Bond producers shake U.K.

'Too costly' to shoot films in Britain

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, producers of the James Bond films, caused a furor Tuesday by indicating that the iconic British spy franchise might never shoot on U.K. shores again because of changes in the tax system here.

Wilson's widely reported observation that it is becoming "too costly" to shoot the Bond franchise in the U.K. and that the producers are eyeing other possibilities came just as the latest installment, "Casino Royale," was due to have its royal premiere Tuesday evening in front of the queen.

The U.K. government said this year that the tax breaks available to filmmakers would switch to a tax credit system, meaning any cost savings must be pumped back into production here.

Invicta Capital bought worldwide rights to "Casino" in an arrangement that sees the investment house lease back those rights to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Invicta chairman and CEO Mohammed Yusef told the BBC Radio 4 news program "Today" that he thought "it was a very real possibility" that the U.K. will miss out on movie production because of the tax changes. "Uncertainty is a problem," he said.

Yusef also pointed out that the new system of tax credits, announced in March, has yet to get the go-ahead from European Union lawmakers, and the "wait and see" aspect already is causing growing concern among filmmakers, lawyers, financiers and production crews.

The prospects for Bond's long-term association with filming in the U.K. first came up in the summer, when the 007 stage at Pinewood Studios — named because of its history with the world's most famous spy — was destroyed by fire.

The studio operator issued a statement to the London stock exchange at the beginning of August confirming Pinewood "suffered a serious fire on the 007 stage at its Pinewood Studios location" and that there were no casualties (HR 8/1).

"Casino," starring Daniel Craig, will roll out in theaters Friday day-and-date in the U.K. and the U.S. The movie has received rave reviews in the U.K.