James Bond producers worried by indefinite delay

Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:33am EDT
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By Bryan Alexander

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The "James Bond 007: Blood Stone" video game event in London this month had all the class and splash one would expect from the world's most elegant spy.

Guests sipped Champagne in the historic former church venue One Marylebone and inspected pieces of Bond memorabilia including Oddjob's hat from "Goldfinger" and Jaws' famous teeth. The event even featured a video game Bond girl in a stunning black evening dress, the Brit songstress Joss Stone who belts out the game's theme song.

However impressive the Activision launch, big questions about the historic franchise loomed. Longtime Bond producer Michael G. Wilson touched on these unspoken questions from the podium. "I wish we were launching a movie," he quipped, bringing laughter from the audience.

It was a rare public comment and an even rarer moment of mirth in the drawn-out James Bond-MGM saga, which has left the faithful feeling shaken. In April, Wilson and his half sister and fellow Bond producer, Barbara Broccoli, announced that development of the next 007 feature, known as "Bond 23," was suspended "indefinitely."

The baddie who finally managed to knock Bond out of commission? Financial woes at MGM, which owns rights to Bond but is saddled with a crushing $4 billion in debt. Although no one doubts that Bond will be back, questions remain about where the next picture will find its financing and whether the open-ended delay will slow the momentum the franchise had rediscovered on the rugged shoulders of Daniel Craig.

The topic fascinates the legions of Bond fans as well as industry insiders. "It's a business problem that will be solved, and then Bond will be back," said director Phillip Noyce, whose Bond-esque thriller "Salt" has just begun its worldwide campaign. "There's still a lot of hunger out there for the Bond story."

But Bond appears to be left out in the cold as MGM debtholders extended a deadline to get the studio's financial house in order to September 15. Broccoli and Wilson declined comment but are said to be deeply concerned about the effect of an indefinite delay.

"They're completely panicked that if they go five, six years without a Bond movie, it'll be over," a former MGM insider said. "They don't want to kill the golden goose."   Continued...

<p>A screenshot from the "James Bond 007: Blood Stone" video game courtesy of Activision. REUTERS/Activision</p>