Our newest Bond 25 questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

There’s been a bit of Bond 25 news recently. Or has there?

Here are some questions intended to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Script? Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on a Bond 25 story, according to a report by the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye last month. Eon Productions never confirmed it, but typically it hasn’t confirmed other 007 scoops Bamigboye had about Skyfall and SPECTRE.

How far along are Purvis and Wade? Maybe not very far.

The duo are in the midst of adapting the novel I Am Victor, according to an April 5 story in Deadline: Hollywood.

If Deadline is accurate, the writers “are understood to be finalizing the script before it goes out to cast.” That suggests Purvis and Wade are, at best, in early days of their Bond 25 work.

Meanwhile, there’s a possibility of a Writer’s Guild strike early next month, which would adversely affect movie and television production.

What about that New York Post gossip column? Page Six says Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is close to getting Daniel Criag to coming back for Bond 25. But it doesn’t actually say it’s a done deal.

So? There’s still no Bond 25 director. There’s still no Bond 25 distributor. Sony Pictures, which distributed the last four 007 films, saw its most recent two-picture 007 deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expire with SPECTRE.

What are you trying to say? The blog is trying to say there may be more chaff than wheat at this point.

–You have a star (Craig) who hasn’t publicly committed, despite plenty of opportunity to do so.

–You have a production company (Eon) that seems in no rush to produce the next Bond movie and is keeping busy on various non-007 projects.

–You have a studio (MGM) that seems busy with other matters.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that MGM was trying to sell itself to a Chinese buyer but the deal fell apart. MGM never denied the story and at last month’s investor call, the subejct never came up.

Meanwhile, MGM agreed this week to spend $1 billion to give itself sole ownership of the Epix premium TV channel. If the Epix investment works out, that would help MGM’s finances every year. Bond movies, still one of MGM’s biggest assets, come out only so often.

MGM doesn’t have a studio partner to release Bond 25. Sony Pictures has released the last four Bonds, but Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

In March 2016, MGM CEO Gary Barber had this to say about seeking a new 007 distribution deal.

“There’s no rush,” Barber said. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

Obviously, he was right about the “no rush” part.

‘Little things’ that are bothersome about NY Post 007 story

Tom Hiddleston in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Lt. Columbo used to remark that “little things” bothered him. So it is with this week’s New York Post story proclaiming that Daniel Craig is very close to coming back for another turn as James Bond.

It’s not so much that Craig might actually be close. It’s no secret Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli just loves the guy as 007. Rather, it’s the glee that the Post’s unidentified sources exhibit in criticizing would-be Bond Tom Hiddleston.

Over the years, Eon has tested many actors as 007 who didn’t get the role. The roster includes Sam Neill, James Brolin, Michael Billington and John Richardson among others.

In various histories about the film series, you don’t see much evidence of Eon criticizing such actors.

Yet, if the New York Post series is to believed, sources supposedly in the know are yakking their heads off about how bad a choice Hiddleston was.

The source added, “Plus, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t like Tom Hiddleston, he’s a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”

British actor Hiddleston’s cringe-making romance with Taylor Swift sealed his fate with Bond producers, we’re told, followed by his self-righteous Golden Globes speech, pontificating about his trip to South Sudan, and how Doctors Without Borders “binge-watched” his series.

The Post story, in turned, outlets spurred such as The Ringer (How Tom Hiddleston Lost the James Bond Franchise in Three Easy Steps), The Birmingham Mail (Daniel Craig’s James Bond Future has FINALLY Been Revealed) and Cinema Blend (Why Tom Hiddleston Was Allegedly Ruled Out as James Bond) weighing in on Hiddleston’s supposed short comings.

The Post doesn’t specify just how many sources it supposedly had for its story. It doesn’t specify how the sources came to know all this. (Sometimes, when relying on unidentified sources, reporters use phrases such as “with direct knowledge of the situation” to indicate the sources do know what’s going on.)

But if the Post’s sources are really in the know, they would need some kind of access to Barbara Broccoli. If not talking to her directly, they’d have to see memos, emails, whatever. If they don’t have that kind of access, how much knowledge to they actually have?

Consider this: You’re an actor. You go in to test for Bond. Later, people who claim to have inside knowledge are talking to the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column quoting the Bond boss how inadequate you are.

That’s the kind of thing, over time, might make one think twice about auditioning for such a role. It wasn’t just tabloids that said Hiddleston was in the running to play Bond last year. The Bond fan publication 007 Magazine said on its Facebook page in June 2016 that Hiddleston had been tested.

Even if Craig, 49, comes back for Bond 25, Eon is going to have to have auditions eventually if it wants to continue the Bond film series.

Again, the Post’s story is unconfirmed. Still, that hasn’t stopped fans and some entertainment websites as taking it as gospel. If the Post story is true, that might indicate there’s risk (to an actor’s reputation) as well as potential reward with the Bond role. If it’s not true, well, there’s been some wasted time.

“It was a lot of little things,” Lt. Columbo used to say. “Little things.”

UPDATE: A reader flagged to our attention that Justin Kroll, a Variety film reporter, commented about this on Twitter on April 5, a day before this post was published.

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Bond 25: Is Broccoli about to double down?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

If the New York Post is to be believed, Daniel Craig is ever so close to committing to coming back for a fifth James Bond movie.

What’s more, if true, it’s a sign that Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is doubling down on the current direction of the long-running 007 film series.

If there’s one constant in the world, it’s Broccoli’s admiration for Craig, 49, the first film Bond she actually selected.

“Daniel Craig is Bond, forever, as far as I’m concerned,” Broccoli told the Huffington Post in 2015.

Don’t you have to replace him one day? ““I’m in denial,” Broccoli told the HuffPo at the time. “I don’t want to think about that day.”

The Craig era (2006 to present) has added journeys of self discovery to the 007 proceedings.

Bond finds, and loses, his one true love. Bond seeks revenge for losing his one true love. Bond explores his roots, going to his ancestral home. Bond explores his roots some more, finding his arch enemy, “the author of all your pain,” was his foster brother. (Sort of like Sherlock Holmes finding out Professor Moriarty was his foster brother.)

But, assuming Craig is back, that’s not the only sign of full steam ahead.

Last month, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported last month that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were retained to come up with a Bond 25 story. While that hasn’t been confirmed, Bamigboye has a record of 007 scoops since 2011 being proven correct.

One of those scoops came in the summer of 2014 that Purvis and Wade were summoned back to the 007 fold to rewrite John Logan’s work for SPECTRE. And that story was proven to be 100 percent correct.

Eon never commented until a December 2014 press release listing the movie’s writers. Sure enough, they included Purvis and Wade.

Purvis and Wade have worked on the last six Bond movies. Bringing them back is a sign that Broccoli isn’t looking for major changes as Bond 25 slowly gets into gear.

Having said all that, there is one wild card. Who does Broccoli get to direct the movie? A new director might want to shake things up or at least tweak things a bit.

Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and SPECTRE, has said he’s done with Bond. Of course, he said that once before and came back.

The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website reported Tuesday that Mendes is in talks to develop “and potentially direct” My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, based on a graphic novel. So he potentially might not be available for Bond 25 regardless.

Still, at this point, aside from a long break (it doesn’t appear Bond 25 can come out before 2019), things aren’t changing that much.

Craig likely to return as Bond, NY Post says

Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli and current 007 star Daniel Craig

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli is on the verge of getting Daniel Craig to come back for a fifth appearance as James Bond, the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column said late Monday.

Here’s an excerpt:

Multiple sources tell Page Six that Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli has “just about persuaded Daniel Craig to do one more Bond movie.” This comes after Broccoli produced his hit off-Broadway production of “Othello” with David Oyelowo, which won Craig the serious acting plaudits he craved.

A Hollywood source said, “Daniel was very pleased with how ‘Othello’ went and the great reviews. Now Daniel’s talks with Barbara are going in the right direction. They have a script — screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade [who’ve penned several Bond movies] are writing and they’ll go into production as soon as Daniel is ready to commit.”

Page Six goes on to say that Broccoli wasn’t impressed with actor Tom Hiddleston, mentioned as a would-be replacement for several months last year. The gossip column said Broccoli and Craig didn’t answer requests for comment.

The return of Purvis and Wade as writers was reported last month by Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail.

Both Broccoli and Craig have other work over the next several months. Broccoli is involved with various non-Bond films, including one where Eon purchased a helicopter. That spurred publicity it might be for Bond 25. Craig will be in Purity, a made-for-cable-television series for Showtime.

Also, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio for the Bond films, has yet to line up a distribution partner. Sony Pictures has distributed the past four 007 movies but its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

About those MGM sales talks and Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The New York Post reported that an unknown Chinese buyer is negotiating to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio.

The Post’s sister paper, The Wall Street Journal, followed up by saying MGM had been in talks with a Chinese buyer but the negotiations broke off last year.

How all this applies to Bond 25?

This may explain why MGM never reached a Bond 25 distribution deal

Back in March 2016, MGM said it was in no hurry to negotiate a new Bond movie distribution deal. If the Post and Journal are accurate (that MGM at least *had* talks with a would-be Chinese purchaser), the reason is obvious.

MGM CEO Gary Barber had bigger things on his mind. James Bond may be MGM’s biggest asset, but whether to sell the company or not is bigger (from the perspective of an MGM CEO) than that.

Such talks may have slowed the pace of Bond 25 development

Until there’s a studio that can distribute Bond 25, a new 007 production can’t reach theaters.

Following its 2010 bankruptcy, MGM no longer had a distribution operation. Since then, it has negotiated co-financing and distribution deals with other studios. Maybe that would have changed if a Chinese concern acquired MGM. If the Journal is correct, we’ll never know.

Regardless, MGM negotiating to sell to the Chinese probably would have sent any talks with other U.S.-based studios to distribute Bond 25 to the back burner.

Where do we go from here?

Your guess is as good as this blog’s. However, this is a reminder that Bond is tethered to a weak studio.

MGM bought United Artists in 1981. UA, years earlier, got control of half of the Bond franchise when Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions, sold out because of financial troubles.

The MGM soap opera changes in some regards (executives come, executives go) but not in others.  MGM’s glory days are long gone.

 

MGM sale to Chinese not happening, WSJ says

MGM logo

A sale of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, to a Chinese buyer isn’t happening, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Talks broke down between MGM and several Chinese companies late last year, an apparent casualty of China’s move to stanch capital outflows that has stalled the country’s shopping spree in Hollywood, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported.

“An MGM sale would have been among the biggest-ticket and highest-profile such acquisitions, but its failure to materialize is evidence of a twist ending that few in Hollywood expected,” according to the story by three Journal reporters.

Earlier, the New York Post reported that MGM was in talks with a Chinese buyer it didn’t identify. Both the Journal and Post are owned by News Corp., controlled by Rupert Muchoch.

Uncertainty at MGM would have an adverse effect on the 007 film franchise. MGM has been involved with Bond since it acquired United Artists in 1981. UA, in 1975, acquired half of the franchise after Eon Productions co-founder Harry Saltzman sold out because of financial troubles.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company, unable to release its own films. MGM cuts deals with other studios to co-finance and release those movies, including the Bond series.

An MGM spokeswoman told the Journal that the studio wasn’t for sale.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal story about the broader issues facing Hollywood and China:

The economic-policy changes in China come amid mounting protectionist rhetoric in the U.S. from the administration of President Donald Trump.

“We’ve heard from both [private-equity] firms and investment banks that China investment activity around [Hollywood] assets started to wane just prior to the election and is almost nonexistent now,” said Chris Fenton, a trustee of the U.S.-Asia Institute, which organizes congressional delegations to China, and president of DMG Entertainment, a media company headquartered in Beverly Hills and Beijing.

“No China entity wants to be the first to test” the heated rhetoric on the U.S. side and the capital controls on the Chinese side, he added.

The last four Bond films have actually been released by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture 007 deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

 

MGM in negotiations with Chinese buyer, NY Post reports

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home studio of the 007 film franchise, is in sales talks with a Chinese buyer, the New York Post reported.

“The name of the China-based entity involved in the talks, perhaps newly formed to make the deal, could not immediately be learned,” the Post’s Claire Atkinson wrote.

MGM acquired United Artists in 1981, giving it a half stake in the Bond franchise. UA had earlier purchased the holdings of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Eon Productions and its parent firm, Danjaq.

The studio emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 as a smaller company. It doesn’t have a distribution operation and negotiates deals with other studios to release its films. The last four Bond movies have been released by Sony Pictures.

MGM’s most recent two-picture contract with Sony expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. Studio chief Gary Barber said in March 2016 there was “no rush” to negotiate a new Bond distribution accord with Sony or another studio.

In 2016, MGM said it intended to sell stock to the public in three to five years.