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MGM mum on Brosnan returning as Bond

Mum’s the word, 007.

Film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc Thursday kept its lips pursed as tight as any secret agent with a license to kill on whether Pierce Brosnan would play James Bond in the next superspy movie set for release in November 2005.

The Irish-born actor has portrayed the fictional hero of the multi-billion dollar film franchise four times since 1995’s ”GoldenEye,” but this week he said he has holstered his gun for good.

“That’s it,” he told Entertainment Weekly magazine in a story published on Tuesday on its Web site. “I’ve said all I’ve got to say on the world of James Bond.”

“Bond is another lifetime,” the 51 year-old actor said, adding: “Behind me.”

But in the world of covert espionage (i.e.: Bond movies and Hollywood deals), things are rarely what they appear. MGM, which along with EON Productions owns the Bond movie rights and distributes the films, has not yet counted Brosnan out.

MGM President Chris McGurk told reporters and Wall Street analysts the company and EON are still developing the 21st Bond film in the 42 year-old series. A script was complete, a director was being hired and then they would see about Bond.

“At that point, we’re going to address the casting issues. It’s the same process we went through with ’Die Another Day,”’ which was the most recent Bond movie, McGurk said.

Brosnan completed his contract to portray the British superspy, codenamed 007, with the 2002 film that co-starred Halle Berry, and up until the Entertainment Weekly interview, he had often told reporters he was open to another turn as Bond.

McGurk said MGM still targets Nov. 2005 as the release date for the unnamed new Bond movie, and that the producers were ahead of schedule compared with “Die Another Day.”

With film production nearing, Hollywood insiders speculate Brosnan may be starting negotiations in the press. His media representative referred calls to MGM, which declined to comment beyond McGurk’s statement.

Since 1962’s original Bond flick, “Dr. No” starring Sean Connery, five actors have played the spy first made popular in Ian Fleming’s novels with Connery, Roger Moore and Brosnan being the most successful. The other two Bonds were Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby.

“Die Another Day,” was the biggest Bond box office hit racking up a total of around $425 million in worldwide ticket sales, and in 2003’s second quarter MGM took in another $140 million from the film’s DVD and home video sales.