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: 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.

Bond 25: THR says Boyle may direct a movie this summer

Danny Boyle

The Hollywood Reporter, in a story about director Danny Boyle, sounded a skeptical note about his availability to director Bond 25.

The entertainment news website reported that Boyle and “Love Actually screenwriter Richard Curtis have teamed up for an untitled comedy just set up at Universal.”

According to that story, “Universal is eying a shoot for as early as summer if casting can come together.”

Why is this of interest to this blog? Well, without saying so directly, THR seems to be trying to knock down stories last month from Variety and Deadline: Hollywood that Boyle is under active consideration to direct Bond 25.

Major entertainment sites, including THR, Variety, Deadline and TheWrap, often break news before it’s announced. But they are loathe to acknowledge when their competitors have a scoop unless they have to do so.

Deadline referenced Variety (which had the story first). But Deadline added that Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge had devised a Bond 25 story and that Boyle would only direct the 007 film if that story were selected. In effect, Deadline only mentioned Variety when Deadline could top the earlier story. Amusingly, Variety and Deadline share the same owner.

So, here’s the take that The Hollywood Reporter took:

Rumors swirled in February that Boyle was a candidate to direct the new James Bond movie, but that project remains in flux thanks to a stalled director search. Insiders say that this music-inspired comedy will be Boyle’s next movie. If Bond producer Eon Productions does want Boyle, it will have to wait and potentially even shift the release date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Said rumors, of course, were the Variety and Deadline stories. THR finally waded (indirectly) into Bond 25 with this new story.

Regardless, it’s a new twist. It gives Bond fans something to chew over.

UPDATE (March 3): Deadline: Hollywood also had a story about this on March 1.  But it also had this passage: “Boyle is currently balancing this project with the James Bond script he is working on with John Hodge, which Deadline lifted the lid on ten days ago.” (Link in sentence in the original Deadline story.)

Jack Kirby’s version of The Prisoner gets official release

Splash page to Jack Kirby’s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner

Jack Kirby’s 1970s comic book adaptation of The Prisoner has been scheduled for an official release by Titan Comics, The Hollywood Reporter said.

Titan also is releasing a new comic book series based on The Prisoner. Here are the details about the Kirby material:

In July, Titan will also release The Prisoner: Original Art Edition, a hardcover edition of previously unreleased work by Kirby, (artist Gil) Kane and writer Steve Englehart from their attempt to adapt the pilot episode of the TV show to comics during the 1970s. In addition to featuring the complete Kirby artwork for his unpublished issue — six pages of which were inked and lettered by his long-term collaborator, Mike Royer — the collection will also feature 18 pages of Kane’s pencils, and the complete script for Kane’s issue by Englehart.

Background: Kirby (1917-1994) returned to Marvel — where he co-created many of the classic Marvel characters of the 1960s — in 1975 after spending a few years at rival DC.

In the ’70s, Kirby wrote, drew and edited most of his projects. In the previous decade, Kirby did the heavy lifting at Marvel with plots while editor Stan Lee did the scripting.

Jack Kirby self portrait, circa 1970

With his second stint at Marvel, Kirby took over Captain America (a character he co-created in 1941 with Joe Simon) and went about mostly creating new characters.

Beginnings: Steve Englehart, 70, a one-time writer at Marvel, described the origin of The Prisoner project in a post on his website.

“I plotted an adaptation of the first episode, and Gil Kane handled the art (with Joe Staton providing his layouts),” Englehart wrote. According to the scribe, it was put on the shelf by Marvel. (Kane died in 2000, at the age of 73.)

“Sometime later, remembering they’d paid for the rights, they got Jack Kirby to do an issue,” Englehart wrote. “I always thought Patrick McGoohan looked like a Kirby character, with his nice brow ridge, but apparently they didn’t like Kirby’s version and it, too, went on the shelf.”

Kirby themes: Charles Hatfield, in a detailed article on the Two Morrows website, said the original Prisoner series, starring Patrick McGoohan, was a great match for Kirby.

“It’s not hard to see why The Prisoner appealed to Kirby,” Hatfield wrote. “Indeed, the series’ concept, which Kirby glossed as ‘an individual’s stubborn attempts to wrest freedom from subtle but oppressive power’ makes perfect sense within Kirby’s oeuvre. Its paranoiac, Orwellian premise dovetails with the dystopian future of Kirby’s OMAC (1974-75), as well as the Orwell riffs in Kirby’s ‘Madbomb’ saga in Captain America #193-200 (1975-76).” (OMAC was one of the titles Kirby created at DC in between his stints at Marvel.)

Pages from Kirby’s one issue of The Prisoner has been seen before online, including the Forces of Geek website.

Still, this year is the the 50th anniversary of The Prisoner being shown in the U.S. Also, Kirby’s original work has been getting renewed attention thanks to Marvel Studios movies that rely heavily on Kirby-created characters.

Marvel’s next movie is The Black Panther, which is being released next month. The title character was introduced in a 1966 issue of The Fantastic Four by Lee and Kirby. The film version of the character was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Anatomy of crappy 007 journalism

Barbara Broccoli

In mid-December, The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast had a wide-ranging interview with Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli.

After almost an hour, there was this brief exchange:

SCOTT FEINBERG (Host): Would you ever hire a person of color or even a woman to play James Bond one day? Could it be Jamie Bond?

BARBARA BROCCOLI: Anything is possible. Right now it’s Daniel Craig and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig, but who knows what the future will bring? That’s what is so exciting about Bond.

OK. Almost two weeks later (Dec. 28, to be precise), the DAILY MAIL ran a story under the headline, “Next James Bond could be black or a woman, says 007 producer: Barbara Broccoli says ‘anything is possible’ once Daniel Craig walks away.”

That story says Broccoli “was asked if we could expect to see a female Bond or a black 007.” (emphasis added). The Broccoli quote: “Right now it’s Daniel Craig, and I’m very happy with Daniel Craig, but who knows what the future will bring?”

In other words, the Mail reproduced Broccoli’s comments. She was asked, but it appears she was not asked by the Daily Mail. Of course, to know that, you would have to listen to the original podcast (it’s around the 1:36:34 mark). Also, the Daily Mail has a reputation for ripping off other outlets, as detailed in a 2015 Gawker story.

Nevertheless, the Daily Mail story (such as it was), spurred other outlets to hammer the same idea.

ESQUIRE.COM (James Bond Producer Barbara Broccoli Says The Next 007 Could Be Female): Same Broccoli quotes, but attributed to the Daily Mail, not the original podcast.

SCREEN RANT (The Next James Bond Could Be a Woman or Person of Color): Same Broccoli quotes, but attributed to the Daily Mail, not the original podcast.

CINEMA BLEND (Will James Bond Continue To Be A Handsome White Dude After Daniel Craig Leaves?): You guessed it, same quotes but attributed to the Daily Mail.

MOVIE WEB (Earlier headline: Next James Bond Probably Won’t Be a Straight White Male): Once more with feeling — same quotes from the podcast, attributed to the Daily Mail. But, hey, at least the website’s headline took it even further. (HEADLINE CHANGED JAN. 4 TO Anything’s Possible When It Comes to Casting the Next James Bond. For more details, see update below).

OBSERVER (Will We Ever See a Non-White Male James Bond? It’s ‘Possible’): You guessed it. Same quotes as the podcast, attributed to the Daily Mail.

Just to be clear, this blog has never been mistaken as an extension of Eon’s PR operation. On occasion, the blog has noted when Broccoli denied things that turned out to be true (Ben Whishaw playing Q in Skyfall, John Logan being signed, initially, to write Bond 24 and 25).

But on this one, it’s pretty clear the Eon boss deflected the question. But that hasn’t stopped various entertainment outlets from running with it.

UPDATE (Jan. 4): Movie Web said today in two posts on Twitter that it changed its headline and is now crediting THR.

Broccoli says major B25 decisions to be made in 2018

Barbara Broccoli

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in a long interview with the THR Awards Chatter podcast, said major Bond 25 decisions won’t occur until sometime in early 2018.

Given it’s mid-December of 2017, that’s not terribly surprising. But the podcast is a chance for fans to hear things for themselves.

Asked if “we know” Bond 25’s title or director, she replied: “I don’t. It’s still to be determined.”

Asked about who will distribute the movie, she said, “It’s exciting to be courted. We’ll hopefully be making that decision early next year.”

Gary Barber, CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, “is leading this whole crusade,” Broccoli said, referring to the distributor issue.

MGM is home studio to the Bond franchise. The last four 007 films were released by Sony Pictures. With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Sony also co-financed but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution seven years after exiting bankruptcy. It formed a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies. But, for now at least, that joint venture isn’t involved with Bond 25.

Broccoli was asked whether Bond 25’s distribution may be split between the U.S. and internationally. “That’s all to be decided in the future,” she said.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are “busy working away, trying to come up with something fantastic.”

The producer went into more detail about how went to work for Eon, co-founded by her father, Albert R. Broccoli. Broccoli, 57, doesn’t do a lot of interviews and this one is longer than most. Among the highlights:

Working in her teens on The Spy Who Loved Me: “My job was captioning stills.” She had to do through a lot of film and “you’d have to come up with captions.

Working on Octopussy as an assistant director: “I was basically a runner. I was a third assistant (director).” One of her responsibilities was dealing with a large group of young actresses. “I was responsible for herding them and get them around.”

Associate producer Tom Pevsner was “a mentor to me.” Broccoli said she learned the art of production scheduling from Pevsner. “He taught me about breaking down scripts…He was an incredible man.”

Pevsner joined the series with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. With 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989’s Licence to Kill both Broccoli and Pevsner had the title of associate producer. Pevsner’s final Bond film was 1995’s GoldenEye, where he had the title of executive producer. Pevsner died in 2014.

On her working style with half-brother Michael G. Wilson: “Michael and I are very different. Strangely enough, when it comes to Bond, we always agree.”

On 007 actor Daniel Craig: “He brought humanity to the character…making Bond relevant to today.”

Broccoli said she first saw Craig in the 1998 film Elizabeth. “He has the most incredible presence on the screen,” she said of Craig. “He’s lit from within. I remember thinking, ‘What a force.’ I just watched everything he did.”

Craig announced in August he’d return for a fifth film as Bond. Before that announcement, Broccoli said, “My heart was breaking.”

To check out the podcast, CLICK HERE. The Broccoli interview begins at the 40:36 mark and lasts almost an hour. She also discusses her non-Bond movie, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in detail as well as talking Bond.

Why 2018 will be an eventful 007 film year

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig make another movie together without major changes.

No matter what happens, 2018 is shaping up an eventful year for the James Bond film franchise.

Steady as she goes scenario: Eon Productions gears up its 25th 007 film, aiming for a fall 2019 release.

Eon (and studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) on July 24 announced a November 2019 release date for the United States, with an earlier release in the U.K.

Under “steady as she goes,” a director gets announced (presumably early in 2018). Pre-production commences. Casting announcements take place. Principal photography begins before the end of 2018. In most years, that’d be plenty for fans to absorb. (Think Skyfall between January and November 2011.)

Apple logo

Disruption scenario: This is not the most stable time in the movie business.

For example, Walt Disney Co. is reported to be negotiating to buy most of 21st Century Fox’s assets (including the 20th Century Fox studio). The movie industry isn’t the most stable in general.

Could this affect the Bond film franchise? Back in September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that tech companies Apple and Amazon were sniffing around the Bond film rights. That’d be a huge change. Since then? No word at all. THR hasn’t followed up. Other news outlets that follow tech companies closely haven’t followed up.

Disruption may happen for Agent 007 in 2018. Then again, you can’t bet on it.

Logo of Syncopy, Christopher Nolan’s production company

Middle ground scenario: Every so often, the notion arises that director Christopher Nolan, a Bond fan, might get involved with the 007 films.

Most recently, the Archivo 007 Spanish fan website said Dec. 2,  citing two people it didn’t identify, that Nolan “is already working” on Bond 25.

In the 21st century, Eon has employed “auteur” directors such as Marc Forster and Sam Mendes. But Nolan is a special case. He has his own production company (Snycopy). His wife, Emma Thomas, works as producer on Nolan films.

To call this unconfirmed is an understatement. “He wasn’t doing it when I spoke to him on Friday!” Baz Bamigboye, a Daily Mail writer who has had a number of Bond scoops proven correct, wrote on Twitter on Dec. 3, after interviewing Nolan.

Nevertheless, there are has been a fascination among Bond fans with Nolan. Also, in 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon employed Nolan regulars editor Lee Smith and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema.

Whatever scenario you favor, something’s got to happen in 2018. It’s a few weeks early, but Happy New Year.