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10 Negative Ways Kevin McClory Affected The 007 Franchise

17th November 2013

MI6 explores some of the less than positive effects Kevin McClory has had on James Bond over the past 50 years

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Connery Didn't Shoot "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
Whilst "Goldfinger" was in production, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided that "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" would be the fourth film in the series, to be released in 1965. In September 1964, Kevin McClory approached Broccoli and Saltzman with an offer to co-produce a big screen adaptation of 'Thunderball' (the only novel, along with 'Casino Royale', that EON Productions could not adapt at that time). Rather than risk a rival production hitting screens just as they were about to experience the peak of their achievements, EON decided to collaborate with McClory and make "Thunderball" next. They would make McClory producer and give him 20% of the film's profits. The end credits of "Goldfinger" were hastily changed to reflect the new plan, and "Majesty's" would be shelved until 1969 when George Lazenby took over the role.

"Never Say Never Again" Got Made
The combination of McClory's desire to exercise his rights to remake "Thunderball" against the wishes of Cubby Broccoli's EON Productions, and Sean Connery's bitterness to the official franchise (and the promise of a hefty $3m pay day) were not enough to make this Bond movie a Bond movie. No gun barrel, no James Bond theme, a luck-lustre score, uninspired cinematography and hokey special effects reminded audiences what they were missing. Roger Moore's official entry of 1983, "Octopussy", beat "Never Say Never Again" at the box-office by more than $20m.

Obscure Inside Joke
Originally written to introduce a new actor to the role of James Bond, the "For Your Eyes Only" pretitles sequence ultimately saw a renewed Roger Moore taking on a suspiciously familiar bald-headed villain in a wheelchair stroking a white cat. This was their way of giving a one-finger salute to McClory, who had announced his "Thunderball" remake - the film which would become "Never Say Never Again". Disposing of 'Blofeld' so early in the film was to signify that 007's success didn't rely on those rights. The villain's final line in the sequence, when Bond is about to drop down the industrial chimney - "I'll buy you a delicatessen... in stainless steel!" - was contributed by producer Cubby Broccoli. It's a reference to 1930s New York mafia gangsters who offered full-service delis as a bribe to cohorts.

Sony Got Burned
When his rights to remake "Thunderball" cycled around again in the 1990s, McClory shopped the project to Sony under the banner of "Warhead 2000 A.D." Timothy Dalton was approached for the lead role after publicly stepping down from his EON Productions contract, who were at legal logger-heads with MGM putting the series on hiatus. But not so fast - McClory's claims were quickly put under legal scrutiny. Wanting to get a clear pass to produce a new franchise based on 'Spider-Man' and untangle the litigious mess McClory had lead them in to, Sony ceded all their Bond interests to MGM in return for the latter waiving all claims to the web-slinger. Jack Calley, who defected from United Artists to Sony after helping oversee the Brosnan-era reboot of Bond, was publicly slammed by MGM for 'stealing secrets'.

Trade Paper Ads
Every few years, McClory would resurface with plans to launch a remake of "Thunderball" or a rival Bond series based on the rights he acquired in 1963. His production company's announcements would often be followed up by rebuttals from MGM/Danjaq/EON Productions that there was only one 007 franchise. This tit-for-tat public bickering didn't help either party with their commercial partnerships. The last bout in 2002 saw McClory (via a Dutch businessman) offering an auction of all the James Bond rights to the highest bidder.

Above: A trade advert taken out in Screen International during the 2002 Cannes Film Festival

Lawyers Got Rich
Prior to Sony's settlement with MGM in 1999, they filed a lawsuit against MGM claiming McClory was the co-author of the cinematic 007 and was owed fees from Danjaq and MGM for all past films. This lawsuit was thrown out in 2000 on the grounds that McClory had waiting too long to bring his claims. The court of appeals affirmed this decision in 2001. The winner? The lawyers.

Unmade Movies
Will we ever see a Bond girl called Justine Lovesit and robotic sharks delivering nuclear bombs through the sewers of Manhattan? Perhaps not, but those were some of the concepts in the 1976 "Warhead" script that was a collaboration with Sean Connery and Len Deighton. Described as 'Star Wars underwater', Connery got nervous about the legal entanglements, saying "Before I put my nose in to anything, I want to know it is legally bona fide." Then Paramount got nervous too, and walked away with their $22m budget. McClory tried to recycle the script again in 1989, retitling the film "Atomic Warfare", and approached Pierce Brosnan who had missed out on the role to Timothy Dalton due to an NBC contract.

Above: Warhead (1978) concept artwork - interior of the Statue of Liberty depicting a chamber containing a dock within which there is a submarine, and a robot 'Hammerhead' shark hanging.

Jack Whittingham Goes Unpraised
He is one of the Bond franchise's unsung heroes. Jack Whittingham first started work on a "Thunderball" screenplay in 1959. After Ian Fleming took the story and penned the novel 'Thunderball', Whittingham and McClory failed in their attempt to being an injunction to halt publication. Although they later won their case in court in 1963, it was McClory who was awarded the screen rights to 'Thunderball', abandoning Whittingham when he took the option to Saltzman and Broccoli. Whittingham issued his own writ against Fleming in December 1963 (damages for libel, malicious falsehood and damage to professional reputation) but had to drop the case in August 1964 when Fleming died. He never got his day in court.

Vague Videogame Villains
Due to the videogame rights to 007 being issued by Danjaq and MGM, publishers had to work under strict guidance not to use the character of Blofeld in order to avoid any potential legal action from McClory. So instead of classic multiplayer action with Blofeld, players were left with Austin Powers-esque generic bald-headed men with bad accents in nehru suits occasionally called 'Number One'. In the last digital title, '007 Legends', the character was finally called Ernst Stavro Blofeld (no doubt due to a loophole in that "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was adapted in part), but his appearance was an amalgamation of all previous big-screen likenesses.

Above: EA's version of 'Number One' in the 2004 videogame "GoldenEye: Rogue Agent"

Stoking The Tabloids
McClory's attempts to have his own Bond franchise hit the zenith of ridiculousness in 1998 when he fed tabloids the concept of Connery returning to play Bond at age 68 in "Doomsday 2000" - to open on December 31st 1999 opposite Pierce Brosnan's third 007 film ("The World Is Not Enough"). The red top rags lapped it up, even claming Lois Maxwell would return as Miss Moneypenny and Geoffrey Palmer as M. The papers claimed Wesley Snipes would play Largo, who steals six Cruise missiles in a stealth bomber! Gwyneth Paltrow was touted as Bond girl Domino.

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