Bond 23 casting is underway with a role offered to Spaniard Javier Bardem and Dame Judi Dench returning as "M" - plus news on MGM's distribution deal...

Bond 23 - January Report

30th January 2011

Earlier in the week, in the aftermath of The South Bank Sky Arts Awards, Dame Judi Dench was interviewed by the BBC about her current status as MI6 chief, the character known only by the insignia "M". The actress confirmed she would be returning to the role (having appeared alongside Daniel Craig in his first two 007 outings), but with a grin on her face, said she could tell the press "nothing".

"My lips are sealed. I can't tell you anything at all." She did, however, express excitement about working with Daniel Craig and the newly announced director of the film Sam Mendes, saying: "I'm looking forward hugely to working with Daniel [Craig] again and with Sam [Mendes] who I've only ever worked with in the theatre. So that'll be all good fun to do! I'm so glad it's coming back, it's wonderful."

It was largely expected by Bond experts and fans that the seven time M would be making a return to the role she accepted in 1995, when she appeared with Bond alumni Pierce Brosnan in his debut Bond adventure, "GoldenEye".


Within a week of Dench confirming her return to the role, other rumours of casting the 23rd James Bond film escaped the production office. On January 30th 2011, industry blog Deadline reported that 42 year-old Spaniard Javier Bardem - famed for his performance in the Cohen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men" and Woody Allen-helmed "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" - had been offered a major role in the upcoming James Bond adventure, currently dubbed "Bond 23".

Above: Javier Bardem

Reporters speculate that the major role is that of Bond 23's lead villain, but no character details were leaked with this casting rumour. Bardem is reported to be considering the offer made by the James Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (daughter of long-time 007 producer Albert R. Broccoli). Bardem is known for his careful consideration and even for declining high profile roles, including a top-billed position in Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps".

Above: Gary Barber & Roger Birnbaum.


All of the James Bond 23 news and rumours MI6 has covered in the last 4 weeks - including the release date and directorial announcement, as well as the various UK tabloids' cobbled together "stories" of a possible Bond 23 title and a reheat of the Rachel Weisz scoop - demonstrate one important fact: the cogs in the MGM machine are coming back to life. MGM appointed the successful Spyglass executives Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum as Chief Executive Officers late last year and, according to inside sources, the new regime have big plans for using Bond 23 to bulster MGM's financial future.

It was recently revealed that MGM would be seeking a distribution partner for the new James Bond movie, ideally a big player with the funds to cash out the Bond 23 budget, in exchange for a profit share and distribution rights. A similar arrangement existed between the "Big Cat" and Sony for the duration of the "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" productions. However, in the recent weeks, new names have been thrown into the hat, including Paramount Pictures and Fox (who already distribute the existing James Bond DVDs).

It is now understood that executives seek to use James Bond 23 as part of an overarching deal to secure MGM's future. The ideal situation for MGM is that a producing partner, keen to get its hands on 007, will also lend a hand and produce several other of MGM's slated projects. A deal such as this might not be as attractive to potential distributors of Bond 23 (a sure moneymaker) but it "would provide MGM quick cash flow," an insider told Deadline.

"The quick cash flow allows MGM to have revenue which it hasn't had in a long time," the same insider said. "Thereby their books look better, and therefore the possibility of getting more funds for production is increased. So expect whichever studio lands Bond to also announce it is several co-financing deals allowing MGM into other pics that are already shooting."

That MGM is pressing this term on the key negotiators for Fox, Paramount, Sony and Warner is reported to be frustrating the other parties. Reports have it that the Spyglass executives are playing one company off against another to get the best deal for MGM, not just short term for 007, but in a longer term business strategy.