Casino Royale the novel by Ian Fleming, Casino Royale the TV movie starring Barry Nelson, Casino Royale the spoof by Charles K. Feldman, Casino Royale the new James Bond film for 2006…
Casino Royale the stage play by Raymond Benson?
No, this is not fanboy fantasy, speculation or rumor. The play exists and was almost officially produced in 1986.
In a CBn interview (conducted before we knew Bond 21 was going to be Casino Royale), Benson explained the story behind the story of his “lost” Casino Royale (A Play in Nine Scenes) adaptation, and the Fleming family’s brief flirtation with turning James Bond into a theatrical property.
It was late 1985 and I proposed to Glidrose that I write a James Bond stage play. Because of the complicated rights situation (EON owned all performing rights for Bond, except, oddly enough, Casino Royale), the only thing I could do was adapt Casino Royale.
(Photo by Phil Goldman)
Frankly, that’s really the only novel that could adapt to the stage. I wrote the play in 2-3 months and then held a staged reading of it in New York City in February 1986, using professional actors. The reading went very well and we then had a discussion with the audience about what worked and what didn’t. It’s a shame that Peter [Jansen-Smith] and his colleague at Glidrose couldn’t attend that reading because the outcome might have been different.
Anyway, Glidrose paid me (which is more than what a lot of playwrights get!) and then they submitted the play to a British theatrical agent. She was very elderly and in my opinion she just didn’t get it. She recommended that the play not be produced. After further thought, Glidrose shelved it with the ultimate decision that a James Bond stage play simply wouldn’t work. The films had Bond in a monopoly and there was no way a play could compete. I disagreed, but it was their property.
Since that time, EON bought the rights to Casino Royale, so now they own the production rights– however I own the actual copyright of the play itself. But I can’t do anything with it. I can’t publish it or produce it (because Glidrose owns publishing rights and EON owns production rights).
The actors who participated in the 1986 New York reading were Ed Clark as James Bond, Elizabeth Huffman as Vesper Lynd, Robert Aberdeen as Le Chiffre, and Stuart Laurence as Felix Leiter. Yes, Felix Leiter replaced Rene Matthis in Raymond’s stage adaptation…which, other than that, remained very faithful to the original Fleming novel.
Raymond went on write six original Bond novels, three novelzations, and four 007 short stories (one unpublished). He retired from the series in 2002 and is currently penning a bestselling series of books based on Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. His second book, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Operation Barracuda, is due for publication in Fall ’05.
Eon Productions will finally release their film version of Casino Royale from a screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day) next year. Eon has also recently gotten into the theatrical business by producing a stage version of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.