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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Daniel Craig

Nobody does it better: Celebrating 50 years of James Bond films

June 4, 2012 |  3:58 pm

Connery

It's a Bond, James Bond, weekend in Los Angeles.

With Ian Fleming's dashing, debonair and sexy British spy marking 50 years on the silver screen, the American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are celebrating the longevity of the film franchise, which has endured five decades, 22 films (the 23rd, "Skyfall," with Daniel Craig, is due this fall) and almost as many leading-man incarnations as Dr. Who.

The celebration begins with the American Cinematheque's "007 at 50: The Complete James Bond Retrospective." The fun starts Friday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood with the very first Bond film, "Dr. No," starring Sean Connery as 007, and 1963's "From Russia With Love." The retrospective moves Saturday to the Aero in Santa Monica with a double bill of 1964's "Goldfinger" and 1965's "Thunderball." The series continues at both theaters through June 24. http://www.americancinematheque.com

The exhibition "... Is James Bond," presented by LACMA and co-organized with Loyola Marymount University's School of Film and Television, opens Saturday and continues through Sept. 9 at LACMA's Art of the Americas Building. The presentation will feature all 22 unique, boldly graphic and often erotic film title sequences thematically grouped and displayed on a series of 40-inch monitors.

Fourteen of those title sequences were designed by the late Maurice Binder, who was succeeded by Daniel Kleinman for 1995's "GoldenEye."

Film Independent at LACMA will screen a Bond double bill every Thursday evening in July and September. http://www.lacma.org

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-- Susan King

Photo: Sean Connery in "From Russia With Love." Credit: MGM Home Entertainment


'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo': Betsy Sharkey's film pick

January 12, 2012 |  8:30 am

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's" Lisbeth Salander, the pierced-punk-hacker-tracker with a post-modern grudge in need of settling, has fascinated me from the first time I waded through the priceless pulpy viscera of the late Stieg Larsson’s books.

In 2009, when the Swedish films came along and the excellent Noomi Rapace brought her to searing life, I couldn’t imagine another Lisbeth. Ah, but never underestimate the power of director David Fincher to bring polish and panache to the party, which he has done to exhilarating and harrowing effect in this season’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Actress Rooney Mara, haunted and hard, has given Lisbeth a new range of repressed emotions I didn't think possible. Meanwhile, Steven Zaillian’s excellent script has nicely bulked up Daniel Craig’s role -– significant in the book, downsized in the Swedish films.

With Fincher's deft touch, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s stealth and speed set to chilling, thrilling music from composer Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails genius Trent Reznor (the three were part of Fincher's "The Social Network" success last year), it all works to keep Lisbeth’s world spinning darkly, violently, madly, wildly. Wow.

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Review: 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Rooney Mara, left, and Daniel Craig in David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Columbia Pictures


'Dragon Tattoo': Why do so many foreign remakes struggle?

December 27, 2011 |  8:55 am

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," starring Daniel Craig, did only mediocre business on its opening weekend
On paper, the idea of an English-language "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" made a lot of sense. Take a book that has sold 30 million copies around the world, draw on a concept that's already proved cinematically successful (via a Swedish trilogy) and add big stars and a big filmmaker. A blockbuster is sure to follow.

This past weekend, though, David Fincher's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" showed that the premise was just a little bit flawed. Despite the presence of Daniel Craig and exploits presented in English, the movie picked up $19.4 million over the four-day holiday weekend, good enough for only fourth place in the weekend box-office race.

The idea behind producing a new version was to make the saga of Mikael Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander accessible to a far broader audience. But the totals were hardly overwhelming when you consider how many copies the books have sold in the U.S. If the film attracted, say, even 40% of the people who bought Stieg Larsson's first Millennium novel and not a single person more, it still would have made more money.

The numbers will climb, of course; as of Monday, "Dragon Tattoo" had taken in $27 million in the U.S. over six Christmas-week days. But for a release with this much hype and this much brand recognition, that figure doesn't bode screamingly well for future weeks, or a sequel.

Studio Sony understandably points to stiff competition, a long running time and an R rating as inhibitors to the film's success. Those may be factors, but the truth is that "Dragon Tattoo" doesn't need to look at such specific culprits.

Many of Hollywood's star-driven follow-ups to foreign-language hits have been flops. In the last few years, you can count films as diverse as the war drama "Brothers" (a remake of a Danish film) and the buddy comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" (a Steve Carell spin on a French movie) as critical and commercial failures.

Even films that attracted praise -- and "Dragon Tattoo" did, despite some skeptical reviews, like this one from The Times' Kenneth Turan -- didn't bring out many people to see them. "Let Me In," which like "Tattoo" remade a Swedish cult hit, and "The Debt," which took on an Israeli title, were both lightly seen. (Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," a remake of the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," is a notable exception.)

No single theory explains why so many foreign remakes fail, though pundits will note that a foreign sensibility can get lost in translation. And many moviegoers will nonetheless have a sense that the new movie isn't very new (even if a relative few actually went out to see the original).

And all of this points to one truth: The idea of taking a compelling foreign story and giving it a Hollywood gloss doesn't work nearly as well as its backers might think. It's a worthy lesson as other remakes -- such as new versions of Argentine Oscar winner "The Secret in Their Eyes" and a Ben Affleck take on French thriller "Tell No One" -- move through the pipeline.

As "Dragon Tattoo" was opening this weekend, Sony took the unusual step of emailing reporters favorable reviews from the Swedish media. For anyone who thought Hollywood was tin-earedly messing with an original, the message seemed to be, here's what the birthplace of said original had to say.

Like the newspaper Dagens Nyether, which, as the email informed, judged Fincher's picture "a luxurious and venous film that by far surpasses the Swedish version." As those who've been making new versions of foreign-language hits have been discovering, though, praise like that doesn't much matter in this country.

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Movie Review: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

"Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is cool and crafted, critics say

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Sony Pictures


Daniel Craig talks 'Dragon Tattoo,' next Bond film 'Skyfall'

December 22, 2011 | 12:46 pm

Daniel craig dragon tattoo
Fans of Daniel Craig can get two scoops of the actor this week in theaters -- in both kid-friendly and decidedly adult form. Craig is the man behind Sakharine in "The Adventures of Tintin" and a crusading Swedish magazine reporter in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." After that, though, you'll have to wait until fall 2012 for "Skyfall," his next iteration as James Bond.

We caught up with Craig on a break from filming "Skyfall" in early December in London, where he had gathered with "Dragon Tattoo" cast and director David Fincher to talk about the film.

In “Dragon Tattoo,” Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist fallen from grace due to a libel court case. His life is profoundly affected when he meets Goth über-hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who attempts to disguise her inner pain via blunt manners, facial piercings and elaborate body tattoos.  

Phantasmagoric, “Matrix" meets H.R. Giger style of opening credits (by Tim Miller’s Blur, of Venice) kick off “Dragon Tattoo” as Karen O belts out a new arrangement of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” “Fincher does that kind of sinister stuff incredibly well, huh?" says Craig, 43, suave in a dark blue navy style sweater and trousers. "Those opening credits definitely give us food for thought in terms of the next Bond.”

The intense British actor has read the Stieg Larsson books thoroughly. Larsson was a politically active, left-wing Swedish journalist, who died just before his Millennium Trilogy was published, starting with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”  

Q: What captivated you the most about Stieg Larsson’s novels?

DC: I think the essential themes of the books have to do with the politics of sexuality. The main protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, has been beaten down all her life. Still she manages somehow to survive, succeed and even flourish. Lisbeth has a true sense of injustice in the world. Not just for herself, but for other people, too. The man I play in the movie, Mikael Blomkvist, is a true kindred spirit, as he understands injustice and wants to get to the truth of it, just like Lisbeth. Blomkvist and Salander come together at a certain point, and have this turbulent relationship, which is complex, interesting, sexy and funny. The elements of that relationship are featured prominently in the book, and also in our movie.

Q: Why do you think David Fincher and Sony Pictures decided to go forward and re-adapt Stieg Larsson’s trilogy so soon after the original Scandinavian adaptations, which were released only a few years ago?

DC: Because the books are just plain good old storytelling, that’s why. The books are extremely popular globally, and hopefully with this movie they’ll be even more widely read. This was a chance for us to gather a massive talent pool together, and create something very much for the adult market, and yet something that works for the mass appeal market as well. I, for one, was very excited about the idea.

Q: David Fincher is one of those quintessential cinematic masters, with his own unique style, and yet he evokes the feel of perfectionists like Stanley Kubrick. Was the sheer level of craft the main reason you wanted to be in this movie, and work with Fincher?

DC: I think David has many similarities with Stanley Kubrick. He’s also clearly been inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, particularly in how he handles dialogue. Fincher’s defining himself as a director, he’s matured a lot in the past 20 years, if you look at the movies he’s done. His movies were always good in my opinion, but his craft has just gotten better over the years, especially the recent ones. I’m a big fan of his, so when they asked me to be involved, it was an easy question to answer. Yes! I’ve wanted to work with David Fincher for a long time.

Q: I understand that the arctic climate wasn’t always kind to you, the rest of the cast or the crew while making “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in Sweden. Clearly, David Fincher and the studio thought that you really couldn’t stage this kind of Nordic ambience anywhere else, am I right?

 DC: Sure, we all froze our [butts] off. There’s an incredibly rich culture of storytelling in northern Europe, because it’s very dark there a lot of the year. You’ve got to have something to do, while the lights are out. Telling ghost stories and stories about murder and danger are good ways of keeping yourself entertained. That’s been done in northern Europe and the Nordic countries for thousands of years. Being there and filming “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in Sweden was incredibly important for us all – for the reasons of light, the cold and the general atmosphere. There was absolutely no point of uprooting this story and shooting it somewhere else. It just had to be Sweden, it had to be Stockholm.   

 Q: Since you’re in London, shooting “Skyfall” -– and even looking like 007 right now -– do you still feel as good about the upcoming Bond movie as you did before the shoot?

 DC: Oh yes. It’s a great, fantastic script, and we’re making a very good Bond movie. It’s going to be very special and different, but it’s still very much tied to Bonds of old. I’ve said it over and over again, but I’m very excited about “Skyfall,” and Sam’s [Mendes, the director] doing a wonderful job.

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-- Juhani Nurmi in London

Photo: Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Merrick Morton/Columbia TriStar

 

 


'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' is cool and crafted, critics say

December 21, 2011 | 10:52 am

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The story of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has captivated audiences twice already in recent years — via Stieg Larsson's Millennium novels and their Swedish film adaptations — and introduced an iconic heroine in hacker Lisbeth Salander. Now David Fincher's new English-language version has the challenge of bringing Salander to life while bringing something new to the table. For movie critics, how well Fincher and his team fared depends on who you ask.

The Times' Kenneth Turan finds the film too frigid, writing that the combination of Fincher's steely precision and Larsson's bleak source material "feels, in a coals-to-Newcastle way, like shipping truckloads of ice to the far reaches of the polar regions." Turan also takes issue with the film's handling of Salander, whom he says is the heart of the franchise. Actress Rooney Mara "clearly did everything her director asked of her," Turan writes, "but this film's cold, almost robotic conception of Salander as a twitchy, anorexic waif feels more like a stunt than a complete character, and so the best part of the reason we care enough to endure all that mayhem has gone away."

Continue reading »

Jim Sheridan wanted his name off 'Dream House'

October 7, 2011 |  5:55 pm

Dreamh

EXCLUSIVE: Since it came out a week ago, Jim Sheridan’s horror picture “Dream House” hasn’t made many people happy. Less than 10% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes have given it a “fresh” rating, and the film, which stars Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a couple tormented by ghosts, has taken in a paltry $9.5 million.

Apparently there was someone else who wasn’t tickled with “Dream House”: Jim Sheridan.
The six-time Oscar nominee was in fact so displeased with the finished film he sought to have his name removed from it.

This summer, the director went to the Directors Guild of America with the aim of striking his name from the credits, said two people familiar with the action who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to talk about it publicly. If his bid had gone to term — the DGA would have had to rule that the finished film differed significantly from the movie he attempted to make — “Dream House” could have gone out with the director credit “Alan Smithee,” Hollywood’s equivalent of John Doe.

The bid was dropped after a series of events that included the company that was financing the film, Morgan Creek Productions,  agreeing to a new set of reshoots. But the incident marked only the latest challenge for the genre film.

According to a person familiar with production, Sheridan began deviating from David Loucka’s script early on, using an improvisational method he favors. That was followed by a disastrous test screening, rampant anxiety at Morgan Creek, a first round of reshoots, and the production company ultimately taking control of the film in the edit room.

(Like most directors, Sheridan did not have “final cut” — essentially the right to release the movie as he would like. The film's final version, then, reflects Morgan Creek's edit of a movie that Sheridan shot.)

As the tension between the parties grew -- the movie was being released by Universal Pictures, but the company’s involvement was primarily of the marketing and distribution variety -- Sheridan moved forward with the DGA. When it came out, he also declined to do any publicity for the film.

A representative for Sheridan and a spokesman for Morgan Creek declined to comment.

The news surrounding “Dream House” underscores how much Sheridan’s Hollywood stock has dipped. The Irish-born filmmaker surged on to the movie scene in 1989, when at 40 his debut feature, “My Left Foot,” became a cultural sensation and a multiple Oscar nominee. A fact-based story about a painter with cerebral palsy, the movie wound up landing Daniel Day-Lewis a lead actor Oscar statuette and yielded director and screenplay Oscar nominations for Sheridan.

In the 13 years that followed, he wrote and directed acclaimed films such as “In the Name of the Father” and “In America.”

But Sheridan has now endured three consecutive disappointments, including 2005’s hip-hop story “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” and “Brothers,” the Tobey Maguire-Jake Gyllenhaal 2009 remake of a Danish-language war picture.

To some, the failures are the result of Sheridan moving too far away from his wheelhouse. “Father” and “In America” are both Irish-themed stories that are close to his heart — the latter, about a poor Irish family’s arrival in New York’s rough-and-tumble Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, is semi-autobiographical — but a war picture and a horror movie are, well, not.

Perhaps as a result, Sheridan is now debating directing a smaller film, said a person familiar with his plans: “Sheriff Street Stories,” about his childhood in Ireland.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Dream House." Credit: Universal Pictures


'Girl with Dragon Tattoo' offers deja vu [Trailer]

September 22, 2011 | 12:41 pm

A scene from 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'

Intense and familiar are two words that come to mind upon viewing the extended trailer for David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which of course tells of magazine-man Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) teaming up to solve a decades-old murder on a remote Swedish island.

There's tension galore, and plenty of distinct Fincherian touches, in the material unveiled Thursday for the English-language slated for a Christmas release. But from the story beats to the locations, there's also a feeling we've seen it all before. Which, of course, we have, in Niels Arden Oplev's earlier Swedish-language release.

The spot unspools the story pretty much sequentially. It takes its time setting up Blomkvist's and Salander's personal troubles, pauses as Henrik Vanger tells Blomqvist his assignment, then brings together the James Bond actor and the newly pierced one, both of whom cop convincing Swedish accents. (Interestingly, there are several glimpses of/allusions to Salander's lesbianism, though one of the more explicit shots of the heroine torturing her guardian, a shocking sequence in the original, isn't here.)

As Blomkvist and Salander get further into the mystery, clues and events come at us faster and faster until the trailer finishes in a barrage of quick cuts.

For those worried that Fincher would take too many liberties with Stieg Larsson's original novel or depart from Oplev's well-received first film, they're given little reason for concern here.

But does the faithfulness also work against the movie? Anxiety about deviation mutates into the opposite problem, the one gnawing at this film from the beginning: If Fincher hews too closely to what we've already seen, why do we need a new movie in the first place?

The deja vu problem is especially evident in Mara's performance. The actress holds her own in shoes previously filled by Noomi Rapace, channeling the Swedish upstart at her brooding best. That's a compliment, but it also means she doesn't really give us a good reason to watch the character again.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A moment from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trailer. Credit: Columbia Pictures


Daniel Craig film 'Dream House' seeks to avoid critics

September 21, 2011 |  2:10 pm

Dream
Over more than two decades making movies, Jim Sheridan has had a remarkable career. He's been nominated for an Oscar six times, including twice for best director, and come to embody smart, upscale entertainment with films such as "In the Name of the Father" and "My Left Foot."

So it's more than a little surprising that his latest movie, a supernatural thriller called "Dream House" that's being distributed by Universal Pictures, won't screen for critics before it's released next Friday. That's an evasive move usually reserved for very marginal genre films (or worse) -- movies for which distributors believe critical response would be so poor they'd rather have no opening-day review at all. (Most outlets respond by running a shorter review, often from a backup critic, after the film opens.)

"Dream House" tells of a New York power couple (Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig) who relocate to a picturesque New England town in the hope of a quieter life, only to find that the house may be cursed by its former inhabitants, who were murdered there. (You can check out the trailer below.)

Part of the surprise of "Dream House" not screening for critics is that the film has A-listers as its stars (besides Weisz and Craig, there's Naomi Watts) and there's added interest because Craig and Weisz are a real-life couple. Craig didn't exactly light the world afire, critically or commercially, with "Cowboys & Aliens" this summer, and neither did Weisz in "The Whistleblower." But he's still a fan favorite who can open a James Bond picture. He's not usually shunted to the no-review heap. Neither is Weisz or Watts.

A spokesman for Morgan Creek, which financed and produced the picture, declined to comment, as did a Universal spokeswoman.

The movie may have come under a hex of its own: the film was originally set to come out last February but the release date had to move when the film required weather-related reshoots.

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--Steven Zeitchik

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Photo: A still from "Dream House." Credit: Universal Pictures



'Cowboys & Aliens': Five lessons to take away

August 1, 2011 |  9:55 am

Cowboys & Aliens Daniel Craig

This post has been corrected. Please see the note at the bottom for details.

There haven't been many film experiments in recent months more interesting than "Cowboys & Aliens." A genre mash-up not based on a widely known property, Jon Favreau's expensive new movie also rode in with several high-profile personalities, including an A-list actor from this generation (Daniel Craig) and an equally big name from a previous generation (Harrison Ford).

Yet the science-fiction western could pull off only $36.2 million in box office receipts this last weekend. That's barely more than the other big summer action movie that wasn't part of a known franchise, "Super 8," which opened to $35.5 million without the help of A-list stars. "Cowboys" didn't even win the weekend, at least not yet, finishing in a rare tie with the less promoted (and expensive) "Smurfs" reboot.

So what does the "Cowboys" performance tell us? A quick synopsis.

Hybrid hiccups. Genre mash-ups can go one of two ways: They can unite disparate audiences or they can alienate them. "Cowboys" seems to have done the latter, with younger fanboys in particular unsure of what to make of the western element (nearly two-thirds of the audience was older than 30, writes my colleague Amy Kaufman). That seems to be the larger trend. Last year's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" -- which combined martial arts, video games, comic books and romance -- was a miss. We'll see how "Attack the Block," which combines horror with science fiction and comedy fares. The movie performed only decently in limited release this weekend.

Favreau's foibles? Jon Favreau is the rare Hollywood personality who regularly toggles between studio acting and big-ticket directing. How's he doing on the latter front? After "Iron Man" gave his career a jolt in 2008, things have been a bit choppy. "Iron Man 2" made a boatload of money but got lukewarm reviews from many critics. (Shortly after, he left the franchise.) And now despite an all out-Favreau blitz, his new film has opened to a disappointing sum. Sure, it was better than 2005's "Zathura" -- but that isn't saying much.

The Craig effect. Perhaps the most intriguing of all the object lessons. Daniel Craig is undeniably a movie star, having helped resurrect the James Bond franchise with "Casino Royale" five years ago. But do we only want to see him inhabiting an icon? We didn't really care much about him in "Munich" (which came out a year before "Royale"). And we didn't necessarily warm to him here. Troubling news for those behind the upcoming thriller-horror film "Dream House." And it raises the inevitable question about the extent to which we'll embrace him in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Publicity pushiness. It's impossible to quantify how much promotion "Cowboys" actually received. But the film was certainly hard to avoid. A stream of TV spots in the last few weeks, plenty of actor talk-show appearances and a big Comic-Con premiere last weekend still couldn't will the film to a decisive weekend win. It all suggests that publicity can offer diminished returns if a movie's concept doesn't go down well with potential audiences. Consider this: "Battle: Los Angeles," a film that was promoted far less but that had an easily digestible concept and trailer, opened to just about the same amount.

A dinged model Ford. Harrison Ford's career has been in the doldrums for a while. A return to the kind of fanciful action that made him a movie star could have ushered in a larger comeback, at least  more than a dramatic vehicle like last year's "Morning Glory." But it turns out we may not want much to see Ford chasing bad guys across exotic landscapes much anymore either.

For the record, 12:44 p.m. Aug. 1: An earlier version of this post referred to "Cowboys & Aliens" as a 3-D movie. It was released only in 2-D.

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--Steven Zeitchik
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 Photo: Daniel Craig in "Cowboys & Aliens." Credit: Universal Pictures


New James Bond movie coming to theaters next year -- and another maybe not long after that

April 13, 2011 |  5:39 pm

Craig
James Bond fans holding their breath about the fate of the superspy franchise can exhale a little. MGM and Sony have announced a deal under which the companies will co-finance and release the next two Bond pictures.

After numerous false starts, the deal will return Daniel Craig to the screen as the suave if tortured hero on Nov. 9, 2012. (Sam Mendes will direct the new picture, which could also star Javier Bardem in the villain role.) As my Company Town colleagues report, the two companies will share financing costs, and Sony will release the movie in all but a few select worldwide territories; MGM will release the film in the remaining territories.

A second film, known informally as Bond 24, will also fall under the new deal. Details of that are still a ways off, though the deal announced Wednesday offers hope that there will be fewer snags and delays than have afflicted Bond 23. MGM financial issues and other obstacles have led to a long gap between films; there has been no new Bond movie since "Quantum of Solace" was released in 2008.

With the new deal, there is, however, an embarrassment-of-riches question. Sony is also behind "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation, which also stars Craig. If that movie, directed by David Fincher, takes off, a franchise could be in the offing with Stieg Larsson's other Millennium Trilogy tomes. That would require that Craig, Sony and MGM choose between prioritizing Bond 24 and the second film in the Larsson trilogy.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Daniel Craig as James Bond in "Casino Royale." Credit: MGM


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