EXCLUSIVE: MGM is announcing that “BOND 23” is set to go into production in late 2011. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions, together with Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, the Co-Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., today announced that the 23rd James Bond film will have a worldwide release on November 9, 2012 — just as Deadline last month reported it would. Daniel Craig will be returning as the legendary British secret agent, with Sam Mendes directing a screenplay written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan. That script is being kept under wraps but the story begins after Quantum Of Solace leaves off. The reason for the 007 delay is this: Broccoli and Wilson had been in pre-production on Bond #23 for release in 2011 but then it took almost a year for MGM’s future to sort itself out what with the failed auction sale of the studio, then the pre-packaged bankruptcy getting approval, and eventually Spyglass taking over studio filmmaking.
Meanwhile star Daniel Craig filled in the time with various film commitments which he had to finish. The actor began work on the Hollywood remake of the Swedish original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as soon as he completed shooting Cowboys and Aliens in a nifty bit of schedule coordination between two studios and James Bond rights holders Broccoli and Wilson.
Mendes at first was brought on as a “consultant” because of the delays, and is now officially the director. He responded to the Bond delay by setting a feature adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel On Chesil Beach and directing the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Yet another James Bond videogame, which also had been held up because of the uncertainty, recently got the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the latest 007 vidgame was for sale this Christmas.
It’s still not clear who will distribute the next Bond. Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported in November that, if MGM isn’t the distributor, the next installment of James Bond will be “a jump ball”. Expect Sony (which distributed Casino Royale) to battle it out with Warner Bros and Fox, but Paramount could emerge in the thick of it because of its close relationship with Spyglass over the film reboot of Star Trek and sequel.
Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and at the mercy of its creditors, MGM was in the news for more than a year because of its financial woes. While the studio’s beleaguered backers unwisely allowed MGM and its library to languish by not making new movies and benching MGM’s creative and marketing/distribution executives while it staged a futile sales auction that attracted bottom-fishing bids, MGM made sure to meets the minimum obligations to its two gems, James Bond and The Hobbit.
As you know, the James Bond filmmakers operate with great autonomy and watching the MGM situation unfold with a mixture of dismay and curiosity. Dismay because Bond’s longtime studio home was a mess. And curiosity because Broccoli and Wilson hoped to move Bond to a fully functioning studio. Like Sony, where Amy Pascal was dying to keep the famous franchise. Or Fox, which handled Bond’s DVD distribution. Broccoli and Wilson very deliberately made certain they didn’t do anything on Bond #23 which tied the movie further to MGM. (That’s why Mendes was hired as a consulting, not the director. Because once EON hires a director on their Bond films, it triggers a first payment from MGM.) Once the MGM auction apparently busted, EON Productions wanted to keep all its options open.
Meanwhile, Bond 23 may now be casting. Producer Broccoli has been to see actor Simon Russell Beale twice in his current West End play Deathtrap. Also, the Shakespearean actor is starring as King Lear for Bond 23 director Sam Mendes in a National Theatre production in 2012. And he’s exec producing Shakespeare’s History Plays for a new BBC TV season that Mendes is also overseeing. Beale told a UK newspaper earlier this year that he’d already dropped a hint to Mendes that “every actor wants to be in Bond [and] I’d love to be a baddie.”