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Kiwi plucked for 20th Bond

Tamahori emerges as front-runner to helm

Lee Tamahori is in the cross hairs to direct the 20th installment of the James Bond franchise for MGM. Though at least a half dozen A-list shooters vied for the job, Tamahori emerged as the clear front-runner late last week.

The New Zealand-born Tamahori made his debut with the critically acclaimed “Once Were Warriors,” and he has proved himself adept at directing drama through such films as the Alec Baldwin/Anthony Hopkins starrer “The Edge” and, most recently, with “Along Came a Spider,” the hit Paramount sequel to “Kiss the Girls.” Pic, which starred Morgan Freeman, cost in the low-$30 million range and has posted a U.S. gross upward of $70 million for Paramount.

The effort to land a Bond helmer has been unfolding for the past several months, with numerous directors considered by the studio and franchise producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

The film, to begin shooting in early 2002, will be the fourth toplined by Pierce Brosnan, whose three previous films have collectively posted a worldwide gross of more than $1 billion.

The 20th and as yet untitled effort will be a milestone for the series. The film will be released in late 2002, in time to mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Bond series based on the Ian Fleming novels. Sean Connery began the series starring as 007 in “Dr. No” in 1962.

None of the parties involved could be reached for comment over the weekend. Tamahori is represented by ICM and Industry Entertainment. Negotiations are expected to begin within the next few weeks.

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