MI6 looks back to when Bond fans saw double. In 1982, both Octopussy and Never Say Never Again were in production with Moore and Connery preparing to duel at the box office...

Time Tunnel: 007 Head To Head
3rd November 2007

It is the autumn of 1982 and two legends of the screen go head to head in a controversial era of Bond mythology. This year fans were seeing double as Roger Moore was set to star in his 6th Bond outing - "Octopussy". Meanwhile, Sean Connery was set to return to the silver screen in Kevin McClory's rival Bond picture, "Never Say Never Again". Reporters rushed to the four corners of the world to report on the rival Bond productions. It was a period of great scrutiny from the presses and fans alike. MI6 delves into the archives to uncover the media reports of the time when all Bond talk was of Connery vs. Moore!

Above: Artwork from the cover of Time Out magazine from June 1983.
Illustration by Paul Simmons depicting a "Battle of the Bonds"

Time reported on the pandemonium: "Everyone knows that James Bond is invincible. The world's vilest villains - Goldfinger, Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Hugo Drax, Rosa Klebb, Scaramanga and the 7-ft. truncheon known only as Jaws - rarely so much as wrinkled the crease in Bond's Savile Row trousers. Next summer, though, the pride of Her Majesty's Secret Service will have some worthy competition: himself. In a schizophrenically satisfying conflict, the 14th and 15th episodes of the most popular series in movie history will be set for a showdown of two big stars. One film, Octopussy, stars Roger Moore, assaying Bond for the sixth time. The other, Never Say Never Again, returns Sean Connery to the character he originated 20 years ago in Dr. No but has not played since Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. Bondolators can rub their eyes in splendid disbelief: soon they will be seeing double 007s."


Above: Roger Moore returns in EON Productions' 13th Bond production - 13 proves a lucky number for 007.

There was much toing and froing from Bond fans as they tested the waters, establishing which Bond army to support. On one hand was the suave legend of the 1960s and the other, the cheeky and entertaining, contemporary Bond icon.

Above: A young Kevin McClory who won the rights to remake "Thunderball" in a legal battle.

"Exegetes of the Bond canon can debate the weighty matter of which movie is gospel and which apocrypha. Octopussy is based on the title of an Ian Fleming novelette - like most Bond movies it makes only vagrant nods to the original plot - and is supervised by Albert ("Cubby") Broccoli, who has produced or co-produced all but one of the previous Bonds.

Never Say Never Again, based on the original story for Thunderball, is produced by Jack Schwartzman, a lawyer and movie executive who acquired the rights after a complicated set of manoeuvres. Schwartzman also managed to lure Connery, now 52, back into Bondage."

Media attention took Bond to new level in the early '80s, and with the extra frenzy, both Connery and Moore were bathing in the publicity and hyping each of their respective productions.

"Villefranche-sur-Mer, where the Never Say Never crew was filming an action scene for their thriller about nuclear terrorism. Location work in the movies is always a combination of summer camp and boot camp, but Connery seemed to be enjoying it. He deflected all suggestions of a rivalry between the two pictures, or between himself and Moore, whom he has known for more than 20 years. If there is a difference, Connery says, it is in their approach to character: "I start with the serious and then try to inject as much humor as I can, to get a balance of the ingredients. Roger comes in the humor door, and I go out it." Director Irvin Kershner, whose last film, The Empire Strikes Back, mixed romance and rue, sees Never Say Never as "an entertainment, but with real people and human values. As far as I'm concerned, there's never been a Bond picture before.

"Well, there is one now, and it is shooting in the palaces, jungles and lakes of Udaipur in northwestern India. Roger Moore is darting through a busy bazaar, over and around peanut vendors, bicycles, carts, dogs and cows to escape his nemesis, the decadent Kamal, played by Louis Jourdan. Moore is, of course, impeccably dressed. "It adds the bizarre to the bazaar," he notes, with an insouciant cock of the left eyebrow. "Who wouldn't gawk at an Englishman in a dinner jacket running down a street here with a six-bladed dagger sticking out of his chest?" Does Bond survive? "Oh, I have a heart of steel."

Between both Connery and Moore, Bond is impeccably represented on the screen and in the papers. All eyes are on the filmmakers with fans trying to grab a glimpse of their favourite Bond.

"And an impish sense of humor. To relieve the tension and tedium on location with Octopussy, Moore strolled through the hotel courtyard, into the swimming pool without breaking stride, and up and out again into the arms of his wife Luisa. He is engagingly self-deprecating about his career: "If I kept all my bad notices, I'd need two houses." But how does he bring his acting gifts to bear on the subtle character changes demanded of James Bond? "Sometimes I wear a white dinner jacket, sometimes a black one."

Above: Roger Moore travels from Germany to India for the backdrops of Octopussy, while Sean Connery dives back into the Bahamas...

"However light a heart Moore may wear on his silk sleeve, however amiable Connery may feel, the stakes are high in the game of Bond baccarat. To date, Bond pictures have sold something like a billion tickets. The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only (Nos. 11, 12 and 13 in the corpus) each grossed between $150 million and $200 million worldwide. The costs are high too...

Above: Fans thought they had seen the last of Connery as 007 after he was lured back for "Diamonds Are Forever" in 1971

"For Your Eyes Only, made in 1981 for a "mere" $26 million (Moonraker cost $32 million), has yet to break even. Octopussy has a budget of $25 million to $30 million.

When asked how expensive Never Say Never Again will be, Producer Schwartzman offers Hollywood slang: "We're on Route 20 and heading north." (Translation: up to $25 million.) Both films will be fighting for the moviegoer's attention against The Revenge of the Jedi (Part III of the Star Wars saga) and a swarm of aggressive kidflix.

Will there be enough prurient adults around to push both Bond pictures into the black? It makes for quite a cliffhanger - but then, everyone knows 007/007 is invincible."

By the summer of 1983 "Octopussy" appeared in full colour glory, with 007 jaunting across the exotic Indian backdrop. "Octopussy" clocked up over $180 million worldwide while "Never Say Never Again" premiered several months later - raking in a little over $160 million, worldwide. In 1983, Roger Moore confirmed himself as the contemporary incarnation of 007.

Related Articles
James Bond Time Tunnel
Octopussy - Movie Coverage
Never Say Never Again - Movie Coverage