Reading these obits on James Bond, I think reports of 007’s motion picture demise because of MGM’s near-bankruptcy have been greatly exaggerated. Despite an article out of the UK that spread virally, insiders insist nothing tangible has happened. 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. [UPDATE: “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. Eon is a subsidiary of Danjaq, the Broccoli family holding company responsible for the copyright and trademarks to everything James Bond on screen.] 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 has made sure to meets the minimum obligations to its two gems, James Bond and The Hobbit. The studio is mulling whether to change its lethargic strategy and free up money for back-to-back Hobbit films to keep the first film on track for a December 2012 release. That’s because Peter Jackson is willing to direct the films but might not if those release dates get pushed. There is no such ticking clock on 007.
As Deadline has reported, director Sam Mendes responded to the Bond delay by setting a feature adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel On Chesil Beach (he hopes Carey Mulligan will star) and directing the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Daniel Craig is taking other jobs, too. He’s starring in Cowboys & Aliens and negotiating to star in the David Fincher-directed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I’m told both talents fully plan to come back to James Bond after MGM sorts itself out. That game plan — Spyglass and Summit are believed to be the front runners to steer the studio — should be in place by the early fall, I’m told. If Spyglass wins the day and the studio sheds its distribution/marketing unit, Bond will have several studios chasing it, and the winner will likely make a deal that includes servicing the MGM library, a labor intensive enterprise.