Kirk Kerkorian, mogul who affected 007 films, dies

Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian

Kirk Kerkorian, a business mogul whose ownership of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer affected the James Bond film series, died Monday night at 98, according to obituaries in THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

Kerkorian bought and sold MGM three times between 1969 and 2004, according to the Journal’s obit. During his first stint as MGM’s owner, the studio acquired United Artists in 1981.

UA was the original studio that released the James Bond films produced by Eon Productions. UA ended up controlling half the franchise when Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out in 1975 because of personal financial problems.

Eon’s relationship with MGM wasn’t as close as the one it enjoyed with UA. For one thing, MGM always seemed to be in the middle of financial restructurings that adversely affected the 007 film series.

Ted Turner bought MGM in the mid-1980s, a deal financed with debt, and ended up selling the studio back to Kerkorian while Turner kept MGM’s film library for his cable networks. That library ended up with Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Bros., after it acquired Turner’s company in the 1990s.

Kerkorian sold MGM again in 1990, this time to Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti. Eon in 1991 filed a lawsuit, objecting to television rights sales for the Bond films conducted under Parretti.

The lawsuit was a major reason the six-year hiatus for 007 movies between 1989 and 1995. A settlement was reached in 1993 (CLICK HERE to view a UPI.com story with details).

Still, the hiatus was a contributing factor to the end of Timothy Dalton’s two-picture reign as 007.

John Calley, a new UA executive, reportedly wanted to replace Dalton. Dalton announced he was leaving the role, paving the way for Pierce Brosnan to start a four-picture run as Bond from 1995 to 2002.

Kerkorian became MGM’s owner yet again in 1996, purchasing the studio from Credit Lyonnais, which had seized MGM from Parretti after a loan default.

Kerkorian sold MGM one last time in 2005, this time to a group that included Sony. But the group’s finances crumbled and MGM went into bankruptcy in 2010, a factor in the four-year gap between Bond movies from 2008 to 2012. This time, however, Daniel Craig remained in place as Bond after MGM exited bankruptcy and 007 production resumed with 2012’s Skyfall.

007 references at the Oscars (R)

"Who's this Sandler kid?"

The Oscars (R) telecast on ABC early in the proceedings had a montage of clips of popular movies of yesteryear. Austin Powers made the cut while 007 got blanked.

Shortly thereafter, there was a montage of actors talking about the first movie they saw. Adam Sandler said his was Diamonds Are Forever when he was 5. He said something about being impressed by Sean Connery’s performance and his chest hair and that inspired him to become an actor. For some critics, that will be seen as another reason why Bond films aren’t good.

UPDATE: Bond film alumnus John Richardson lost out on a visual effects Oscar. He and three others were nominated for Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The special effects team for Hugo won the award.

UPDATE II: Skyfall screenwriter John Logan, nominated for Hugo, loses out on the adapted screenplay award. The writers for The Descendants win.

UPDATE III: The In Memoriam segment had only one person with any major 007 connection, former studio executive John Calley, who was involved in relaunching the Bond series with 1995’s GoldenEye. Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Productions, reportedly had issues with Calley. Like him or not, he was a major player at a time some questioned whether the series could be revived after a long hiatus.

Syd Cain, who passed away last year and helped sets on a number of 007 films, wasn’t included. In 2011, major actors such as Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Falk passed away as did Gilbert Cates, a director who also produced a number of Oscar telecasts and who first hired Billy Crystal as host of the Oscars telecast.

John Calley, studio exec involved with 007 re-launch, dies

John Calley, a one-time Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive who was involved in getting 007 back on the screen, has died at 81, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Calley worked at MGM from 1993 to 1996, where his duties included being president of MGM’s United Artists brand. When he started, the James Bond film series was in hiatus and 007 film’s future was uncertain. Calley also, by various accounts, pressed for Eon Productions, which produces the Bond fils to recast Bond to Pierce Brosnan from Timothy Dalton. Calley’s name was prominent on the 1994 press release announcing Brosnan was taking over the role in GoldenEye.

According to a 2010 article in the Hollywood Reporter, Barbara Broccoli, co-boss at Eon, wasn’t a Calley fan. This excerpt quotes an unidentified person describing a meeting between Broccoli and Sony executives when that company’s Columbia Pictures was releasing 2008’s Quantum of Solace:

“Barbara said, ‘We generally like studio executives, but we don’t like assholes like John Calley,’ ” the source said.”

Calley also held executive positions at Warner Bros. and Sony, before retiring in 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times obit.