There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for MGM. The studio’s crippling $4 billion has put nearly all of its projects, including high-profile franchise films like The Hobbit and a 23rd James Bond mission, on indefinite hold, but Spyglass Entertainment’s plans to reorganize the struggling company may breathe new life into those dormant fan favorites.
THR reports Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, who signed a letter of intent to become co-chairmen and CEOs of the restructured MGM, are leading a push to convert the massive debt in lender equity as the company plans a probable bankruptcy filing. They’re negotiating a bank loan of approximately $500 million for operating capital, which allows them to start production on the aforementioned lucrative titles and possibly release its shelved remake of Red Dawn.
MGM’s financial woes have caused a few delays on the two-part Lord of the Rings prequels and played at least a partial role in Guillermo del Toro’s exit as director. Officially there is no new director in place, but rumors have pegged producer Peter Jackson, lord of the original Tolkien trilogy, as a strong possibility to return.
Sir Ian McKellen, widely assumed to return as Gandalf the wizard but officially unsigned, told The Bolton News “the aim is to start filming in January.” This is exciting news for anyone who loves hairy-footed hobbits, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. However, this, coupled with chatter about MGM working with Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins, means cameras could roll in New Zealand soon. If we’re lucky.
Meanwhile, Sam Mendes may be freeing his schedule to finally shoot the untitled James Bond 23 with returning star Daniel Craig. Mendes has been playing a sort of consultant role with every intention of directing (once he can get paid), but his name has emerged on several short lists for other work, including Oz the Great and Powerful.
One such list was Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games, which had Mendes in the running until he abruptly backed out and the position went to Gary Ross. This quiet withdrawal spelled something more important brewing on the horizon, hinted at by Deadline’s Mike Fleming who indicated a tentative summer/early Fall 2011 start. Plus, Mendes’ next project, On Chesil Beach, was postponed when pre-production ran long, potentially freeing up his schedule for a date with 007. Again, there is nothing concrete yet.
These collected bits of hopeful news point to possible progress, but until MGM handles their cash flow problems nothing is certain.