It was all going so well for EON this year, the 20th
movie "Die Another Day" due for release
in 007's 40th cinematic anniversary year.
But as Q might say, 'always expect the unexpected'.
Another Legal Battle On The Cards
11th July 2002
A mysterious Dutchman has offered the rights to the James Bond
007 franchise for sale to the highest bidder in recent trade press
- causing chaos within EON and MGM legal circles. The first instance
occurred in Screen International with an advert placed by 'Marian
van de Veen-Van Rijk':
"Sale of James Bond film rights - including script work
by Ian Fleming and... Sean Connery"
Even more shocking, EON productions - 'official' holders of the
rights to the Bond franchise - knew nothing about it. Katherine
McCormack from EON said "It's obviously a very, very sensitive
situation. It's potentially going to explode into a legal situation."
EON believe nemesis Kevin McClory is behind the dastardly
scheme. McClory wrote the first treatment to Thunderball,
and after several legal battles, won the rights to remake
the movie and produced the rival Bond film 'Never Say Never
Again'. McClory's recent case to produce a competing set
of Bond films was thrown out of court in August 2001. McClory's
public protests soon died down, as backers Columbia Pictures
and Sony dropped their support.
EON and the untraceable 'Veen-Van Rijk' went head to head
in the more recent issues of Screen International, both
taking out full page adverts to assert their cases. The
rival bid claiming: "Auction of James Bond 007 rights
- unless sold beforehand. Included are film and literary
rights to various James Bond outlines, treatments and screenplays,
co-authored by Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham,
Len Deighton and Sean Connery"
Right: Forget Blofeld... Kevin McClory is considered
by some to be the man most likely to kill the official James
Bond film franchise.
EON and struggling movie giants MGM countered with claiming the
exclusive rights to:
"The James Bond character as depicted in the Bond films"...Which
is no where near as strong as claims made by EON in previous legal
battles. It leaves room for ambiguity about McClory's previous
007 work and, as an industry insider pointed out to MI6:
"EON have released a weakly worded statement to avoid
a possible counter claim".
This headache comes at a time where MGM are suffering ongoing
losses and financial reports are not showing much confidence in
a possible upturn. In 1999 MGM reported they wished to rely less
heavily on the James Bond franchise. Three years later, if "Die
Another Day" does not bring home the much needed revenue,
MGM could be in a dire financial predicament. The loss of the
exclusive rights to the 007 franchise could be a nail in the coffin
for the once invincible movie house.