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No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

Robert Weedon | Film | Tuesday 27th July 2010

James Bond might have a curse on him. Not as a character, but as a series.

You would think that EON Productions' 007 series, which is one of the highest grossing and longest-running film franchises would be a shoe-in for green-lighting with any production company. After all, even if a film is as bad and expensive to create as Thunderball, The Man With the Golden Gun or Die Another Day, they always, always turn a profit.

However, with the recent news that MGM are in financial difficulty to the point of £4 billion, it appears that the next Bond outing (the 23rd in the official canon) will be put on hold for the foreseeable future, leaving in limbo Sam Mendes, who was due to direct it, and most of the production staff who probably spent quite a bit of time preparing for it. Earlier this month, it was said to be completely cancelled. This is all the more disappointing, as one of the screenwriters was Peter Morgan, surely one of the best British screenwriters of the present.

As a result, Daniel Craig has (understandably, really) just signed up to appear in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, likely to be the first in a series, therefore putting his role as Bond in further difficulty with regards to scheduling.

There always seems to be a problem with Bond - from the rubbish recruitment process that led to wimpy George Lazenby being hired as Bond and then subsequently replaced by his predecessor with a silly black wig, to Roger Moore looking like a Bond ready for a bus pass, it seems that the production of these films is never as easy as it could and should be.

Actors who would have been ideal for the role have been messed about so much that they often don't return, in the case of the excellent Timothy Dalton, whose last appearance in 1989's Licence to Kill wasn't followed up until 1995 due to legal issues, by which point he thought he was too old. Others, such as Christian Bale, once lined up to be Pierce Brosnan's replacement get so bored they go off and do something else instead like Batman Begins. Other candidates who appear to really want the role and seem to have the right credentials (like a CV full of action espionage roles) such as Rupert Penry-Jones apparently didn't even get invited for an interview.

It's often a bit rubbish for screenwriters of Bond as well, possibly because of the powerful influence of Albert R. Broccoli and his family. At one point in the 1960s, apparently Gerry Anderson was lined up to write the screenplay for an adaptation of Moonraker, but dropped at the last minute because of a fallout between the original producers Saltzman and Broccoli. This seems to be a running trend, of which Peter Morgan looks likely to be the latest casualty.

Otherwise, it seems to be the spectre of legal issues that causes problems, such as the rights issues around Thunderball and the character of Blofeld. In my own head, Michael G. Wilson goes to see the lawyer/accountant in his lair... and the whole scene pans out with a tedious inevitability.

I really hope that Bond gets back on his feet, as despite the slightly disappointing Quantum of Solace, the series was heading in the right direction - Casino Royale was an excellent return to form (although I have to say that history shows us that the first films of any new Bond actor are always much better than their sequels - The Living Daylights, GoldenEye, and so forth).

It's almost as if there really is an evil figure lurking out there somewhere stroking a cat, plotting to spoil the world's summer holiday cinema outings. One of these times, he might just succeed.

RW



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