MGM woes halt work on next Bond film

Development suspended 'indefinitely' on 23rd movie

It looks like it's going to be a quantum of silence for Bond fans.

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli of EON Productions Ltd., producer of the long-running James Bond franchise, said Monday that development work on the next 007 film had been suspended. EON blamed financial difficulties at the film's distributor, MGM.

"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," the duo said. "We do not know when development will resume and do not have a date for the release."

The announcement will surprise no one who has followed the tortured recent efforts to bolster finances at MGM.

Solicitations of offers to buy the studio resulted in a couple rounds of underwhelming bidding by studio companies such as Lionsgate and corporate parents of Warner Bros. and Fox. More recently, Fox parent News Corp. and others have been drawn into discussions of possible limited investments in the studio, which has been strapped for cash and burdened by a big debt load.

Nobody doubts there will be a next Bond film, but current circumstances hardly allowed for a tidy development of the project. Some have suggested MGM might sell off rights to co-produce Bond pics to raise needed capital.

Peter Morgan ("The Queen") was working on a screenplay for the 23rd Bond film with regular 007 scripters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. No director has been hired, though Sam Mendes was in negotiations at one point this year.

After sharing "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" with Sony, MGM recently regained full control of the Bond franchise. Those last two installments together rung up $1.18 billion worldwide b.o.

Wilson and Broccoli took over producing reins in 1995 of a franchise launched in 1962.