John Logan to write Bond 24 AND Bond 25, Deadline says

Skyfall co-scripter John Logan

First, the Daily Mail says John Logan, co-writer of Skyfall, has signed to write Bond 24. Now, the Deadline entertainment news Web site says Logan has a deal TO WRITE THE NEXT TWO 007 MOVIES.

An excerpt:

EXCLUSIVE: As buzz builds for the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall, the franchise’s producers have quietly made a deal with John Logan to write not one but two 007 films. I’m told that Logan pitched an original two-movie arc to Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson while they were shooting Skyfall, and that he has already begun writing the scripts. If plans work out, this would be the first Bond film with a storyline to be played out over multiple films, and it certainly makes it feasible that the pictures could be shot back-to-back.

The “I’m” refers to Deadline’s Mike Fleming, who has trumped Baz Bagimpoye of the U.K. Daily Mail, who was the first to report that Logan would script the next Bond movie.

If the Deadline report is true, it would mark a departure for Eon Productions.

In the early 1990s, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli put the company up for sale. No deal resulted. Then, there was talk that Eon was stockpiling scripts so it could get off to a running start once a legal dispute between Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was resolved. But even after the legal fight ended, no multi-movie scheme occurred. Instead, everything went back to square one, which resulted in 1995’s GoldenEye.

The background of all this: MGM wants to get Bond movies back on an every-other-year schedule (MGM said this as part of it s2010 bankruptcy). Sony wants the next Bond movie out in 2014 (making an announcement to theater executives earlier this year that would happen). The one piece of the puzzle: Eon itself, where co-boss Barbara Broccoli hasn’t publicly committed to such a schedule.

As Lt. Colubmo once said, “Just one more thing.” Eon has long said it doesn’t like any of the continuation novels commissioned by Glidrose/Ian Fleming Publications after the death of Ian Fleming. Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson, at a 1995 fan convention in New York, indicated he didn’t like any of the John Gardner continuation novels. So, if John Logan really has a two-picture writing deal, it will probably be a new story and not based on any continuation novel.

Also, to date, Eon hasn’t demonstrated the kind of long range planning that the Marvel Studios unit of Walt Disney Co. has.

UPDATE (Oct. 27): The Hollywood Reporter has a STORY ON THIS which adds Logan’s two screenplays will tell an original story and aren’t based on anything by Ian Fleming.

Clooney exiting U.N.C.L.E. movie, Deadline reports

George Clooney is pulling out of director Steven Soderbergh’s planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Deadline entertaintment Web site reports.

Here’s part of a short post by Deadline’s Mike Fleming:

Still trying to get a clear sense of the reason for the exit of Clooney, who is Soderbergh’s former partner and did the Ocean’s Eleven films and Out of Sight with the director. I’m told that Warner Bros intends to stay on track for a February 2012 start for the movie.

To read the enire post, JUST CLICK HERE.

Clooney, 50, is the same age Robert Vaughn was when he reprised the role of Napoleon Solo in the 1983 television movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., where Solo comes back from retirement to take on a revitalized Thrush, the criminal organization that was U.N.C.L.E.’s primary adversary in the original 1964-1968 series.

Some U.N.C.L.E. fans, expressing themselves on the Internet absolutely hated the idea of casting Clooney, saying he was too old. There is also an element of U.N.C.L.E. fans who say no actors are worthy of the roles of Solo and Illya Kuryakin other than Vaughn and David McCallum. (We once provided our own whimsical proposal for an U.N.C.L.E. film aimed at that fan segment.)

At this point, it’s hard to determine if this is a body blow to Soderbergh (who, among, other things, has watched almost all first-season episodes of the show to prep for directing it). Soderbergh is viewed as a talented director, though he is planning to retire by around the time he turns 50. Thus, the project may indeed still be proceeding. Clooney had been the only casting even mentioned for the movie but there had never been a formal announcement by Warner Bros.

Then again, will Soderbergh still be interested in U.N.C.L.E. if his old pal Clooney is not?

So it remains to see if Ian Fleming’s other spy (co-created with Norman Felton), with the series developed by Sam Rolfe, will make a comeback or not.

Deadline says U.N.C.L.E. movie starts filming in February

Director Steven Soderbergh, who intends to retire from directing by age 50, gave an interview to the Deadline entertainment-news Web site. Deadline’s Mike Fleming, who conducted the interview writes Soderberg will start his movie based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in February 2012.

Here’s the schedule that Fleming lays out for Soderbergh’s remaining films:

Soderbergh said he’ll start work in September on Magic Mike, the film that will star Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer as male strippers in a coming-of-age story reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. He’ll follow by directing George Clooney in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in February. After that, Liberace with Michael Douglas and Damon will likely be Soderbergh’s swan song.

There’s no real mention of U.N.C.L.E. beyond that. A blog that’s part of New York magazine’s Web site disclosed in April that Soderberg’s TV and movie watching list included almost every first-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode. Still, Warner Bros, which controls the original series, has been mum. So we’ll see what happens.

MGM watch: Spyglass chiefs to be named co-CEOs of MGM after bankruptcy filing

Nikki Finke’s Deadline site, IN A STORY BY MIKE FLEMING says the co-heads of Spyglass Entertainment are getting closer to taking charge of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., with Spyglass’s top executives to take control of MGM after a “pre-packaged” banrkuptcy. Late in the day, MGM put out a press release that confirmed the story.

An excerpt from Deadline:

I’m told that MGM will shortly announce Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum as its new co-chairmen/CEOs, effective once MGM emerges from Chapter 11. This is part of the long expected restructuring plan, as MGM brass has begun to solicit votes from lenders to convert 100% of the debut to equity, once they emerge from Chapter 11. The lenders will have until October 22 to vote.

Oct. 22, of course, is more than two weeks away and others, such as investor Carl Icahn, have been reported to be kicking the MGM tires, thinking about trying for their own deal. Also, if Spyglass does win out, it still has to get through bankruptcy court. Such a filing would be a so-called “prepackaged” bankruptcy, where the major creditors are in agreement before filing court papers. That’s normally faster than a regular bankruptcy, still takes some time. Thus, Bond 23 remains in its holding pattern.

Late in the afternoon, MGM PUT OUT A PRESS RELEASE ABOUT WHERE THINGS STAND CURRENTLY. Some excerpts:

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (MGM) today announced that it has begun a solicitation of votes from its secured lenders for a pre-packaged plan of reorganization (the “Plan”).

MGM expects to continue normal business operations throughout the restructuring process. The Plan provides for MGM’s employees, vendors, participants, guilds, and licensees to be unimpaired.

The Plan provides for MGM’s secured lenders to exchange more than $4 billion in outstanding debt for approximately 95.3 percent of equity in MGM upon its emergence from Chapter 11. Spyglass Entertainment would contribute certain assets to the reorganized company in exchange for approximately 0.52 percent of the reorganized company. In addition, two entities owned by Spyglass affiliates – Cypress Entertainment Group, Inc. and Garoge, Inc. – will merge with and into a subsidiary of MGM, with the MGM subsidiary as the surviving entity. The stockholders of Cypress and Garoge will receive approximately 4.17 percent of the reorganized company in exchange.

Following the receipt of the requisite consents from secured lenders during the solicitation period, and in order to implement the debt restructuring, MGM intends to commence pre-packaged Chapter 11 cases under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and seek confirmation of the Plan. *Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, currently Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Spyglass Entertainment, would serve as the Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MGM following the company’s emergence from Chapter 11.* (emphasis added)

The LOS ANGELES TIMES STORY ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT added this:

The beginning of the solicitation of votes on Thursday means that MGM is no longer open to other offers. Companies that previously made acquisition or merger offers and have remained interested, including Warner Bros. and Lions Gate, may not make another bid unless the Spyglass plan is rejected by the debt holders.

MGM watch: Nikki Finke Web site says nothing new on Bond 23

Nikki Finke’s Deadline Web site says it’s way too early to say Bond 23 is dead.

A post by editor Mike Fleming says reports from the Daily Mirror (and others) this past weekend that Bond 23 has been canceled are over the top:

While Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros would love to grab the Eon Productions franchise, I’m told reliably that as long as MGM’s debt restructuring is preceded by a pre-packaged bankruptcy, Bond isn’t going anywhere.

For the uninitiated, in a pre-packaged bankruptcy, a company first obtains agreements from its lenders on restructuring its debt. The company then files for bankruptcy, but the having the agreements in hand minimizes the time in bankruptcy court.

In an update to the post, Fleming added this:

“You are absolutely right, there is no new news. Development will resume once MGM is viable again, as Danjaq can’t go anywhere without them. So all bets are off. No idea when this will get resolved,” a source integral to the Bond franchise told Deadline London editor Tim Adler today.

To read Fleming’s entire post (which also says Daniel Craig and would-be director Sam Mendes aren’t going anywhere, click the above link or JUST CLICK HERE.

Here’s also a shoutout to the Commander Bond.net Web site, which had its own summary YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE. That summary, by Matt Weston, also includes a link to a related Hollywood Reporter link.

UPDATE: MGM, meanwhile, is seeking yet another extension of a moratorium on its debt payments, according to a July 7 story by Ronald Grover on Bloomberg.com:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., the film studio up for sale after falling behind on $3.7 billion in debt, will ask lenders to extend a moratorium on interest payments, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

The Los Angeles-based company will e-mail ballots to more than 100 creditors this week, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because discussions are private. The current forbearance expires on July 14.

You can read the entire story by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

HMSS revised handicapping of spy movie projects

Back in mid-April, we did some handicapping on some spy movie projects in various stages of development.

Less than three months have passed and there have been some developments, some firm, some murky. So here’s a revised odds board.

Bond 23: This project is the latest in the news, though that would have to fall under the murky category. The Daily Mirror in the U.K. said Bond 23 had been “canned” because of MGM’s financial problems.

The paper cited a “glum insider” it didn’t identify and quoted a statement from Eon Productions that didn’t confirm but didn’t really deny it, either. Media reports about James Bond movies have a mixed record. Nearly 30 years ago, for example, there were reports that Eon was considering James Brolin to play 007 in Octopussy. In 1994, Brolin’s screen tests were shown at a 007 fan convention in Los Angeles, showing they were right even though Roger Moore ended up coming back for Octopussy.

It would be nice if we knew something, anything about the “glum insider.” Does he/she have direct knowledge? In theory, it could be anyone from Eon boss people Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, down to a grip. Still, even if you discount the Daily Mirror report, MGM hasn’t been making much progress on the financial front. Bottom line: the news isn’t good, the question is exactly how bad it is.

ORIGINAL ODDS: 4-1
FIRST REVISED ODDS (after Eon said Bond 23 was being delayed indefinitely): 10-1
REVISED ODDS (discounting Daily Mirror but noting lack of MGM progress): 15-1
REVISED ODDS (accepting Daily Mirror): 100-1

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4: Some news has occurred since our original mid-April rankings. The Empire Web site quoted Tom Cruise as confirming that Brad Bird was definitely onboard to direct the film. But Paramount also announced in May the release date had been pushed back to December 2011. Still, all this showed that things were happening.

The biggest cloud now over the project may be whether Paramount is getting cold feet because of the disappoint box office receipts of Cruise’s recent Knight and Day movie, according to a story by Mike Fleming of Nikki Finke’s Deadline Web site.

ORIGINAL ODDS:2-1
REVISED ODDS: 3-2

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. A weblog of the Los Angeles Times reported June 28 that Warner Bros. likes a script commissioned earlier this year, wants to proceed with it but is still looking for a director.

We’ve been speptical since this latest version first surfaced earlier in the year, in part because have been lots of U.N.C.L.E. scripts that have gone nowhere. Things are still murky but something appears to be happening.

ORIGINAL ODDS:100-1
REVISED ODDS:25-1

New (serious) Matt Helm movie: Not much news on a movie that’d be a more faithful version of Donald Hamilton’s “counter assassin.”

ORIGINAL ODDS: 10-1, no revision.