[Please note: While the underlying facts regarding the financing of the James Bond franchise are real, the meeting of supervillains described in this report is fictional. James Bond is fictional. The man-eating tendencies of the MGM lion are fictional. The MGM lion is almost surely docile, charming, and declawed by now. No actual supervillains were harmed, consulted, or otherwise communed with in the making of this blog post or the Morning Edition report from which it springs.]
On today's Morning Edition, NPR's Robert Smith reports on a recent meeting of supervillains assembled to ponder the possible death of James Bond as a result of the financial struggles at 007's longtime studio, MGM. And they did it with Bond suspended over a cage containing a hungry MGM lion.
Dr. No, who graciously agreed to attend the gathering in spite of his general reputation for contrariness, underscored the sense of urgency felt by the entire group by pointing out that there was "much to discuss and so little time." As the villains pressed upon Bond the fact that the lion would surely feast on him at any moment, Auric Goldfinger took a particularly aggressive anti-Bond stance, stating bluntly, "I expect you to die."
While this could make Goldfinger appear unduly confident, Matthew Garrahan, who covers Hollywood for The Financial Times, explains that the supervillains have their reasons to be optimistic about Bond's death.
He says that when the economy was better, MGM was rich, in part because of the value of its library, including the Bond films as well as classics like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Annie Hall.
But as Garrahan explains, the DVD-purchasing patterns on which MGM's investors were relying turned out to have all the permanency of one of Bond's girlfriends, and as habits changed, the value of the library diminished. That's where the money problems started -- think "four billion dollars in debt" -- that have imperiled the Bond franchise and thus Bond himself. That's how he wound up hanging above the snapping jaws of a hungry lion.
As Bond dangled over the cage, he angrily noted that the global financial collapse could not have come at a better time for SPECTRE -- that would be the Special Executive For Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, And Extortion, which bedevils 007 wherever he goes and undoubtedly wouldn't mind piggybacking on worldwide financial problems to send him off to the great beyond while also enjoying a side benefit of bonus destruction.
"They get what they want," Bond warned. "Economic chaos in the West."
But just as Bond's future seemed darkest and the lion began drooling in earnest, news arrived that MGM's financial position had changed. As Edward J. Epstein, author of The Hollywood Economist, explains it, MGM is restructuring its debt -- in bankruptcy. Its creditors now have stock.
What that means, Epstein adds, is that MGM's debt is "wiped out," and they will "probably get another James Bond movie."
Needless to say, this was not what the assembled supervillains were hoping to hear. And just when they thought things couldn't get any worse, an assistant pointed out that while they were looking over the books and lamenting the bankruptcy proceedings, Bond had escaped with a jetpack.
Assistants to evil SPECTRE genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld showed signs of denial, insisting that Bond was dead, but Blofeld insisted that SPECTRE "does not tolerate failure."
For the moment, the superspy seems out of danger.
With MGM's immediate financial problems perhaps becoming less urgent, it now appears that there is only one remaining way for the supervillains to kill James Bond. They will have to, as Smith notes, hope that the next (very expensive) Bond movie is ignored by their most powerful potential allies: teenagers. Because if that happens -- if Bond cannot make an impression on the desirable young demographic studios covet -- the franchise could indeed die.
And after the entire plan for his demise has been explained -- to his face, in as much detail as possible -- Bond could too.