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.



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.

Settlement reached in 007 box set case

Never Say Never Again’s poster

A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit that originated when a consumer who bought a James Bond box set marketed as containing “all” of the 007 movies but didn’t include 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

The lawsuit was filed against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio to the 007 franchise, and 20th Century Fox, which distributes Bond films on home video.

Under terms of the settlement, eligible consumers will receive digital copies of the two 007 films that were not made by Eon Productions.

“The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing and the Court has not decided who is right and who is wrong.  Instead, the parties decided to settle the dispute,” according to the announcement.

The box sets referenced in the settlement announcement were “Bond 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007,” “The James Bond Collection” and “The Ultimate James Bond Collection.”

If someone wants to claim the digital copies, they have to submit a claim form by May 29. “Claim forms can be obtained at or by calling 1-833-380-5565.”

If someone wants to be excluded from the settlement they have to do so by May 18. “This is the only option that allows you to keep any rights you currently have to negotiate with or sue Defendants about the claims in this case,” according to the announcement.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

This is the same case where a federal judge in Seattle last year issued a 14-page ruling full of James Bond puns.

Bond 25: Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?

Hang in there, James! We’ll get you a director yet!

There’s an old saying: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Does that apply to Bond 25?

In July 2017, Variety reported that Yann Demange, was the leading contender to direct Bond 25. The story came two days after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions said the next 007 adventure would be released in November 2019.

The twin announcements confirmed that veteran 007 scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were scripting Bond 25.

Then, last month, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood said that Danny Boyle was now in the picture to direct Bond 25. Deadline’s story added the twist that Boyle would only direct if a story being scripted by John Hodge were selected as the blueprint for the 25th Bond adventure made by Eon Productions.

On March 1, The Hollywoord Reporter, the Daily Mail AND Deadine: Hollywood say Boyle’s next project is likely to be a musical. The Daily Mail story specifically says the musical will be based around the songs of The Beatles.

Finally, on March 5, THR comes out with a story that Demange will be executive director of a new HBO series, Lovecraft County, and will direct its first episode.

So, if all of this is true (admittedly a major qualification), it’s certain whether either Demange or Boyle will be available to direct Bond 25.

Could Eon (and MGM) by going for a more high-powered choice (Boyle) have chased off Demange? A situation again proving a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?

Hard to say with certainty. Here’s how THR summed it up in its latest story.

Demange was a contender to direct the next James Bond movie and his boarding may further muddy that search. Demange, along with Denis Villeneuve and David MacKenzie were on the shortlist last year for the high-profile project, which is heading towards a release date of Nov. 8, 2019. The search got murkier in February when Danny Boyle became a contender.

Villeneuve is now focusing on Dune while Boyle is prepping a period music-themed drama. Now it seems that Demange’s time will be spent on Lovecraft Country.

Potentially, it’s a plot twist that even Ian Fleming wouldn’t have predicted.

Yann Demange, would-be Bond 25 director, has new project

Yann Demange, repored last year as a contender to direct Bond 25, has a new project, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Demange ” is teaming up with Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams for HBO’s Lovecraft Country,” the entertainment news outlet reported.

“Demange will direct the first episode of the supernatural racial drama and exec produce it as well,” THR said.

Variety reported in July 2017 that Demange was the top contender to direct Bond 25. The Variety story came out two days after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions put out press releases that the next 007 film will come out in the United States in November 2019.

However, last month, Variety and Deadline: Hollywood now said that Danny Boyle was under consideration to direct Bond 25. Deadline’s story said Boyle will direct only if a new story, being scripted by John Hodge, is selected as the way to proceed.

Eon had previously hired veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to come up with a Bond 25 story. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, as recently as mid-December, told a THR podcast that Purvis and Wade were working on the Bond 25 script.