Bond 25 questions/observations after NYT story

Daniel Craig

The New York Times turned up how five studios are bidding to release Bond 25. That new piece of the jigsaw puzzle adds information and raises new questions.

So much for that fan theory: Until now, there has been a popular fan theory that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer really had a Bond 25 distribution deal in its hip pocket but was just waiting for the right time to announce it.

If The Times is correct, no way. The April 20 story says MGM and Eon Productions only now “have started attending dog and pony shows put on by studios that want the (distribution) rights.”

A sliver of uncertainty in an uncertain world: Relatively speaking, Sony didn’t make as much money as you might think from distributing Skyfall and SPECTRE, the two most recent entries in the 007 series. Sony co-financed the movie but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM and Eon got a bigger share of the haul that Sony did.

However, as Brooks Barnes of The Times wrote, the competition reflects “the realities of the modern movie business. As competition for leisure time increases, studios have focused more intently on global blockbusters, and those are in short supply….Having a Bond movie on the schedule guarantees at least one hit in a business where there is almost no sure thing.”

Now the questions.

So when does Bond 25 come out? Not soon. Until a distribution deal is reached, things such as budgets can’t even be discussed. Some fans still hope that Bond 25 can still go into production in early 2018 for a late 2018 release.

Is Daniel Craig coming back as Bond? Still unknown.

What is Annapurna? It’s one of the five bidders, along with Sony, Warner Bros. Universal and 20th Century Fox.

Annapurna is a movie company founded by tech heiress Megan Ellison. Here’s a description from a 2011 New York Times story:

Annapurna Pictures has Megan Ellison, a 25-year-old scion of Silicon Valley, who over the last year or so has been feeding what may soon be hundreds of millions of dollars to the hungriest part of the movie business: the writers, producers, directors and stars who make sophisticated dramas and adventure films that are too risky for studios and their corporate owners.

Annapurna, for example, has a Kathryn Bigelow-directed drama due out in August, simply titled Detroit, set during the 1967 riots in that U.S. city. Ellison, now 31, has producing credits including Zero Dark Thirty. Finally, Annapurna has done business with MGM in the past.

5 studios seeking to release Bond 25, NYT reports

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Five studios are seeking to release Bond 25, The New York Times reported, citing five people familiar with the process it didn’t identify.

What’s more, according to the newspaper, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions are only offering a one-film deal. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bond films and its most recent two-picture agreement expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

The studios identified by The Times are Sony, Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and Annapurna, “an ambitious upstart financed and led by the Oracle heiress Megan Ellison.” Neither Walt Disney Co. nor Paramount are involved, The Times said. None of the companies involved returned calls from The Times seeking comment.

Reporter Brooks Barnes described an elaborate presentation by Sony that involved Kazuo Hirai, the CEO of parent company Sony Corp.

“Casting for the franchise has not been discussed in the meetings, according to the people briefed on them, although producers hope Daniel Craig will play the lead for at least one more chapter,” Barnes wrote. “He has a gap on his docket, according to movie industry databases, that would allow for filming.”

Under the most recent distribution deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE but only got 25 percent of the profits. MGM emerged from a 2010 bankruptcy as a smaller company, without its own distribution operation. MGM mostly produces television shows. It relies on distribution deals with other studios for its small film slate.

Our newest Bond 25 questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There’s been a bit of Bond 25 news recently. Or has there?

Here are some questions intended to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Script? Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on a Bond 25 story, according to a report by the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye last month. Eon Productions never confirmed it, but typically it hasn’t confirmed other 007 scoops Bamigboye had about Skyfall and SPECTRE.

How far along are Purvis and Wade? Maybe not very far.

The duo are in the midst of adapting the novel I Am Victor, according to an April 5 story in Deadline: Hollywood.

If Deadline is accurate, the writers “are understood to be finalizing the script before it goes out to cast.” That suggests Purvis and Wade are, at best, in early days of their Bond 25 work.

Meanwhile, there’s a possibility of a Writer’s Guild strike early next month, which would adversely affect movie and television production.

What about that New York Post gossip column? Page Six says Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is close to getting Daniel Criag to coming back for Bond 25. But it doesn’t actually say it’s a done deal.

So? There’s still no Bond 25 director. There’s still no Bond 25 distributor. Sony Pictures, which distributed the last four 007 films, saw its most recent two-picture 007 deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expire with SPECTRE.

What are you trying to say? The blog is trying to say there may be more chaff than wheat at this point.

–You have a star (Craig) who hasn’t publicly committed, despite plenty of opportunity to do so.

–You have a production company (Eon) that seems in no rush to produce the next Bond movie and is keeping busy on various non-007 projects.

–You have a studio (MGM) that seems busy with other matters.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that MGM was trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but the deal fell apart. MGM never denied the story and at last month’s investor call, the subejct never came up.

Meanwhile, MGM agreed this week to spend $1 billion to give itself sole ownership of the Epix premium TV channel. If the Epix investment works out, that would help MGM’s finances every year. Bond movies, still one of MGM’s biggest assets, come out only so often.

MGM doesn’t have a studio partner to release Bond 25. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bonds, but Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

In March 2016, MGM CEO Gary Barber had this to say about seeking a new 007 distribution deal.

“There’s no rush,” Barber said. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

Obviously, he was right about the “no rush” part.

Bond 25 script writing update

“(E)verybody’s just a bit tired,” Daniel Craig, The New Yorker Festival, October 2016.

‘Little things’ that are bothersome about NY Post 007 story

Tom Hiddleston in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Lt. Columbo used to remark that “little things” bothered him. So it is with this week’s New York Post story proclaiming that Daniel Craig is very close to coming back for another turn as James Bond.

It’s not so much that Craig might actually be close. It’s no secret Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli just loves the guy as 007. Rather, it’s the glee that the Post’s unidentified sources exhibit in criticizing would-be Bond Tom Hiddleston.

Over the years, Eon has tested many actors as 007 who didn’t get the role. The roster includes Sam Neill, James Brolin, Michael Billington and John Richardson among others.

In various histories about the film series, you don’t see much evidence of Eon criticizing such actors.

Yet, if the New York Post series is to believed, sources supposedly in the know are yakking their heads off about how bad a choice Hiddleston was.

The source added, “Plus, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t like Tom Hiddleston, he’s a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”

British actor Hiddleston’s cringe-making romance with Taylor Swift sealed his fate with Bond producers, we’re told, followed by his self-righteous Golden Globes speech, pontificating about his trip to South Sudan, and how Doctors Without Borders “binge-watched” his series.

The Post story, in turned, outlets spurred such as The Ringer (How Tom Hiddleston Lost the James Bond Franchise in Three Easy Steps), The Birmingham Mail (Daniel Craig’s James Bond Future has FINALLY Been Revealed) and Cinema Blend (Why Tom Hiddleston Was Allegedly Ruled Out as James Bond) weighing in on Hiddleston’s supposed short comings.

The Post doesn’t specify just how many sources it supposedly had for its story. It doesn’t specify how the sources came to know all this. (Sometimes, when relying on unidentified sources, reporters use phrases such as “with direct knowledge of the situation” to indicate the sources do know what’s going on.)

But if the Post’s sources are really in the know, they would need some kind of access to Barbara Broccoli. If not talking to her directly, they’d have to see memos, emails, whatever. If they don’t have that kind of access, how much knowledge to they actually have?

Consider this: You’re an actor. You go in to test for Bond. Later, people who claim to have inside knowledge are talking to the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column quoting the Bond boss how inadequate you are.

That’s the kind of thing, over time, might make one think twice about auditioning for such a role. It wasn’t just tabloids that said Hiddleston was in the running to play Bond last year. The Bond fan publication 007 Magazine said on its Facebook page in June 2016 that Hiddleston had been tested.

Even if Craig, 49, comes back for Bond 25, Eon is going to have to have auditions eventually if it wants to continue the Bond film series.

Again, the Post’s story is unconfirmed. Still, that hasn’t stopped fans and some entertainment websites as taking it as gospel. If the Post story is true, that might indicate there’s risk (to an actor’s reputation) as well as potential reward with the Bond role. If it’s not true, well, there’s been some wasted time.

“It was a lot of little things,” Lt. Columbo used to say. “Little things.”

UPDATE: A reader flagged to our attention that Justin Kroll, a Variety film reporter, commented about this on Twitter on April 5, a day before this post was published.

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Bond 25: Is Broccoli about to double down?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If the New York Post is to be believed, Daniel Craig is ever so close to committing to coming back for a fifth James Bond movie.

What’s more, if true, it’s a sign that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is doubling down on the current direction of the long-running 007 film series.

If there’s one constant in the world, it’s Broccoli’s admiration for Craig, 49, the first film Bond she actually selected.

“Daniel Craig is Bond, forever, as far as I’m concerned,” Broccoli told the Huffington Post in 2015.

Don’t you have to replace him one day? ““I’m in denial,” Broccoli told the HuffPo at the time. “I don’t want to think about that day.”

The Craig era (2006 to present) has added journeys of self discovery to the 007 proceedings.

Bond finds, and loses, his one true love. Bond seeks revenge for losing his one true love. Bond explores his roots, going to his ancestral home. Bond explores his roots some more, finding his arch enemy, “the author of all your pain,” was his foster brother. (Sort of like Sherlock Holmes finding out Professor Moriarty was his foster brother.)

But, assuming Craig is back, that’s not the only sign of full steam ahead.

Last month, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported last month that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were retained to come up with a Bond 25 story. While that hasn’t been confirmed, Bamigboye has a record of 007 scoops since 2011 being proven correct.

One of those scoops came in the summer of 2014 that Purvis and Wade were summoned back to the 007 fold to rewrite John Logan’s work for SPECTRE. And that story was proven to be 100 percent correct.

Eon never commented until a December 2014 press release listing the movie’s writers. Sure enough, they included Purvis and Wade.

Purvis and Wade have worked on the last six Bond movies. Bringing them back is a sign that Broccoli isn’t looking for major changes as Bond 25 slowly gets into gear.

Having said all that, there is one wild card. Who does Broccoli get to direct the movie? A new director might want to shake things up or at least tweak things a bit.

Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, has said he’s done with Bond. Of course, he said that once before and came back.

The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website reported Tuesday that Mendes is in talks to develop “and potentially direct” My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, based on a graphic novel. So he potentially might not be available for Bond 25 regardless.

Still, at this point, aside from a long break (it doesn’t appear Bond 25 can come out before 2019), things aren’t changing that much.

Craig likely to return as Bond, NY Post says

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is on the verge of getting Daniel Craig to come back for a fifth appearance as James Bond, the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column said late Monday.

Here’s an excerpt:

Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has “just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie.” This comes after Broccoli produced his hit off-Broadway production of “Othello” with David Oyelowo, which won Craig the serious acting plaudits he craved.

A Hollywood source said, “Daniel was very pleased with how ‘Othello’ went and the great reviews. Now Daniel’s talks with Barbara are going in the right direction. They have a script — screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade [who’ve penned several Bond movies] are writing and they’ll go into production as soon as Daniel is ready to commit.”

Page Six goes on to say that Broccoli wasn’t impressed with actor Tom Hiddleston, mentioned as a would-be replacement for several months last year. The gossip column said Broccoli and Craig didn’t answer requests for comment.

The return of Purvis and Wade as writers was reported last month by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail.

Both Broccoli and Craig have other work over the next several months. Broccoli is involved with various non-Bond films, including one where Eon purchased a helicopter. That spurred publicity it might be for Bond 25. Craig will be in Purity, a made-for-cable-television series for Showtime.

Also, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio for the Bond films, has yet to line up a distribution partner. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four 007 movies but its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.