MGM watch: Epix to be renamed MGM +

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Epix premium TV channel will be renamed MGM + in early 2023, various outlets reported, including Deadline: Hollywood and Variety.

Epix originally was formed in 2008 as a joint venture between MGM, Paramount and Lionsgate. MGM eventually acquired all of Epix.

The Variety story had this passage citing Michael Wright, president of Epix, commenting how things have changed since Amazon acquired MGM.

“The good news is, Amazon has increased investment in content,” says Wright, who declines to get into specifics on how much that means. But, he contends, the new owners are “really helping us to grow this thing. So, we’re doing more of the same with, I will say, a greater emphasis on and celebration of MGM. We’re not going to be exclusive to MGM, we’re still going to be acquiring films from other studios. But a celebration of the MGM brand is a is a bigger part now of the service.”

MGM is the studio home to the James Bond film series produced by Eon Productions.

Is it 60 years of Bond or 15 years of Craig?

This week, the official James Bond feed on Twitter promoted two projects: A Decca Records release of reimagined Bond movie themes and a documentary about the music of James Bond.

The promos have one thing in common. The visuals for both promos only show movie clips from the Daniel Craig era of Bond films (2006-2021).

Here is the tweet about the Decca Records release.

Here’s the tweet about the music documentary. There’s a lot of talk about Bond music but only images from Craig’s appearance in Skyfall.

All of this is in connection with the 60th anniversary of the Bond film series produced by Eon Productions. While Craig accounts for 15 years of that history, he did five movies, less than Roger Moore (seven) and Sean Connery (six, not counting the non-Eon Bond film Never Say Never Again). Also, Craig’s year total gets inflated because of gaps of 2008-2012 and 2015 to 2021.

A joke I’ve seen on social media is that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, whose admiration for Craig is well known, did the editing herself for these promos.

Craig’s run as Bond ended with 2021’s No Time to Die. But Broccoli said more than once she was in denial that the actor’s time as Bond was coming to an end.

Bond 26 questions: The Variety interview edition

A previous Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

So, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson gave an interview to Variety. The Eon Productions duo again said James Bond won’t return to theater screens soon and they’re looking for the next actor to make a long-time commitment.

However, there were other interesting tidbits. Naturally, the blog has questions.

How many Bond films will get made during an actor’s “10-, 12-year commitment”?

That’s the kind of commitment the Eon pair said they’re looking for from a new Bond actor. But at the current rate of production, that might only be three films. The Eon series had only two entries — Skyfall and SPECTRE — during the entire decade of the 2010s.

Yes, there were external factors, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s bankruptcy in 2010 and COVID-19 in 2020. But some of the gaps were self-imposed, including putting off the development of what became No Time to Die to try and get Daniel Craig back for another movie.

Will Bond 26 with a new actor really be that much different than Craig’s run?

One passage in the Variety story suggests not.

Both Wilson and Broccoli, who is a director of the U.K. chapter of women’s advocacy org Time’s Up, have left their mark on Bond, particularly in humanizing the once-womanizing spy and ensuring more fulfilling, meatier roles for the female stars of the franchise. These are qualities that will continue in the next films, says Broccoli. (emphasis added)

What are they up to in the interim?

Barbara Broccoli is one of the producers of Till, a fact-based film about the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and its aftermath. It’s due out next month. Wilson “has written a TV show that the duo are looking to set up,” according to Variety. And both are involved in producing an Amazon streaming show 007’s Road to a Million. That is currently in production, Variety says. Amazon also owns MGM.

Producers talk to Variety about casting next Bond

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

The next James Bond actor has to be in it for the long haul, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson told Variety in an interview.

“And when we cast Bond, it’s a 10-, 12-year commitment,” Broccoli said. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh yeah, it’d be fun to do one,’ Well. That ain’t gonna work.”

Wilson told Variety: “It’s a big investment for us, too, to bring out a new Bond.”

Eon’s most recent Bond actor, Daniel Craig, was cast as Bond in 2005 when he was 37. His five-film run as Bond ended with 2021’s No Time to Die. That film ended with Bond being blown to smithereens in a sacrifice play for his wife, Madeline Swann, and daughter.

Variety conducted the interview in late August. At one point, the producers said it’s early days for the search. Broccoli again said Bond 26 won’t go into production soon. “(I)t’s going to be a couple of years off.” 

There was also this exchange:

Even in this interview, when asked whether (MGM owner) Amazon might ask for a narrative Bond TV show, Wilson notes, “We’re trying to keep it theatrical,” and Broccoli swiftly retorts: “Well, we’re gonna keep it theatrical. We’re not going to try; we’ve got to do it. It’s just a theatrical franchise.”

IFP teases an announcement for Oct. 5 (err, 5-Oct.)

Ian Fleming Publications today teased an announcement for Oct. 5 (or 5-October, if you prefer).

Early today, U.S. time, the company that controls the literary Bond, said on Twitter there would be an announcement on Oct. 5, 2022. That’s the date of so-called James Bond Day. That matches up with Oct. 5, 1962, when the film adaptation of Dr. No debuted.

But the tweet soon disappeared. The first version used the U.S. version of dates (month-day-year). There was a response (I forget from whom) objecting that it should be the international system (day-month-year).

I have no idea if that was a factor, but a new IFP tweet soon appeared with the international dating system.

“James Bond Day” goes back to 2012 as a way by Eon Productions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. No’s premiere. Fans have subsequently embraced it. There is often fan speculation each year if there is a big announcement coming related to 007.

IFP has just launched a new trilogy by author Kim Sherwood set in the present day (or near future) featuring new 00-agents. Bond himself is missing and may be dead. Naturally, fans are curious about what IFP has in mind with this upcoming announcement.

As usual, we’ll see.

How No Time to Die divided Bond fandom

No Time to Die soundtrack cover

Hindsight, it is said, is perfect. So, in hindsight, 2021’s No Time to Die was divisive in the James Bond fan base.

Some Bond fans love the 25th 007 film made by Eon Productions. Others *hate* it. James Bond is not supposed to die! But that’s what happened.

After the demise of Daniel Craig’s Bond in No Time to Die, Eon still is trying to figure out where to go next.

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who was always pushing for Craig, now has to confront her emotions. Craig, now into his 50s, *appears* to be done. (But who really knows?)

Historical note: Between 1985 and 1987, Eon not only made a big change in direction (going to a more serious direction) but cast *two* Bond actors. (Pierce Brosnan initially, then Timothy Dalton when Brosnan couldn’t get out of a television contract.)

Broccoli has said Bond 26 won’t start filming until at least two years from now. The Eon boss has said the production company is grappling with the future direction of the franchise.

We’ll see how it goes. In the “old days,” the Bond franchise could make big changes more quickly.

Regardless, Bond fandom has become more polarized, similar to society in general.

Bond 26 questions: The lot of noise edition

Image that the official James Bond feed on Twitter has used in the past

As far as Bond 26 is concerned, there is more noise than light.

Some websites claim to know what’s going on. But the main tidbit from the powers that be is a Barbara Broccoli comment that filming on Bond 26 won’t occur until at least two years from now.

Still, nature abhors a vacuum. So there are questions out there, even if there aren’t real answers.

Who will be the next Bond actor?

Who knows? Supposedly, Eon wants a tall actor (after 15 years of Daniel Craig, who is shorter than six feet tall). Supposedly, Eon wants a young (say early 30s) actor who can hold the role for a while.

Craig was 38 when he started his tenure. The youngest Bond actor was George Lazenby (29 when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service started filming). Sean Connery was 31 when cameras rolled on Dr. No. Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan were in their 40s.

Last week, a website called Giant Freakin Robot claimed it had sources that the next film Bond will be a person of color and a search was underway.

Whatever. As stated before, there’s more noise than light at this point.

Why is it taking so long?

In the “old days,” Eon Productions could recast the role and implement a major change in direction quickly.

Between A View to a Kill (1985) and The Living Daylights (1987), Eon went to a more serious creative direction. Eon also cast not one, but two, actors. Pierce Brosnan was initially cast but NBC renewed the TV series Remington Steele. Timothy Dalton then got the role.

Now, Barbara Broccoli says a serious rethink is taking place and a script can’t even be started. She has said Bond is being “reinvented.”

What should we expect?

In the near term, more noise. Bookies and tabloids in the U.K. have an interesting relationship when it comes to Bond.

The bookies change odds to generate more bets. That churn provides the tabloids the opportunity to publish clickbait articles.

And it’s not just the tabloids in the mix. Remember back in January when a reporter for Deadline: Hollywood tweeted that he had talked to someone that, “I think we here (sic) who it is after the Oscars.”

The Oscars have come and gone with no word.

To be fair, the Deadline writer then published a follow-up tweet: “Obviously taking this with a grain a salt as putting an ETA on these types of decisions never works out but interesting that some believe this won’t be an all year wait.”

From the standpoint of Bond fans, it will be a long, hard slog.

Pinewood names a sound stage after Connery

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

Pinewood Studios announced it was naming a new stage after Sean Connery (1930-2020).

The London studio used what would have been the actor’s 92nd birthday to make the announcement.

“Officially named, The Sean Connery Stage, the 18,000 square foot purpose-built sound stage is one of five new stages opening on the Pinewood Studios lot,” Pinewood said.

The announcement, understandably, heavily references Connery as the first actor to play James Bond in the film series made by Eon Productions.

At the same time, the studio mentioned other films produced at Pinewood, and its sister facility Shepperton, featuring Connery.

“First passing through the gates of Pinewood Studios for Hell Drivers (1957), other titles from his extensive filmography include On the Fiddle (1961) at Shepperton, Woman of Straw (1964) at Pinewood, The Russia House (1990) Pinewood, Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves (1991) Shepperton, First Knight (1995) Pinewood and Entrapment (1999) at both Pinewood and Shepperton.”

Connery, over a long career, was more than Bond. He did many commercial movies but also appeared in productions such as The Offence and Zardoz.

For more about Connery’s career, see THE SEAN CONNERY HAIRPIECE PAGE.

Graham Rye talks about his relationship with 007 films

Logo for Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine

Graham Rye, the publisher of 007 Magazine, has come out with an article (a decade old) about his long relationship with the Bond film series.

To be honest, Rye can be prickly. I’ve had my own encounters with him.

But Rye has been there since the beginning of the Bond movies. So he is a voice that can’t be ignored.

Rye has an extensive photographic inventory of Bond-related images.

According to the article for 007 Magazine by Luke G. Williams, Rye “once likened his relationship with Eon as a marriage in which ‘irreconcilable differences’ had caused a breakdown in the relationship leading to divorce.”

Regardless, Rye and his 007 Magazine have many followers. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the 007 film series, Rye has been a prominent figure. He remains so to this day.

WB to distribute MGM movies internationally, Deadline says

MGM logo

Warner Bros. has agreed to distribute Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films internationally, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The agreement begins with “with Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All in November and continuing with the 2023 slate and beyond; the second title under the pact being Creed III in March,” Deadline said.

However, Warner Bros., part of Warner Bros. Discovery, will not be involved with MGM’s James Bond series right away.

No Time to Die, the most recent Bond film, was distributed by Universal internationally. That will remain in effect for Bond 26, according to Deadline.

“The terms of the new Warner Bros. agreement with MGM include the foreign distribution of subsequent 007 films from Bond 27 onward,” according to the entertainment news website.

Barbara Broccoli, the head of Eon Productions, which makes the Bond films, has said it will be “at least two years” before Bond 26 begins filming. That would imply Bond 26 won’t be out until 2025 or so.

On the Warner Bros. side, the new agreement was hammered out by Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. They were formerly film executives at MGM.

Eon spoke highly of De Luca and Abdy and said it hoped they’d be retained after Amazon completed its acquisition of MGM. Instead, De Luca and Abdy departed and landed at Warner Bros.