AUSTIN POWERS LOSES HIS “GOLDMEMBER TUSTLE
International superspy Austin Powers has just lost some of his mojo to James Bond.
The title of the upcoming third installment of the hit comedy franchise “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” has been ruled ”inadmissable” by the Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA), following a protest by MGM/UA, home of the Bond films.
MGM and Bond producer Danjaq Prods. had claimed that New Line Cinema’s Austin Powers title was an unauthorized parody of 1964’s “Goldmember,” the third film in the Bond franchise.
New Line quietly took down its online promotional sites and began rescinding marketing materials on Friday, a day after the edict was handed down by the MPAA’s three-member title administration arbitration panel, but has vowed to appeal.
Until the issue is resolved, New Line said in a statement it would refer to the film as “the third installment of ‘Austin Powers.”’ It is scheduled for a July 26 release.
New Line added that “the issue currently in dispute does not pertain to the title or content of the film. Indeed, in 1997, New Line’s use of the title ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’ was cleared by the MPAA. Thursday’s hearing was solely about a procedural infraction, and nothing more, between New Line and the MPAA, which we are in the process of resolving privately. We find it unproductive and will not tolerate any deliberate attempts to manipulate the facts in the press to further aggravate this matter.”
In case anyone missed the joke, “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” echoes the title of the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
Despite using titles such as “Octopussy” themselves, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, its United Artists unit and Danjaq have always been notoriously humor-impaired when it comes to the Bond franchise: they have been known to sic hard-hitting Hollywood litigator Pierce O’Donnell on auto companies that had the temerity to use a well-dressed spy as the subject of a TV ad.
Similarly, MGM and UA would have loved to put a stop to the use of “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” but when they registered a protest with the MPAA in 1997, New Line countered the suit and won. This time, New Line apparently failed to go through the proper channels in its counter and, for now at least, does not have the right to use the “Goldmember” title.
“MGM/UA and Danjaq have a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who tries to trade in on the James Bond franchise without authorization,” an MGM spokesman said Friday.
Given MGM’s attitude toward its sacred Bond cow, it’s hard to believe that it would see fit to abandon its advantage at this point. New Line could conceivably fight the ruling under fair use in copyright law.
Rappers 2 Live Crew, for example, took their use of the Roy Orbison song “Pretty Woman” all the way to the Supreme Court, which then reached the explicit conclusion that a parody falls within the scope of the fair-use defense. It would, however, be impossible to market the film as “Goldmember” during that process.
A new title, then? New Line marketing president Russell Schwartz is certainly up to the task, but it would be a brain teaser: “Goldmember” is the name of one of four characters that ”Powers” star Mike Myers portrays in the film.