for a non-007 film project.

That hasn’t stopped fans from speculating. Some still hold out hope that Bond 25 somehow, some way, will come out in 2018.

Still, it bears repeating. Almost everything about Bond 25, at this point, is faith based, not fact based.

Sony passed on chance to buy MGM, WSJ says

Sony Pictures at one time passed on a chance to outright buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of James Bond, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Journal doesn’t specify exactly when this occurred. But, based on the story by Ben Fritz, it was before MGM reorganized during a 2010 bankruptcy. Here’s the key excerpt:

Sony Pictures executives discussed buying Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, whose James Bond movies Sony had distributed for years. Instead MGM reorganized itself into an independent venture. Other potential acquisitions targets for Sony included DreamWorks Animation and pay-cable network Starz, according to employees. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. ended up buying the network.

“There was a cautious business philosophy where we did not want to take big swings,” said a former Sony Pictures executive.

The story concerns both Sony Pictures and Paramount described as “Hollywood’s two worst-performing movie studios” by the Journal.

Paramount missed its own opportunity. It initially released movies produced by Marvel Studios. But Walt Disney Co. moved in and bought Marvel.

Sony has released the past four James Bond films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal expired with SPECTRE. Under that contract, Sony co-financed the films but only got 25 percent of the profits.

The Journal recently reported that MGM’s attempts to sell itself to a Chinese buyer fell apart last year.

Regardless, MGM has no distribution agreement for Bond 25. The studio and Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions) control the Bond franchise.

Helicopter bought by Eon may not be for Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Eon Productions’ recent purchase of a helicopter may not be for Bond 25, according to the Twitter feed of the MI6 James Bond website.

The helicopter is to be used for a non-Bond “historical war film” that Eon is co-producing, the website said on Twitter. The movie is to be filmed late this year, the website said.

Eon’s purchase of the helicopter from a museum, first reported last month, spurred fan interest whether it might be for Bond 25.

There has been little official news about the next installment of the 007 film series.

MGM said nothing about the project on a call with investors last week to discuss 2016 financial results. Daily News writer Baz Bamigboye reported last week that screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were being brought back to work on Bond 25’s story but there was no official comment from Eon.

Bamigboye had a number of scoops proven correct about Skyfall and SPECTRE, the last two Bond films.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

UPDATE (March 13): The MI6 James Bond website now has a FULL STORY on the subject.

 

More Bond 25 questions after P&W’s return

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

With the apparent return of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to script Bond 25, naturally there are more questions.

No Bond 25 story yet? After all this time?

According to the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, Purvis and Wade are the first writers to be hired.

Given Bamigboye’s record with scoops proven correct about Skyfall and SPECTRE, you have to take him seriously.

But the first to be hired 16 months after SPECTRE debuted? We’re not talking a first draft or a treatment (story outline). We’re talking about turning on the old word processor and confronting a blank screen.

By contrast, MGM announced in November 2012 — while Skyfall was still in theaters — that John Logan had been hired to write the next two installments. Eventually, that was changed to one, but the studio wanted everyone to know things were full speed ahead.

Purvis & Wade again? This will be their seventh (or 007th if you like puns) consecutive Bond film effort.

To put that in perspective consider this: Richard Maibaum had 13 Bond writing credits. But his longest streak was five (all 1980s Eon Productions efforts).

Also, the hiring comes less than two months after Purvis told The Telegraph, “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Evidently, something came up.

To be clear, this blog has not bashed the writing duo. But their hiring for Bond 25 begs the question whether Eon casts a very wide net. Are there really so few writers suitable for the job?

On the other hand, it is a tough job as the likes of John Logan, Paul Haggis, Bruce Feirstein and others have found out over time.

John Logan and Jez Butterworth, who also worked on the last two 007 films (Logan credited both times, Butterworth only once) were brought in by director Same Mendes.

What does this say about when Bond 25 eventually comes out? 

As noted above, Logan was on board to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) in November 2012. He didn’t submit his first draft until March 2014.

If indeed Purvis and Wade are just getting started, 2019 seems a stronger possibility than 2018. Once a first draft is delivered, months of rewrites usually ensue. If, say, a script is hammered out in early 2018, there’s still casting and numerous other details.

“In any event, no camera will roll on Bond 25 until next autumn at the earliest,” Bamigboye wrote in his story.

And, for now, there’s no confirmed James Bond and no studio to distribute the movie.

Purvis & Wade hired to write Bond 25, Baz Bamigboye says

Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. (Paul Baack illustration)

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been hired to write a story for Bond 25, Baz Bamigboye wrote on Twitter.

The Daily Mail scribe, who had a number of Skyfall and SPECTRE scoops proven correct, also said actor Daniel Craig is “still deciding whether he will do it.

Bamigboye didn’t say anything else. His tweet went out around around 7:15 p.m. New York time.

If Bamigboye is correct, it would be the pair’s seventh consecutive James Bond film assignment.

Purvis, while promoting SS-GB in January, said, “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now,” in an interview with The Telegraph.

Bamigboye hasn’t written about Bond on a regular basis since the fall of 2014.

UPDATE (12: 20 a.m., March 10): Bamigboye followed up his tweet with a STORY IN THE DAILY MAIL.

Highlights: Purvis and Wade are doing the first draft of the story. That’s how most of their Bond movies have gone, except for SPECTRE, where they were summoned to revamp John Logan’s first draft.

Also, Bamigboye wrote that while Craig is undecided, “I hear he’s keener to do it than not.”

Bamigboye also writes the following about possible post-Craig Bonds.

However, when I was in Los Angeles, an executive at a studio close to the Bond franchise told me that while (Barbara) Broccoli is keen on (Jack) Huston, she is also ‘absolutely keen on having a black actor playing Bond’.

Here’s Bamigboye’s original tweet:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

MGM says nothing about Bond 25 on conference call

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said nothing about Bond 25 during a 24-minute conference call to discuss 2016 earnings.

CEO Gary Barber didn’t mention Bond 25 in prepared remarks. Shareholders asked no questions despite recent reports last month in the New York Post and Wall Street Journal that MGM had been shopping itself to an unidentified Chinese buyer. The deal came undone late last year, the Journal said.

MGM instead highlighted remakes it has in production or planned, including Tomb Raider, Death Wish and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The company also said it plans to increase its “content spend” this year to $400 million to $440 million from $218 million in 2016.

In March 2016, Barber said on an investor call that Bond movies would come out on a three- to four-year cycle. There has been no significant news from the studio about Bond 25 since.

MGM isn’t big enough to release films on its own and cuts deals with other studios to distribute and co-finance movies. MGM doesn’t have a distribution deal for Bond 25. The last four 007 films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture Bond deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

The latest conference call is archived on MGM’s investor relations page of its website.

About those MGM sales talks and Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post reported that an unknown Chinese buyer is negotiating to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.

The Post’s sister paper, The Wall Street Journal, followed up by saying MGM had been in talks with a Chinese buyer but the negotiations broke off last year.

How all this applies to Bond 25?

This may explain why MGM never reached a Bond 25 distribution deal

Back in March 2016, MGM said it was in no hurry to negotiate a new Bond movie distribution deal. If the Post and Journal are accurate (that MGM at least *had* talks with a would-be Chinese purchaser), the reason is obvious.

MGM CEO Gary Barber had bigger things on his mind. James Bond may be MGM’s biggest asset, but whether to sell the company or not is bigger (from the perspective of an MGM CEO) than that.

Such talks may have slowed the pace of Bond 25 development

Until there’s a studio that can distribute Bond 25, a new 007 production can’t reach theaters.

Following its 2010 bankruptcy, MGM no longer had a distribution operation. Since then, it has negotiated co-financing and distribution deals with other studios. Maybe that would have changed if a Chinese concern acquired MGM. If the Journal is correct, we’ll never know.

Regardless, MGM negotiating to sell to the Chinese probably would have sent any talks with other U.S.-based studios to distribute Bond 25 to the back burner.

Where do we go from here?

Your guess is as good as this blog’s. However, this is a reminder that Bond is tethered to a weak studio.

MGM bought United Artists in 1981. UA, years earlier, got control of half of the Bond franchise when Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, sold out because of financial troubles.

The MGM soap opera changes in some regards (executives come, executives go) but not in others.  MGM’s glory days are long gone.