Shaken studio delays tomorrow for 007

April 20, 2010

Dr. No has finally stopped James Bond. Producers behind the British spy movie series have put the next film on hold because of financial woes at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. Presciently, the villain in the 2006 update of “Casino Royale” was a rogue trader who shed tears of blood; maybe the franchise can capitalize further on anti-Wall Street sentiment for the delayed 23rd installment in the series.

MGM’s troubles stem from a 2005 leveraged buyout that saddled it with too much debt. Its private equity owners — including TPG and Providence Equity Partners — have had the studio on the block since November. The uncertainty has led EON Productions to postpone the next 007 film indefinitely.

The delay may yet turn out useful. The fallout from the financial crisis could provide myriad story ideas. A short-selling villain has been done, but how about a private equity titan leveraging systemically important companies to the hilt and holding creditors to ransom? Convincing details could be taken from MGM’s own experience.

Or what about a sinister banker building a huge but flimsy pyramid of debt and then demanding hundreds of billions of dollars from governments around the world to avert economic collapse? It might be tempting to cast a caricature of Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein. But an option with better shock value could be to pick a smiling baddie more reminiscent of JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, about the only banker around today who it seems can’t put a foot wrong.

A new Bond film might draw from the credit crunch in other ways too. The pre-crisis difficulties of U.S. carmakers saw Bond’s favored and originally very English Aston Martin sold by Ford Motor in 2007 to a consortium led by Kuwaiti investors. The biggest of them, Investment Da, ran into financial trouble of its own last year, becoming the first major company to default on an Islamic bond, or sukuk.

The traditional 007 formula mixed with globe-trotting financiers, the Middle East, money and power could prove irresistible to moviegoers. Once, that is, the production timepiece for “Bond 23″ — made, naturally, by still Swiss-owned Omega — starts ticking again.

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Goldmanfinger, with Carl Icahn as Mini-Me! People are longing to see Bond final-e turn the laser on these villains and burn their naked shorts to a crisp.

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