An interesting fight is brewing between MGM and Universal. Last year, Universal paid $1.2 million to acquire the rights to Section 6, a screenplay by Aaron Berg. Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish is attached to direct, and Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Skins) is set to play the lead. But on Friday, MGM filed a lawsuit to prevent production, claiming that the project is a James Bond “knockoff” and that it infringes on their mark.
Section 6 is about the creation of MI6 during World War I, focusing on the agency’s first director, George Mansfield Cummings, who was the inspiration for “M” in the Bond series. It is set long before any of the Bond books or films. Reading that description, you might think that MGM is being overly aggressive, trying to prevent any other film about MI6 being made, ever.
However, according to the filing, Section 6 features “a daring, tuxedo-clad British secret agent, employed by ‘His Majesty’s Secret Service,’ with a ‘license to kill,’ and a 00 secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomanical villain.” The filing asserts that “most moviegoers would assume from that description alone that this lawsuit concerns the next James Bond picture. It does not.” The suit also claims infringement based on the way the main character introduces himself – last name, full name – Bond, James Bond style. That does sound like the script is, um, “influenced” by our favorite caddish secret agent.
MGM told the Wrap that they sent Universal “20-page dossier last fall detailing their concerns.” Although Universal assured them that there would be changes to Berg’s screenplay and any movie they made would steer well clear of MGM’s trademarks, MGM wasn’t satisfied and asked to see the script. Universal refused. MGM and Danjaq (the holding company with all the film rights for James Bond) responded in court. Universal has not commented yet.
Hopefully they will come to a settlement soon, because this sounds like an interesting project. If the case drags on too long, they may lose the talent attached, which would be a real shame. Cornish did great work on Attack the Block, and O’Connell is a live-wire of an actor. Of course, Bond 24 won’t be affected by this at all. It starts filming this summer for a November 2015 release.