'Let Him Have It' team has at 007

United Artists Pictures and its James Bond movie series co-producers, Danjaq, have hired the U.K.-based screenwriting team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to come up with the British secret agent’s 19th film adventure, even as the current 007 pic, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” unspools in theaters around the globe.

Purvis and Wade penned the 1991 British feature “Let Him Have It,” which starred Christopher Eccleston and Tom Courtenay, in a story based on the famous trial and subsequent and hanging of Derek Bentley for the murder of a police officer.

The duo also wrote the forthcoming Polygram period piece “Plunkett & Macleane,” a story about a pair of 18th century highwaymen in London, starring Robert Carlyle and Liv Tyler, and directed by Jake Scott.

Purvis and Wade recently finished scripting a biopic based on the last three days in the life of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones.

The duo’s other screenplay experience includes a late, but uncredited, draft of “An American Werewolf in Paris” and the adaptation of the Philip Kerr novel “The Grid,” for Polygram unit Working Title.

“Neal and Robert are an excitingly fresh team with just the right mix of edginess and sophistication to ensure the continued winning streak of this spectacular franchise,” said Lindsay Doran, president and chief operating officer of MGM’s UA.

Purvis and Wade are repped by Endeavor.

MGM’s announcement of plans to move into development on the 19th Bond pic comes several weeks after filing a lawsuit against Sony Pictures to fend off SPE’s announced plans to launch its own series of Bond movies (Daily Variety, Nov. 18, 1997). The suit is still pending.

Thursday, an SPE spokesman reiterated earlier statements that the studio possessed the legal right to make a Bond film and said Sony was proceeding with development of its new 007 films despite the MGM suit. The spokesman declined to comment on specific development steps SPE has taken.

According to an industry source, Sony offered its Bond project to “Godzilla” team Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. The pair held off committing to the project, citing the uncertain legal atmosphere surrounding ownership of the 007 film franchise, the source said.

MGM said its current Bond film, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” has to date grossed $105 million in North America and $141 million internationally.

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