A few 007-related questions for this summer

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

Here are some questions 007 fans perhaps should follow for the rest of the summer.

Let’s begin with this: Barbara Broccoli’s newest non-007 film, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, has started filming at Pinewood Studios. That was disclosed in a Pinewood press release.

Why is that something to watch? It’s a test of the ability of the Eon Productions co-boss to multi-task.

In this case, can Broccoli simultaneously produce the drama and gear up Bond 25?

Why do you say that? Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman was able to produce the Harry Palmer film series and The Battle of Britain without affecting the 007 film schedule.

Albert R. Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli’s father and the other Eon co-founder, produced Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in between Bond films.

Both Broccoli and Saltzman were involved with Call Me Bwana inbetween Dr. No and From From Russia With Love.

In the 21st century, Kevin Feige runs Marvel Studios, which produces two movies a year, with Feige getting the credit as producer.

So what should we watch for? If there are significant Bond 25 developments (writers hired, a director hired, etc.) while production of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is underway, then it would seem the Eon co-boss can handle multi-tasking just fine.

To be fair, Eon may be somewhat limited by the fact there’s no distributor yet for Bond 25. 007’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, isn’t big enough to release its own films.

But there are things Eon can do — especially lining up writers and a director — before MGM selects a distribution partner. Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films but its contract expired with SPECTRE.

And if there isn’t major Bond 25 news during that time? Maybe, just maybe, there won’t be any major Bond 25 news until the last part of 2016, or perhaps early 2017.

 

Being James Bond analyzes SPECTRE

SPECTRE LOGO

The Being James Bond website has done a detailed analysis of SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film.

The analysis runs more than an hour, taking on everything from the return of the gunbarrel logo to the start of the film (for the first time since 2002’s Die Another Day) and whether it was well executed, to the movie’s troubled third act (which was revealed before the movie went into production because of the hacking at Sony Picturies in 2014).

Readers may agree or disagree with the points presented, but it’s clear a lot of effort went into this. So, if you’re interested, you can view the embedded video below:

 

Sony executive says no talks on new 007 deal yet

sonylogo

A Sony Pictures executive, in an interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, said the studio hasn’t started talks with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer concerning whether Sony will distribute future James Bond films.

Tom Rothman, who heads Sony’s movie group, didn’t say much more than that. Sony has released the past four 007 films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale and running through 2015’s SPECTRE. Sony’s most recent two-picture contract expired with SPECTRE.

Here’s the exchange in the interview:

 

Where do discussions stand on the next James Bond film?

I’m not going to comment on that, other than to say that we remain very interested in continuing that excellent and important relationship. And I think we have certain advantages as the incumbent. No discussions have started yet.

MGM emerged a smaller company after exiting bankruptcy in 2010. It has no distribution organization and cuts deals with other studios to release its movies. Under the Bond deal, MGM and Sony co-financed the movies but Sony’s cut of the profits was small.

Rothman assumed the Sony job after Amy Pascal — the Sony executive who negotiated the Bond film deal — departed the studio although she has a producer’s deal at Sony.

In March, MGM CEO Gary Barber said on an investor call, “There’s no rush” to negotiate a new 007 deal with Sony or another studio. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.” Based on Rothman’s comments, that hasn’t changed.

Rothman, in The Hollywood Reporter interview, also commented on Sony’s relationship with Marvel Studios concerning future stand-alone Spider-Man movies.

“Sony has the ultimate authority,” the executive told the entertainment website. “But we have deferred the creative lead to Marvel, because they know what they’re doing.”

Sony released five Spider-Man films from 2002 through 2014. Under the agreement with Marvel, Spider-Man is now part of Marvel’s film universe. The character made his Marvel Studios debut with last month’s Captain America: Civil War.

MGM watch: 007’s studio seen getting stronger

MGM logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half of the James Bond franchise, is becoming stronger financially six years after exiting bankruptcy, author and former studio executive Peter Bart writes in a commentary for the Deadline: Hollywood website.

Bart’s story paints MGM as “one of the most consistently profitable” studios.

“MGM produces 5-7 movies a year, has 14 TV shows on the air, has earned a profit of $124 million in its first quarter, and is positioned to make some intriguing acquisitions in the coming year,” Bart wrote.

How could this shake out for future James Bond films?

Executives at rival studios think MGM might re-enter the distribution business next year with the next James Bond film, but this is still speculation. A merger with another major — Paramount or Lionsgate are prospects — is now feasible given MGM’s weight in TV as well as film. Then there’s always the mega-plan: the Amazons and Apples are always hovering. At this point, the possibilities exist, but the decisions haven’t been made. (emphasis added)

MGM hasn’t released a Bond film since 2002’s Die Another Day. The last four were actually released by Sony Pictures. Sony was part of a group that had control of MGM for a few years.

After MGM’s 2010 bankruptcy, Sony cut a deal where it co-financed 007 films with with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits. Sony’s contract with MGM for Bond films expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

Bart, 83, was the editor in chief of Variety from 1989 to 2009. But Bart also worked as an executive at studios, including MGM and Paramount. He’s also written books about the film industry, including 1990’s Fade Out: The Calamitous Final Days of MGM.

Bart doesn’t venture too far into 007’s film future but says the gentleman spy will continue to be part of it.

A key resource for MGM, of course, continues to be the Bond franchise, which is in a moment of flux. Daniel Craig may or may not return, say Bond-watchers, and Sam Mendes has withdrawn as its director. And while Barber is tempted to re-establish MGM’s distribution arm to handle the Bond film, he apparently also believes MGM resources may be more profitably focused on acquisitions or other initiatives.

MGM and Eon Productions have had an uneasy relationship since 1981 when MGM acquired United Artists, the studio that originally released Bond films. Before that, UA acquired Harry Saltzman’s stake in the Bond franchise when the co-founder of Eon was in financial trouble in the mid-1970s.

The main question Bart leaves unanswered is whether Gary Barber, who has been either co-CEO or sole CEO since MGM exited bankruptcy, has managed to change that.

Barber said in March he’s not in a hurry to negotiate a new 007 film releasing deal with other studios. The MGM chief declined to comment to Bart.

To read the entire Bart commentary, CLICK HERE.

 

Mendes says, again, he won’t direct another 007 film

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes, who helmed Skyfall and SPECTRE, said, according to The Associated Press, that he won’t be directing Bond 25.

Here’s an excerpt with the key details:

“It was an incredible adventure, I loved every second of it,” Mendes said of his five years working on the thriller franchise. “But I think it’s time for somebody else.”

Mendes revealed his plans to step down from the series to an audience at the Hay Festival of literature in Wales. A former theatre director whose films include the Oscar-winner “American Beauty” and the somber “Revolutionary Road,” Mendes said he hoped the next Bond director would come from an “unexpected direction,” just as he had.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Mendes has made such comments.

In 2013, he said the idea of directing a sequel to 2012’s Skyfall made him feel “physically ill,” but he directed the next Bond movie, SPECTRE, anyway. Pay raises have a way of calming the stomach.

In July 2015, he told the BBC he “probably” would not direct another 007 film.

Regardless, Mendes’ latest comments are worth noting given how the Bond film series is in flux.

Bond 25, as of now, has no leading man (Daniel Craig hasn’t said if he’s coming back or not), no director, no script and no distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, following its 2010 bankruptcy, doesn’t have the resources to release a Bond movie on its own. Sony Pictures, which released the last four 007 films, saw its contract with MGM expire after SPECTRE.

And, for now, the world goes round and round, albeit without a firm schedule for the return of agent 007.

UPDATE: The AP story has this passage, which raises questions.

Mendes said lobbying by fans is pointless because the decision will be made solely by the series’ producer, Barbara Broccoli.

“It’s not a democracy … Barbara Broccoli decides who is going to be the next Bond, end of story,” he said.

Does Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, not have a say?

Our latest questions about Bond 25

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

We’re not very good at answers but we certainly can generate Bond 25 questions. So let’s get on with it.

What’s up with MGM?: The Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news site said in a May 26 story that there have been “no negotiations” between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and other studios concerning which one would release Bond 25.

The last four 007 films have been released by Sony Pictures. Sony’s most recent two-picture deal expired with 2015’s SPECTRE. MGM, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, doesn’t have a distribution operation.

“There’s no rush,” MGM chief Gary Barber said during a March call with investors and analysts. “We’re evaluating all of our options. We will advise on the deal when we actually make it.”

If Deadline is accurate, Barber wasn’t kidding about not being in a rush.

For now, MGM seems to be trying to develop its non-007 portfolio and to prepare itself for an initial public offering of stock to the public within the next three to five years.

The now-expired Sony deal wasn’t a good one for that studio. Sony co-financed the last two Bond movies, but only got 25 percent of the profits. It remains to be seen whether MGM can get anywhere near such terms in the future.

What’s up with Daniel Craig? By this time, people who read this blog can recite forward and backwards lists of actors (male and female) who’ve been touted as potential 007 successors.

It’s stating the obvious, but Craig hasn’t said whether he’s staying or going. Until he specifies or a successor actually is announced, Craig remains a big unknown.

When will Bond 25 come out? It’s too early to push the panic button but it’s now a real possibility it won’t be released until 2019.

The Deadline story said negotiations between MGM and other studios aren’t likely to occur “until later this year.”

You can’t release a movie until there’s somebody to release it. Whoever eventually strikes a deal with MGM will want a say in the making of Bond 25. If you provided half of the financing, wouldn’t you?

Let’s say a deal is reached in late 2016. How long would it take the partner studio to weigh in and get comfortable with MGM and Eon Productions? Even if Sony were picked again, that studio has new management, so there’d be a new cast of characters involved. Would this process take a few weeks in 2017? Or a few months?

Also, according to Deadline, “There is no workable script yet and the creative elements have yet to come into place.” For the moment, that would also mean securing the services of a leading man and a director.

To have a fall 2018 release, Bond 25 would need to get the creative elements nailed down by late 2017, or about 18 months from now. There’s a lot to be settled before the cameras are ready to roll on Agent 007’s next adventure.

Craig may have another non-007 project, Deadline says

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig may join a heist movie directed by Steven Soderbergh amid signs there’s little progress on Bond 25, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

The website also reported that there “no negotiations” yet what studio will distribute Bond 25. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s most recent two-picture deal with Sony Pictures expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

Craig and Katherine Heigl “are said to be finalizing deals to join Steven Soderbergh’s heist film Logan Lucky about brothers who plan a crime during a NASCAR race in Charlotte,” the entertainment news website said.

Logan Lucky “is scheduled for a fall start date, which puts further into question the actor’s willingness to return to the Bond franchise for MGM,” wrote Deadline’s Anita Busch. Deadline said pre-production will begin this weekend during the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race and the Daytona Beach, Florida-based racing series “has thrown its support behind the picture.”

Soderbergh once was attached to direct a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He quit the project in late 2011 and for a time declared himself retired from directing.

If Craig joins Logan Lucky, it adds to his growing list of non-007 projects. He’s scheduled to appear in an off-Broadway production of Othello this fall and is involved with Purity, a television limited series.

Meanwhile, Deadline said not much is happening on the Bond 25 front. Here’s an excerpt:

There have been no negotiations on where the Bond movie will land (Sony or Warner Bros. are out front on this) and although it was thought that negotiations might start after the first quarter 2016, parties are not likely to engage in negotiations until later this year. There is no workable script yet and the creative elements have yet to come into place. It has also been widely reported (and confirmed by Deadline) that Jamie Bell has discussed the Bond role with his Film Stars Don’t Die movie producer Barbara Broccoli (who has long produced the Bond movies).

The possibility of the 5-foot-7 Bell, 30, being a potential future 007 has been reported in a variety of outlets, including The Independent. He played the Thing in the 2015 version of The Fantastic Four.

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