A brand new book relating to the James Bond series is on the horizon: The Battle For Bond: The Genesis of Cinema’s Greatest Hero by Robert Sellers.
Telling the story of perhaps the most controversial part of the series’ legacy, the book will include previously unpublished material including letters and private documents. The full preview follows:
Cinema history might have been very different had the first James Bond film not been Dr. No in 1962 starring Sean Connery, but Thunderball directed by Alfred Hitchcock in
1959 and starring Richard Burton as agent 007. It sounds preposterous and unbelievable, but it almost happened.
The Battle for Bond unravels the untold story behind the most controversial part of the James Bond legend using previously unpublished material including letters and private documents. It is a tale of bitter recriminations, betrayal, multi-million dollar lawsuits and even death.
It starts way back in 1959 when colourful Irish film producer Kevin McClory collaborated with Ian Fleming and Hollywood screenwriter Jack Whittingham on a screenplay for what was intended to be the first ever James Bond film, entitled Thunderball. When the project collapsed, Fleming instead used its plot as the basis for his next Bond novel, but without permission. An incensed McClory and Whittingham sued.
The resulting trial was one of the most high profile and complex of the 1960s. Essentially the creator of the 20th century’s greatest fictional character was in the dock, accused of plagiarism. Already gravely ill, many of Fleming’s friends feared the pressure of the trial would have a detrimental effect on his health. Tragically they were proved right when only a few months later Fleming died of a massive heart attack aged only 56.
As for Kevin McClory, he became a millionaire over night, winning the film rights to Thunderball. He was now in the enviable position of being able to make his own 007 movie. But the already established Sean Connery series was a hard act to compete with and McClory instead decided to join forces with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in a one-off deal to co-produce Thunderball. Released in time for Christmas 1965, Thunderball was the Star Wars of its day, becoming one of the most successful films in movie history.
Part of McClory’s court victory entitled him to remake Thunderball at a future date, resulting in 1983s Never Say Never Again, which saw Sean Connery returning to the Bond role after a 12 year absence and was the film that Broccoli tried desperately to ban. Following its success McClory tried in vain to start his own 007 film series, using the rights he owned in Thunderball, but was thwarted at every turn in a succession of increasingly hostile legal battles against Broccoli and Bond studio MGM. McClory even made the claim that he was co-creator of the cinematic James Bond character and demanded a share in the three billion dollars of profits the 007 series had earned.
Even in the late 1990s McClory was still determined to make more Bond films and in one last giant court battle the entire future of James Bond was to be decided. Would the Broccoli family and MGM, home to the 007 series since 1962, emerge triumphant. Or would Kevin McClory’s 40-year claims on the Bond character succeed.
In preparing the book the author was granted exclusive access to a wealth of previously unpublished material including hundreds of letters from the principal characters in the Thunderball story, including Fleming himself, business and private documents and never before seen papers from the 1963 court case. And also the five different screenplays that were written for Thunderball – two from Fleming and three from Jack Whittingham.
The author also interviewed many of the actors and production people who worked on Thunderball and Never Say Never Again. Their memories and colourful anecdotes bring to life two of the most successful and universally popular Bond movies of all time.
Robert Sellers is the author of several entertainment books including biographies on Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. He was also the author of Very Naughty Boys the history of George Harrison/Monty Python’s HandMade Films, a book Empire magazine called, ‘essential reading.’
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