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MGM nabs ‘Never’

MGM has taken another step to keep rogue agent James Bond home at United Artists.

Adding what it considers another patch in the quilt of ownership rights of its tentpole film franchise, MGM has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the Bond pic “Never Say Never Again” from Taliafilm Inc.

It’s MGM’s latest step in an effort to stop Sony Pictures Entertainment from producing a James Bond movie, in a legal tango that Leo started officially last month when MGM filed a federal suit against Sony and other individuals for $25 million, calling for a stop to SPE’s Bond pic production plans.

MGM said the “Never Say Never Again” acquisition expands its ownership and control of every feature in the 18-picture Bond franchise, along with Danjaq Ltd., the company formed by Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in 1962 to produce Bond films.

“We have taken this definitive action to underscore the point that the Bond franchise has one and only one home — with the collective family of United Artists, MGM and Danjaq,” UA prexy Lindsay Doran said in a statement. “We want to make it undeniably clear to any and all encroachers that MGM will do everything to protect what has been established over 35 years to be the most valuable film franchise in history.”

On Oct. 13, SPE announced intentions to produce a Bond film based on producer Kevin McClory’s claim of legal right to create remakes of the Ian Fleming novel “Thunderball.” McClory, an early film collaborator of Fleming’s, produced “Thunderball” and then remade it into “Never Say Never Again.”

“Never Say Never Again” was produced by Jack Schwartzman and distributed by Warner Bros. in 1983. After Schwartzman’s death, distribution stayed with Taliafilm.

MGM said the legal agreement that allowed the film to be produced expired after the single remake, and that MGM and Danjaq came into control of all rights to the Bond character under other agreements.

Only one other Bond film, “Casino Royale,” was produced outside UA.

An SPE spokesman said the studio had no comment on the “Never Say Never” distribution acquisition. The studio reiterated a previously released statement denying MGM’s claim of sole ownership of the Bond property, and repeated its intention to continue 007 production plans.