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Bond franchise may switch gears for chapter 21.

The next James Bond movie is still on target for a late 2005 release. And while speculation is rampant about who will play 007 and whether the series will take a new direction, no one at either Eon Prods. or MGM is talking details. "Bond 21" (there's no formal title yet) is being written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who scripted both "Die Another Day" and "The World Is Not Enough," the last two in the franchise.

They are apparently writing it for a generic Bond, because Pierce Brosnan--007 in the last four features, beginning with 1995's "GoldenEye"--has not yet been approached to star. Brosnan's films have grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Brosnan recently told Variety editor Peter Bart on AMC's "Sunday Morning Shootout" that he is willing to play Bond for a fifth time, but that he thinks "a certain kind of paralysis has set in" and that the producers "don't know where to go, or how to go, with this film."

MGM vice chairman and COO Chris McGurk points out, "all creative decisions are mutual between the studio and the producers. They make recommendations and both sides can say yea or nay. We're going to go through the same process on this one."

Rumors of dissension between the producers and the studio have swirled since plans collapsed last year to spin off Halle Berry's Jinx character from "Die Another Day" into a separate franchise.

McGurk denies that tension between the two sides has caused an impasse. "Like any good production relationship between top-tier producers and a studio, you're always going to have disagreements," he says. "We had a lot of disagreements on the last Bond, and they all got sorted out to everybody's satisfaction." The film did $430 million worldwide.

Production is still scheduled to begin "early next year" for a probable November 2005 release, McGurk says. Decisions about a director, and who will play Bond, will be made "in the next few months."

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Title Annotation:MGM 80th Anniversary
Author:Burlingame, Jon
Publication:Variety
Date:Apr 19, 2004
Words:329
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