Bond 23 delay: what EON's announcement really means

Fans reacted first with shock and then with anger following the announcement from Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli that Bond 23 would be delayed “indefinitely”.

The press release from Eon Productions reads:

Bond 23 Delayed Indefinitely

007 producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions, today announced they have suspended development on the next James Bond film previously scheduled for release 2011/2012.

“Due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on BOND 23 indefinitely. We do not know when development will resume and do not have a date for the release of BOND 23,” stated Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli jointly.

EON Productions have produced twenty two James Bond films since 1962. In 1995, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took over the 007 franchise from Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and are responsible for producing some of the most successful James Bond films ever, including CASINO ROYALE and more recently QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The James Bond franchise is the longest running in film history. EON Productions and Danjaq LLC are affiliate companies and control all worldwide merchandising for James Bond.

On one hand the announcement – the first official word from EON since Peter Morgan was confirmed as screenwriter last June – can be taken at face value.

On the other hand it could be seen as a warning shot across the bows of MGM; while the studio may think it’s a question of business as usual as soon as it has solved its financial crisis, EON wants to either force MGM to accept one of the deals currently on the table or alternatively – and possibly this is their preferred option – to give up their stake in the 007 franchise and allow EON to make Bond 23 with another studio.

What makes me say this? Lets look at what we know already:

May 2009: Michael G Wilson said “We have started work on the new film, which I can’t say anything about. Daniel Craig is very keen to get going”.

June 2009: EON confirmed that Peter Morgan would join Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as screenwriters.
October 2009: When Daniel Craig was asked by a fan when Bond 23 would be released he replied: “We start the end of next year, so… after that.”

December 2009: Peter Morgan said the plot of Bond 23 would be “shocking” before going on to say that he had worked on the script between July and October before work was put on hold until February at the earliest because of the sale of MGM.

January 2010: It was announced that pre-production had been halted and filming postponed, with Barbara Broccoli quote as saying: “We just don’t know enough about the situation to comment but we know it’s uncertain”. A rumour surfaced that Sam Mendes was to direct Bond 23. While it was confirmed that he was talking to EON about this possibility, it was stressed at the time that nothing had been confirmed.

February/March 2010: MGM apparently rejects all offers on the table and looks at other survival options.

April 2010: Producer of Preacher confirmed that Mendes had left the project in favour of Bond 23. According to an article in the Telegraph this was confirmed by Barbara Broccoli.

That all goes to suggest that while some pre-production work may have halted, including script development, there is strong evidence that EON has carried on working on other aspects regardless.

That makes me think they want to be in position to move Bond 23 forward as soon as they get the green light – from whoever bankrolls the project.

Thus the real question is not when – but who.

Also, who is this press release aimed at? Normally it would be designed to heighten awareness of something that is happening and keep in in the public eye, not heighten awareness of something that isn’t.

That seems to suggest to me that this piece of news isn’t really aimed at Bond fans and the cinema going public at all. And if it isn’t aimed at the public, then who was it written for and what message does it carry?

My only conclusion that it is aimed at MGM’s steering committee and major investors; the message? “Don’t take us for granted.”

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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