Without Brosnan, it will be "Goodbye, Mr. Bond"

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Naysayers have been predicting the demise of the James Bond films since the fourth film, ?Thunderball,? was released in 1965. That also was the year I was born. So as long as I have been alive, critics have foretold the imminent doom of the Bond movies. I have always scoffed at the scoffers. They base their claims on cynicism, and it?s sinfully easy to be cynical about the Bond movies. They have been too successful for too long to attract apologists the way, say, 1970s pornography has. I am not a James Bond apologist. I am a James Bond fan. I have loved these movies since I was 13. So it is with deep sadness that I say I fear the end is nigh. Any week now the studio will announce who will play Bond in the next film, ?Casino Royale.? If that person isn?t Pierce Brosnan, 007 might as well climb into his Aston Martin and drive into the sunset. No matter how good it is, without Brosnan ?Casino Royale? will bomb. The series could weather the odd flop in the past, but in today?s box-office wars what was once a flesh wound is often fatal. The death blow will not come from Goldfinger or Doctor No, nor from SMERSH or SPECTRE. No, Bond will die at the hands of his producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, who inherited Eon Productions and half of the Bond film rights from their father, Albert R. ?Cubby? Broccoli, following his death in 1996. Early last year came word that Eon had revoked Brosnan?s license to kill, even though his four films each grossed more than $350 million worldwide. Moreover, unlike Sean Connery and Roger Moore, who were sick of the character by their fifth films, Brosnan was eager to continue. Why the ax fell is hidden in a morass of rumors. Some reports say Brosnan demanded too much money. Others say Wilson and Broccoli abruptly decided Brosnan, 52, had become too old. The theory floated by Premiere magazine a few months ago makes the most sense, that Brosnan himself isn?t too old, but any suitable leading lady would be. Wilson and Broccoli want to cast a babe who will look hot on the cover of Maxim, which means she would look like jailbait in the arms of Brosnan. Bond has been replaced before, but never like this. The break between Brosnan and the Broccoli clan was very public and very ugly. Moviegoers will see Brosnan as the victim no matter how greedy the producers try to spin him. He wanted $40 million and a percentage of the gross? He?s earned you at least a billion. Shut up and pay the man. Thanks to Wilson and Broccoli, the part of Bond, James Bond, has become damaged goods. The sacking of Brosnan guarantees a pall of bad publicity will hang over the next actor who dares don the tuxedo. An established actor like Clive Owen or Hugh Jackman does not need the Everest-sized headaches that would accompany the role. And however much they want to kid themselves, the producers cannot drop a $150 million movie on the back of an unknown, such as the wholly inappropriate Daniel Craig. According to more recent rumors, the owners of Sony ? who just bought MGM and its prize, the other half of the Bond film rights ? realize this. No doubt looking at Craig and seeing George Lazenby, they asked Wilson and Broccoli to reopen channels with Brosnan. He may return after all. To borrow a bit of Bond?s gambling philosophy, I wouldn?t go banco on that yet. But the odds are improving that ?Casino Royale,? based on Ian Fleming?s first Bond novel, won?t also be the last Bond film.