Having boosted the Britishproduction sector for decades, James Bond is in advanced negotiations to headto Eastern Europe for his next outing, Casino Royale.
A spokesperson for Prague'sBarrandov Studios confirmed that the studio is well along in talks with EonProductions, the production outfit behind the James Bond franchise, to come to the Czech Republic.
007 has traditionally stayedin the UK wherever possible, even at the sake of incurring extra costs - aprospect which has risen dramatically with the weakness of the dollar'sexchange rate with the pound.
But Barrandov's marketinghead Petr Polednak confirmed that the 21st film in the series couldspend a significant slice of its budget in the Czech Republic.
Principal photography onSony's first Bond is expected tostart this year under director Martin Campbell, although Eon is still waitingon a final script and no Bond has been confirmed.
The British are still hopingto keeping Bond in Britain, aslosing the super spy would cause dismay in the country's beleaguered studiosector. There is also a possibility that the fifth Harry Potter may be Barrandov-bound, though talks are far lessadvanced.
The latest estimates suggestthat there will be a drop of well over 60% in inward investment in the UK thisyear. Paramount's superhero thriller Watchmen has now left Pinewood Studios altogether. One of the fewlarge-scale productions expected to use the UK is Basic Instinct 2: RiskAddiction, which is shooting at Pinewood.
The production crisisunderlines the importance of the overhaul announced in Cannes yesterday byregional agency Film London. More than 80 partners have signed up to offerfilmmakers in the capital a one-stop shop.
However, manyare predicting that the situation in the British studio sector will continueunless the uncertainty surrounding the UK's new tax-based support system isresolved. The Czech industry has no such incentives but it is cheaper.
Productionsusing Prague this year include Dino De Laurentiis' Young Hannibal: BehindThe Mask and TheIllusionist, starringEdward Norton. At Cannes, the Czech Film Commission launched its firstproduction guide for overseas filmmakers.
Pinewood, whereBond is traditionally based, declined to comment. Eon said that no contractshad been signed with any studio.
Meanwhile, central London'sMills Studios confirmed yesterday that Danny Boyle's sci fi feature Sunshine, starring Cillian Murphy, will shoot at 3 MillsStudios from August.