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.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal weighed in with an MGM story I can’t access because it’s behind a paywall. However, one of the reporters, Ben Fritz, sent out this tweet quoting from a Broccoli-Wilson statement that’s not referenced in the story.



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: THR says Boyle may direct a movie this summer

Danny Boyle

The Hollywood Reporter, in a story about director Danny Boyle, sounded a skeptical note about his availability to director Bond 25.

The entertainment news website reported that Boyle and “Love Actually screenwriter Richard Curtis have teamed up for an untitled comedy just set up at Universal.”

According to that story, “Universal is eying a shoot for as early as summer if casting can come together.”

Why is this of interest to this blog? Well, without saying so directly, THR seems to be trying to knock down stories last month from Variety and Deadline: Hollywood that Boyle is under active consideration to direct Bond 25.

Major entertainment sites, including THR, Variety, Deadline and TheWrap, often break news before it’s announced. But they are loathe to acknowledge when their competitors have a scoop unless they have to do so.

Deadline referenced Variety (which had the story first). But Deadline added that Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge had devised a Bond 25 story and that Boyle would only direct the 007 film if that story were selected. In effect, Deadline only mentioned Variety when Deadline could top the earlier story. Amusingly, Variety and Deadline share the same owner.

So, here’s the take that The Hollywood Reporter took:

Rumors swirled in February that Boyle was a candidate to direct the new James Bond movie, but that project remains in flux thanks to a stalled director search. Insiders say that this music-inspired comedy will be Boyle’s next movie. If Bond producer Eon Productions does want Boyle, it will have to wait and potentially even shift the release date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Said rumors, of course, were the Variety and Deadline stories. THR finally waded (indirectly) into Bond 25 with this new story.

Regardless, it’s a new twist. It gives Bond fans something to chew over.

UPDATE (March 3): Deadline: Hollywood also had a story about this on March 1.  But it also had this passage: “Boyle is currently balancing this project with the James Bond script he is working on with John Hodge, which Deadline lifted the lid on ten days ago.” (Link in sentence in the original Deadline story.)

Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition)

Ever since Deadline: Hollywood’s story last week about how Danny Boyle may direct Bond 25 if the idea he and scribe John Hodge are developing is used there are new questions.

As usual, the blog isn’t in a position to answer. But it can ask. The queries below presuppose there’s something to the Deadline story.

How long has work on this new story been going on?  Deadline didn’t specify when this effort began. “MGM and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson sparked to Boyle’s idea enough to engage Hodge, who has quietly been writing their version,” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote.

The entertainment website provided a general idea of when Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will have something to consider. Fleming wrote that, “Hodge won’t be done for a couple of months.” If taken literally, that would mean at least two months. But the phrase “a couple” if often not used precisely.

How do you think Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are taking this? It’s doubtful they like it. However, Purvis and Wade have worked for Eon since 1998 when they started work on The World Is Not Enough.

They’ve had their own ups and downs with the franchise. It seemed they were out after Skyfall. Yet, they were summoned back in the summer of 2014 to rewrite John Logan’s work on what would be titled SPECTRE.

By now, they’re more than aware of the twists and turns working on a Bond movie can entail.

Their participation in Bond 25 was one of the few specifics in a July 24, 2017 press release stating the movie has a November 2019 release date in the U.S. Barbara Broccoli also briefly mentioned the duo in a December 2017 podcast with The Hollywood Reporter. The writers, she said, are “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

What about the schedule if Eon and MGM go with Boyle-Hodge? At the very least it makes you wonder about that November 2019 release date.

When Hodge produces a draft script, chances are it won’t be ready for filming. Typically, movies go through various rewrites.

In the case of SPECTRE, John Logan produced his first draft in March 2014. Purvis, Wade and Jez Butterworth were rewriting into December 2014, when the movie started principal photography.

Meanwhile, it would at least appear the art department may be limited in what it can do until the basic story is ironed out. On the other hand, there is a steady hand at the wheel.

Dennis Gassner, production designer on the series the last decade, has said he’ll be back for Bond 25. Gassner, whose credits also include Blade Runner 2049, is experienced with working on big, complicated productions.

What does star Daniel Craig think of all this? It’s likely OK with him. Boyle directed a video for the opening ceremonies featuring Craig as Bond taking Queen Elizabeth to the games.

What happens next? If no major developments are announced until April or May, that may be a sign that Deadline’s story and its “couple of months” timeline for Hodge’s writing a script are accurate.

What happens if Eon and MGM ultimately pass on the Boyle-Hodge story? At the very least, that might complicate things even more. Certainly the search for a Bond 25 director would go on.

Deadline says Bond 25 has dueling story lines

Bond 25 has dueling story lines, one of which would be directed by Danny Boyle, the other if he takes a pass, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

“Boyle had an idea for a very specific 007 movie, and he and his Trainspotting  partner John Hodge have teamed up to work out the beats,” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote. “Hodge is writing that version and if it all works out, that would be the 007 film that Boyle would helm.”

If Hodge’s script, whenever it’s finished, gets the OK, according to Fleming, Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would “shelve the movie they were contemplating…and they will instead make the version that was cooked up by the Trainspotting team.”

The version that would be junked would be the story cooked up by veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The duo were hired for their seventh Bond effort almost a year ago. That was reported in March 2017 by the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye and the hiring was confirmed in a July 24, 2017 release saying Bond 25 will be released in the U.S. in November 2019.

Hodge “won’t be done for a couple of months,” according to Deadline. MGM declined to comment to the entertainment website.

Fleming’s report followed a story yesterday in Variety saying that Boyle may direct Bond 25.

A couple of points:

This development, if true, has the potential to delay Bond 25: Filming on Skyfall and SPECTRE began between 11 and 12 months before they were released in the U.S. If Bond 25 had a similar schedule, it’d need to be in production before the end of this year.

Also, if Deadline is literally accurate, Hodge would be done sometime this spring. And you could almost count on additional rewriting taking place after that. Can all that be done and still get Bond 25 out in the fall of 2019?

This sounds similar to the scripting process of Quantum of Solace: That 2008 Bond film had dueling story lines also.

Whatever story work had been done before the arrival of director Marc Forster went out the window.

“Once I signed on to do it we pretty much developed the script from scratch because I felt that it wasn’t the movie I wanted to make,” director Marc Forster said in an April 2008 Rotten Tomatoes story.

Then the creative team spent time on another story line were Bond looks for a Vesper Lynd’s child which was eventually rejected, Forster said in a November 2008 story at Vulture, the entertainment blog of New York magazine.

Eventually, yet another script was submitted just ahead of a 2007 Writer’s Guild of America strike. That was the effort that was eventually dubbed a “bare bones of a script” by star Daniel Craig in 2011 when he discussed what happened with Quantum.

There, of course, is one big difference between Quantum and Bond 25. Quantum operated under a tight deadline. Sony Pictures, which released the film, first announced it would come out in May 2008. That would later be pushed back to the fall.

Bond 25, by comparison, doesn’t appear to have a lot of urgency.

As mentioned before, Purvis and Wade were hired almost a year ago. Craig said in the fall of 2016 at an event sponsored by The New Yorker that nothing was happening on Bond 25 “because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired.” The actor didn’t publicly commit to doing Bond 25 until August 2017.

MGM says Bond 25 distribution not resolved

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said today that distribution — and presumably financing — of Bond 25 has not been resolved.

“Distribution plans for Bond 25 still have not been announced and we are continuing discussions with a variety of potential partners,” MGM chief Gary Barber said on an investor call. “We look forward to sharing more details on Bond 25 on future calls.”

Deadline: Hollywood reported Sunday that a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures was close to being named U.S. distributor for the next James Bond film. An international distributor has not yet been selected, Deadline said.

The last four 007 films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 without a distribution operation. MGM films were co-financed and distributed by various studios.

On the call, Barber talked up the joint venture with Annapurna.

“We decided the time was right to be less dependent on co-production partners to theatrically distribute our theatrical films,” Barber said.

The first MGM film to be distributed by the joint venture will be a remake of Death Wish early next year.

Bond 25: The distribution edition

Annapurna logo

If Deadline: Hollywood is correct, the Bond 25 picture is about to get clearer but there are still key questions to be asked.

What Deadline reported: The new joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures will release Bond 25 in the United States.

MGM and Annapurna announced the venture on Oct. 31. It will release movies for both companies. But when the venture was announced, Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

So let’s go with the questions.

Who’s going to release Bond 25 internationally? Deadline didn’t know. It said studios including Warner Bros., Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal are in the mix.

More importantly, who’s going to finance Bond 25? Sony has released the last four Bond films. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal (Skyfall and SPECTRE), the studio co-financed the movie with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

Presuming we end up with MGM-Annapurna in the U.S. and someone with international distribution, Bond 25’s financing has the potential to be more complicated.

Will Annapurna do some of the financing? Or will its involvement be more limited? Will the international distributor also kick in some of the financing?

Or is MGM confident it will be the dominant financing entity?

Too early to answer any of that. The MGM-Annapurna distribution deal for Bond 25 in the U.S. hasn’t been announced yet.

Why does the blog ask these questions? Because until they’re settled, nobody is going to get paid to do the movieThe blog occasionally has its chain yanked (hopefully in a kidding way) about bringing up the subject. But it’s still legitimate. Eon Productions doesn’t finance Bond films and doesn’t release them.