The documentary also explains why "Casino Royale," Fleming's first Bond book, was made twice. The first version debuted in 1967 and was a ridiculous mash-up featuring multiple Bonds played by the likes of David Niven, Peter Sellers and even Woody Allen. The spoof was possible because Fleming had sold that book's rights to Columbia Pictures, now owned by Sony Corp., for a measly $6,000.
Sony gave the rights back to the Broccolis in a legal settlement in 1999. Sony later became the distributor of the last two films and "Skyfall." That's why a Sony Vaio laptop is among Bond's arsenal of gadgets these days, despite Sony's former archenemy status. (Heineken, not a shaken martini, is also a new favorite Bond libation, thanks to the brewer's corporate sponsorship.)
Both Sony and MGM declined to comment about their business dealings ahead of the 50th anniversary on Friday.
But the curtain has yet to fall on the financial drama surrounding Bond.
In July, MGM made a preliminary filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission to prepare for an initial public offering of stock. The move would help pay off MGM's owners, including Highland Capital Management and Anchorage Advisors, who lent the studio $5 billion but booked a big loss in a bankruptcy that left them with a less valuable stake.
The IPO could happen before "Skyfall" or potentially before MGM's other major coproduction, the J.R.R. Tolkien tale "The Hobbit," which MGM is co-financing with Warner Bros. and is set for release in December.
According to a person familiar with the matter, the timing is meant to take advantage of the hype surrounding the two movies, which promise to be among the year's biggest money-makers. The person declined to be identified because they aren't authorized to talk about confidential deliberations.
Barbara Broccoli said that this is the sort of financial engineering that her father never liked — but which the family has had to deal with many times over the years.
"I don't think he was comfortable with Bond being a pawn in the Wall Street gamble," Broccoli said.
Wilson, who fought hard to keep Bond from being hijacked by financial shenanigans, said his focus is different now than when he first stepped in to protect the family business.
"We just keep our heads down and make movies," Wilson said. "We keep it on track. That's our job really. That's what we do."
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