Bond 25 questions: The P&W are back edition

So Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are back (if they ever were really away) for Bond 25. At least that’s the news from the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, whose 007 scoops for the Daily Mail are usually proven right.

Naturally, the blog has questions. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Just what are P&W writing up for Bond 25?Bamigboye makes it sound like the duo are writing up a treatment they worked on last year. So will it incorporate ideas/input from departed director Danny Boyle and his writer of choice, John Hodge?

We don’t really know. Members of FOE (Friends of Eon) would have you believe that Hodge was rewriting previous work by Purvis and Wade. Boyle, in public comments in March, didn’t make it sound that way. Neither did Eon’s own May 25 announcement that Boyle would direct and Hodge was writing Bond 25.

A treatment is like a detailed outline. It’s not a full-fledged script. So, based on Bamigboye’s story, Purvis and Wade never got past the treatment stage for Bond 25.

How does this affect Bond 25’s schedule?  This is the more important question. Again, FOE members are telling everyone that everything is on track for Bond 25 to come out in fall 2019. Eon has previously said Bond 25 will start filming on Dec. 3. But Eon’s leading man, Daniel Craig, has much of his November spoken for, filming another movie.

 Put another way, how far advanced is Bond 25’s story?  Hypothetically speaking, if a “polish” (tweaking dialogue, massaging set pieces) were underway now, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But based on Bamigboye’s story, things may not be that far advanced.

The thing is, nobody outside of the Eon/MGM/Universal camp really know. That may even apply to FOE members. For the moment, Bond 25 still doesn’t have a director to replace Boyle. Until that appointment is made, there are more questions than answers.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m. New York time): Variety had a story this afternoon making it sound as if nothing from John Hodge/Danny Boyle is being retained. It says Purvis and Wade will write a “new script” based on their treatment that had been approved before Boyle and Hodge entered the picture. It also refers to the Hodge-Boyle effort as having been “tossed.”

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Variety lists 3 contenders to direct Bond 25

Variety, in a story about the search for a Bond 25 director, lists three contenders.

The entertainment news outlet says that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions ” are showing interest” in Bart Layton, director of American Animals, and S.J. Clarkson, ” who was recently tapped to direct the next ‘Star Trek’ installment.”

Also back in contention is Yann Demange, director of White Boy Rick. Demange last year was reported last year to be a contender for Bond 25. But MGM and Eon got interested in Danny Boyle, who got the job.

“Sit-down meetings are still being worked out for Layton and Clarkson, and the timetable for the meetings is currently unclear,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll.

“The producers’ first meeting with Demange went well enough to land him high on the list of contenders, but at the time,” according to Kroll. “‘White Boy Rick’ was unfinished and they were unable to see the movie. A screening will now be set for MGM and Eon officials to see Demange’s final product.”

Variety said Eon wants to keep the currently announced fall 2019 release date for Bond 25. At the same time, the entertainment news outlet said meetings with other directors could still be set up.

Daniel Craig, the 007 film star, is scheduled to begin filming a mystery movie, Knives Out, in November. Bond 25 had been set to begin filming Dec. 3.

(UPDATE, 8:20 p.m. New York Time): Variety’s Kroll put out a tweet saying “there is still a chance Eon and MGM take a Hail Mary shot for a big name like Edgar Wright or (Christoper) McQuarrie.”

 

Bond 25: What’s up with MGM?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

With all the fuss about Bond 25 since Danny Boyle departed as director, one aspect hasn’t gotten much attention.

What’s up with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the home studio of the 007 film franchise?

It was Eon Productions’ 007 social media outlets that announced Boyle’s departure. Nothing new on that front since Eon’s Aug. 21 announcement.

MGM controls half of the Bond franchise along with Eon and its parent company, Danjaq.

MGM reported second-quarter financial results back on Aug. 7, back when Boyle still was slated to direct Bond 25.

The studio had a conference call with investors on Aug. 7. At that point, Christopher Brearton, who has the title chief operating officer, said everything was great 007-wise.

“The big film news of the quarter was our announcement that we were partnering with Universal Pictures for the international distribution of Bond 25. We are very excited about this deal. Universal’s exceptional international distribution and marketing organization make this an important new partnership for MGM.”

MGM, through a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures, is slated to handled U.S. distribution of Bond 25. Brearton said MGM is positioned to retain more value from Bond film box office.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the film,” Brearton said of Bond 25.

That was then. This is….well, we don’t know. MGM has said nothing about Bond 25 since Boyle’s departure. Eon? It has said nothing other than Boyle is out because of “creative differences.”

MGM, it should be remembered, still hasn’t named a new CEO since Gary Barber departed in March.

The studio has a successful TV operation. Its movie operation? Well, it’s latest film, Operation Finale (released by the MGM-Annapurna joint venture) came in at No. 4 for the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 weekend with an estimated $6 million, according to Box Office Mojo. No. 1 was Crazy Rich Asians, with an estimated $22.2 million in its third weekend of release. (MGM rolled out Operation Finale on Aug. 29.)

You’ve got to wonder what the MGM brain trust thinks about the uncertainty surrounding Bond 25, especially because it (and presumably Universal) are paying the bills.

Is the studio pressing for a quick Boyle replacement to ensure Bond 25 meets its previously announced fall 2019 release date? Is there really anything it can do about it? Or can it only sit by and watch to see how Eon resolves the situation?

On the other hand, there are a few known aspects. MGM remains one of the weakest Hollywood studios in an era where a 20th Century Fox, a much healthier operation, can get swallowed up (by Walt Disney Co. in Fox’s case).

British tabloids have ignored the MGM angle of the Bond 25 saga. It may still be one worth watching.

Bond 25 to be delayed, THR reports

Daniel Craig

Bond 25 will not meet its fall 2019 release date, The Hollywood Reporter said, citing sources it didn’t identify.

“With the abrupt exit of director Danny Boyle, the next installment in the James Bond film franchise — the untitled Bond 25 — will miss its Nov. 8, 2019 release date in North American theaters, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter,” according to a story by Pamela McClintock.

Eon Productions announced Aug. 21 that Boyle was exiting the project due to “creative differences.” The development came less than three months after Eon announced the hiring of the director.

THR didn’t provide a precise replacement date.

“It’s possible Bond 25 may not hit theaters until late 2020, according to sources,” McClintock wrote. “No recent Bond film has ever opened in summer. Even before Boyle departed, there was talk of pushing the movie’s release to early 2020.”

The last Bond film to have a summer release was 1989’s Licence to Kill, the second and final 007 film starring Timothy Dalton. Since 1995’s GoldenEye, Bond films have had a U.S. release date of either November or December.

For a time, Bond 22, later titled Quantum of Solace, was slated for May 2, 2008. But Sony Pictures, its distributor, delayed until fall 2008. Iron Man, the first Marvel Studios film, grabbed the May 2 date, launching a powerhouse franchise.

For Bond 25, a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures will distribute in the U.S. while Universal will handle international distribution.

UPDATE (5:25 p.m. New York time): Variety also has a story. The sourcing isn’t very precise. “Word around town is that it’s back to the drawing board for the creators of the new 007 adventure after Boyle and his co-writer, John Hodge, delivered a draft of the script that didn’t meet the approval of producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, as well as star Daniel Craig.”

Variety adds this tidbit: MGM and Eon “are not simply eyeing a director for hire, which signals that a major rewrite will have to be undertaken. It is also telling that the producers seem more eager to find a screenwriter than a person willing to slide behind the camera.”

If accurate, does this mean a search for yet another “auteur” director? The Bond franchise was built on the shoulders of journeymen directors such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton.

UPDATE (6:10 p.m. New York time): Deadline: Hollywood gets into the act with a counter-story.  “(Bond 25) hasn’t abdicated its November 8, 2019 release date, not yet at least. It is possible that if a replacement director is named within the next 60 days, Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007 can keep its date, sources said.”

Deadline: Hollywood was the same outlet that said last fall that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture was “thisclose” to announcing it had secured the Bond 25 domestic distribution deal. While that happened, it didn’t occur until May 2018.

State of the 007 film franchise summer 2018

Omega advertising image released hours before Eon Productions announced Danny Boyle was exiting as Bond 25 director.

The James Bond film franchise is either experiencing an unusual run of bad luck or it it’s adrift and taking in water.

Either way, there was an omen on Aug. 21. Omega released an image of tuxedo-clad 007 star Daniel Craig, mostly underwater but promoting an Omega watch. A few hours later, Eon Productions announced that director Danny Boyle had exited Bond 25 because of “creative differences.”

It was the latest in a series of whipsawing developments with the 25th James Bond film produced by Eon.

For a long time after the release of 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon was quiet amid speculation that Craig wouldn’t be back. Finally, in July 2017, it said it had retained veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to write Bond 25.

This after the duo said writing Bond films were very hard in the 21st century. “I’m just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now.” Purvis said in a January 2017 interview with The Telegraph.

In August 2017, Craig announced on CBS’s The Late Show that he was, indeed, coming back.

Yet, as 2017 ended, no real word on how things were going. Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast that Purvis and Wade were hard at work.

Until, a few months later, when Danny Boyle and his screenwriter, John Hodge, became the 007 flavor of the month. The duo pitched an idea. Hodge began writing. If his script was deemed acceptable by Eon, that would be Bond 25’s new direction.

On May 25, the Eon brain trust, doing its best Jean-Luc Picard imitation, proclaimed: “Make it so!” Boyle was now the official director and Hodge the new writer. Good-bye, Purvis and Wade.

Less than three months later? No so fast. The Boyle was lanced. No word on Hodge’s script, based on the supposedly spectacular idea Boyle and Hodge pitched.

What happens next? Your guess is as good as mine. Eon seemed to love working with “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. Boyle’s hiring (however brief) seemed a natural.

The bigger question: Does Eon really know what it wants to do with Bond?

Both Broccoli and Craig clearly wanted a break from Bondage after SPECTRE. They both went about various projects, including a stage production of Othello where Craig appeared and Broccoli was a producer.

The break is over. Aside from keeping Craig in the Bond role, what does Broccoli have in mind? Eon has burned through three writers from 2017 through the present.

Will the next installment be helmed by another “auteur” director? If so, how long does it take to find a Boyle replacement?

At the very least, Bond 25’s announced fall 2019 release date looks shaky. Eon had a bad experience trying to make Quantum of Solace on an accelerated schedule. Does Eon have the stomach to try to find a new director fast? Or should it take a deep breath and start over?

Eon, of course, has business partners it must consider. Universal now does the international distribution. A joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures is distributing the movie in the United States.

More broadly, the movie business is in the midst of great change, under pressure from streaming services such as Netflix.

Bond is a franchise that has enjoyed enormous longevity. It still generates interest worldwide.

But continued longevity isn’t automatic. At the very least, the 007 film franchise faces renewed uncertainty.

Historian takes a brief look at North by Northwest

Cover art for a North by Northwest Blu Ray release

Michael Beschloss, a historian who writes about U.S. presidents, turned his attention over the weekend to North by Northwest.

Beschloss’ Twitter feed (@BeschlossDC) often notes the anniversary of major historical events, accompanied by photos and illustrations. But he also posts tweets about the arts and society.

For North by Northwest, the 1959 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Beschloss had two posts.

One tweet included part of a document from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which would release the movie, to National Park Service concerning how Mount Rushmore would be used in the movie.

“None of our characters would tread upon the faces of the Presidents,” the document reads.

Beschloss also tweeted a photo of a brochure marked up by screenwriter to work out the Mount Rushmore sequence.

You can take a look for yourself.

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So who is going to buy 007’s home studio?

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

It seems as if Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s days are numbered as an independent studio. So who ends up with 007’s home studio?

A new era of media consolidation is underway. And MGM is a small fry.

AT&T Inc. has completed its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, parent company of Warner Bros., CNN, TBS and other media properties. The move comes after a U.S. court approved the deal earlier this week.

Comcast, parent company of Universal, is trying to buy most of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox movie studio.

Comcast is offering $65 billion in cash after 21st Century Fox agreed in December to accept $52.4 billion in stock from Walt Disney Co. An all-out bidding war is expected from the two media giants.

MGM supposedly is trying to go it alone. But, in this new media reality, that seems a long shot at best.

MGM is mostly owned by hedge funds following the company’s 2010 bankruptcy. Hedge funds rarely invest for the long run. They mostly look for a quick turnaround. The fact that the hedge fund owners have held on to their ownership for eight years is remarkable enough.

Given how volatile the situation is, making a prediction about who will buy MGM seems foolhardy. But it seems likely somebody will at some point.

Comcast’s Universal recently won the rights to distribute Bond 25 outside the U.S. So Universal may have a foot in the door. Maybe.

Here’s another question worth asking.

Would a bidder for MGM get out its checkbook and buy out Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions?

After all, if you’re going to go to the trouble of buying MGM, shouldn’t you buy all the James Bond film rights? Especially if media companies are throwing around tens of billions of dollars for acquisitions?

Some Bond fans feel the Broccoli-Wilson family would never sell out. Star Wars fans used to say to the same thing about George Lucas before he sold the franchise to Walt Disney Co.

Interesting days may lay ahead.