THR says Broccoli & Wilson had rift with deposed MGM chief

Barbara Broccoli

The Hollywood Reporter, as part of a followup story about the firing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer chief Gary Barber, said Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions also had major differences with Barber.

“(I)nsiders say a rift had also developed between (Barber) and 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson,” according to the story by THR’s Paul Bond. ‘“There was a revolt,’ says an insider who claims the Broccoli camp ultimately refused to work with Barber.”

The THR story  was posted this morning. Variety and Deadline: Hollywood had new or updated stories Tuesday night. All three outlets described how Barber and board chairman Kevin Ulrich disagreed over strategy. Ulrich, according to the accounts, wants MGM to get bigger amid changes in media.

Variety said MGM’s board “had doubts about whether Barber had the right strategic vision and willingness to take big risks.”

Deadline said: “Ulrich saw an opportunity for MGM to remake itself into a digital powerhouse by renaming Epix with the MGM brand and making it a subscription streaming service that could line up favorably along the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney’s new service, Hulu and others that come along. The idea would be to include the upcoming James Bond film’s pay window as part of this.”

The upcoming film, of course, is Bond 25, which has an official U.S. release date of November 2019. Ulrich heads a New York investment company, Anchorage Capital Group, a major shareholder in MGM.


Bond 25 questions (MGM-Gary Barber edition)

 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, is now leaderless after CEO Gary Barber was apparently forced out. Naturally, the blog is intrigued and has some questions.

Why did Barber get the heave-ho? Outlets including  The Hollywood Reporter (“Barber was blindsided”), Variety (“Barber was blindsided”) and Deadline: Hollywood (“Gary Barber was asked to leave”) made it sound that Barber’s departure was swift and sudden. Considering that MGM in May extended Barber’s contract through 2022, that’s quite understandable.

The reports also cited disagreements between Barber and the board of directors.

What might that mean? Remember, MGM spent much of 2016 negotiating to sell itself to a Chinese buyer, a deal that never materialized, The Wall Street Journal reported in February 2017.

Barber, who took command of MGM in 2010 when it was in bankruptcy, has been gradually trying to expand the company. It has become a good-sized buyer of television shows.

And it took a step toward again becoming a “big boy studio” by striking a deal with Annapurna Pictures to create a joint venture to release each other’s movies. That would be a step toward MGM taking more control of its films. Until now, MGM has cut deals with other studios to distribute MGM films, including the Bond series.

Speculation: It may be the MGM board lost patience and wants to sell the studio.

UPDATE (7 p.m. eastern time): Actually, Deadline: Hollywood, in an update, says it was the other way around from the blog’s speculation — directors didn’t want to sell but Barber wanted to entertain a sale.

How might this affect Bond 25? The next 007 film was specifically exempted from the MGM-Annapurna joint venture. Deadline reported in November that joint venture was “thisclose” to securing U.S. domestic distribution. That was never announced. But if that’s an unannounced reality, there’s still the question of international distribution.

If you’re a studio interested in Bond 25 distribution (in whole or part), who do you talk to? MGM said Monday night there will be an “office of the CEO” that reports to the board until a successor is named.

More broadly, at least for now, Barber’s ouster creates uncertainty for Eon Productions and its parent company, Danjaq. MGM controls half the franchise. That means Agent 007 is tethered to a studio where nothing seems to stay stable for long.

UPDATE II (9:45 p.m., eastern time): The Tracking Board and Variety came out with similar “behind the scenes” stories Tuesday night.

The Tracking Board said a key MGM director saw the company “as a growing empire more than a company on the block as an acquisition target. ” Variety said MGM’s board “has big ambition for growing the once-troubled studio into a major force in film and TV” while deciding Barber “was not the person to lead MGM into the future.”


MGM CEO Barber leaving the studio

Gary Barber, former MGM chief

Gary Barber, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio for the James Bond film franchise, is departing the studio after eight years at the helm, according to numerous news accounts.

Deadline: Hollywood, in an update of its initial story, said late Monday that Barber “was asked to leave” by the company’s board of directors.

The executive was requested to depart “over disagreements on strategy about the future direction of the company,” according to the entertainment news website. “In no uncertain terms, Barber was asked to leave the company, a move that sent has employees reeling.” Barber declined to comment to Deadline about why he was leaving.

The move came after MGM in October extended Barber’s contract through 2022. Barber’s exit apparently was swift. He was still listed as CEO on the company’s website early Tuesday morning.

Barber’s exit potentially could affect Bond 25. MGM hasn’t announced how the movie will be distributed.

MGM formed a joint venture last year with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies. Deadline in November reported the joint venture was close to getting the U.S. distributorship for the film. If the deal was completed it was never publicly disclosed. It’s possible another studio may distribute Bond 25 in international markets.

Bond 25 also hasn’t nailed down a director. Danny Boyle said last week he plans to direct the film if a script being written by John Hodge is approved.

Barber took command of MGM when the studio was in bankruptcy in 2010. He steered a slimmed down version of MGM, which has improved its finances since then.

His departure is the latest twist in an often dysfunctional relationship between MGM and Eon Productions and its parent firm, Danjaq. MGM acquired United Artists in 1981, which included half control of the Bond franchise. Relations have at time been tense between the two sides.

Barber’s tenure appeared to be an exception. In his public remarks, Barber frequently referred to Danjaq as partners.

UPDATE (1:05 p.m. eastern time): MGM has removed Barber from the part of its website featuring executives.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part IV)

Danny Boyle

Apologies. The blog is suffering from Lt. Columbo-itis. Little things bother it. So here are some more questions about Bond 25.

Why did Danny Boyle go public with his involvement with Bond 25 now?

Without a mind reading machine, there’s no way to know for sure. But Boyle’s behavior is a lot different than his predecessor in the 007 director’s chair, Sam Mendes.

In January 2010, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Mendes mostly about other topics. But the paper asked if it was true he’d be directing the next James Bond film.

“It’s only speculation and, you know, at the moment there isn’t even a studio to make the James Bond movie, because MGM is for sale.”

The thing was, at almost the same time, Mendes’ U.K. publicist, Sara Keene, confirmed to The Guardian that Mendes was in talks about directing what would become Skyfall. “I can confirm that he has had a meeting, but Sam always has lots of projects on the table that he might direct next,”

In contrast, Boyle’s comments to Metro and other outlets were relatively straight forward. He said he planned to direct Bond 25 if a script being written by John Hodge is accepted. If that occurred, the plan would be to start production toward the end of 2018.

Just to be clear, the blog likes straight forwardness. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to comment, you say, “No comment.” That’s because when you deny things that turn out to be true (i.e. Ben Whishaw was playing Q in Skyfall, etc.) it hurts your credibility in the long run.

On the other hand, intentionally or not, Boyle may have pressured Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer a bit. If the Hodge script were rejected (and Boyle ended up not directing Bond 25), both would get questions about what happened.

Do you think Eon/MGM will turn down the script when Hodge finishes it?

Not likely. Supposedly, actor Daniel Craig is really keen on Boyle directing. For now, the blog suspects Eon boss Barbara Broccoli will move heaven and earth to keep him happy.

She’s repeatedly expressed her admiration for Craig. If Hodge delivered 110 pages of chicken tracks as a script, sure it’d be rejected. But if the Boyle-backed story is even remotely acceptable, it will get approved and off we go. At least, that’s the blog’s guess.

How does the pace of Bond 25 development compare with recent 007 films?

It’s lagging.

Bond 23 (Skyfall) was suspended because of MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy. In January 2011, there was an announcement the movie was back on, finally confirming Mendes’ involvement. Principal photography started in November 2011.

Bond 24 (SPECTRE) had a first draft script submitted in March 2014. Principal photography originally was slated to begin in October 2014, but was pushed back to December 2014.

At this point, Hodge is still writing his first draft. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had worked on a Bond 25 script for the better part of a year, but that’s been put aside for the Boyle-backed Hodge script.

Also, at the start of 2011 and 2014, it was known what studio (Sony Pictures) would be distributing Skyfall and SPECTRE respectively. No announcement has been made concerningt what what/which studio(s) will be distributing Bond 25.

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part III)

After Danny Boyle this week confirmed his involvement in Bond 25 (he’ll direct if a script being written by John Hodge is approved), the director’s comments generates even more questions about the next 007 film.

Who will be the composer? Some directors have a long-running collaboration with composers. The duos of Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini along with Steven Spielberg and John Williams come to mind.

The 007 film series isn’t immune. Thomas Newman did the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE because director Sam Mendes wanted him.

Boyle has worked with a variety of composers.

Some examples: Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (1997) was scored by David Arnold, the five-time 007 film composer. A.R. Rahman scored Boyle’s 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire. Daniel Pemberton scored 2015’s Steve Jobs.

Arnold, of course, knows his way around scoring a Bond film. Pemberton, in scoring 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was under orders from director Guy Ritchie to avoid a James Bond sound. To know how to avoid a 007 sound, you have to know what the Bond sound is to begin with.

Then again, Boyle might have a new choice up his sleeve. Assuming Boyle makes it to the Bond 25 director chair, the composer question may be one of the biggest wild cards in the production.

Why Boyle, and why now? Boyle wasn’t asked this question and nobody else is talking for the record.

A guess: For what ever reason, the powers that be (Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were looking for something different. 

In March 2017, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that six-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired for yet another go. That was confirmed in July 2017 and, as recently as December, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast the writers were still going at it.

P&W was a safe choice. Eon, which has employed P&W’s services since 1998, when they began work on the World Is Not Enough’s first draft, knows what P&W can do. By this time, P&W knows the ups and downs of working for Eon.

Boyle (and writer Hodge) evidently pitched something that caught the interest of Eon and MGM.

Is everything locked down? In the words of Sheriff J.W. Pepper: “Helllllllllll no!”

Outsiders don’t know when Hodge will deliver his first draft. Regardless, it’s doubtful that draft will be ready to go before the cameras. In movies, there is much rewriting after the initial draft is delivered.

What would be the strangest thing you could imagine regarding this process? If P&W were brought in to rewrite whatever Hodge delivers.


Boyle confirms he plans to direct Bond 25

Danny Boyle

Director Danny Boyle told a writer for Metro that he plans to direct Bond 25, with production starting at the end of 2018.

“We are working on a script right now. And it all depends on that really,” Boyle told Metro’s Gregory Wakeman.”

Boyle confirmed he was also involved with a musical.

“I am working on a Richard Curtis script (for the musical) at the moment. We hope to start shooting that in 6 or 7 weeks. Then Bond would be right at the end of the year. But we are working on them both right now.”

Regarding Bond 25, he added: “John Hodge, the screenwriter, and I have got this idea, and John is writing it at the moment. And it all depends on how it turns out. It would be foolish of me to give any of it away.” Boyle spokes to Metro Wednesday in New York.

Boyle’s comments confirmed reports in Variety, Deadline: Hollywood and the Daily Mail that Boyle was in the picture to direct Bond 25.

Variety first reported Boyle could direct the film. Deadline first reported Boyle’s involvement depended whether the Hodge script was accepted. The Mail said Boyle planned to do the musical and Bond 25. The Hollywood Reporter had reported about the musical, saying it would be Boyle’s next movie.

Eon Productions last year hired veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to write Bond 25. Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer including their involvement in a July 2017 press release that said the film would come out in November 2019 in the United States.

That was before Boyle and Hodge pitched their idea, which Hodge is now writing.

UPDATE (12:15 p.m.): The Associated Press has a tweet out that includes a short video of Boyle saying pretty much what he said to Metro.


Bond 25: The passionless 007?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 is progressing. Nobody knows how quickly. Nobody outside Eon Productions know exactly what’s happening..

Despite questions this blog has raised (including how nobody knows the distributor who will actually get the movie to theaters) , chances are the next James Bond film will still come out in the fall of 2019.

Why? Well, somebody is likely to step up even if Skyfall and SPECTRE generated small profits for Sony Pictures, the distributor for those two 007 films. Bond, at least for now, still generates a lot of global attention.

Bond still is a way to promote other, more profitable movies for studios that may become involved in Bond 25’s distribution.

The question remains whether Bond 25 will generate passion for global movie audiences.

Marvel Studios’s Black Panther, the newest member of the billion-dollar movie club, generated passion. It was viewed as a breakthrough for a vast audience that finally got to see sympathetic movie characters who looked like them.

That’s passion.

James Bond movies, of course, have been around for more than 55 years. There have been a half-dozen actors who’ve played Bond in the films.

Yet, the lack of Bond passion goes beyond familiarity.

The two custodians of the 007 franchise (Barbara Broccoli, 57, and Michael G. Wilson, 76) have spent the bulk of their lives in Bondage. That’s both a tremendous achievement (keeping such a franchise going) and, one suspects, a tremendous burden.

Broccoli and Wilson operated for years under the watchful eye of Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996) and his wife Dana Broccoli (1922-2004).

Since then, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have pursued non-Bond projects for many years now. Bond is lucrative. The other projects have provided variety. Maybe even provided passion.

In the coming months, there likely will be many stories generated about Bond 25.

But the larger question is whether Bond 25 will generate passion — for Broccoli and Wilson as well as the larger 007 audience.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But it’s something to keep in mind as the Bond 25 story unfolds.