The Great Unmade? James Bond In Thunderballs: Octoprostate Vs Roboshark

Most people know Sean Connery was tempted back to the role of James Bond in 1983 in the unofficial production Never Say Never Again. Fewer know he almost returned to the role in the late 1970′s. This adventure would have seen the return of Blofeld and SPECTRE, operating from the Bahamas and a secret base in the Statue Of Liberty. From there, they would launch robotic sharks armed with nukes into the sewers of New York. Intrigued?

Welcome to Warhead, the Bond movie that failed to detonate on screen.

In 1959 maverick Irish film producer and director Kevin McClory was introduced to Ian Fleming by a mutual friend, Josephine Hartford Bryce. Together with screenwriter Jack Whittingham the trio collaborated on a possible film or television script featuring James Bond. This became Thunderball, but the planned project didn’t take off. Fleming, perhaps disappointed by the failure of McClory’s recent film The Boy And The Bridge, withdrew from the project and instead used the storyline for the basis of his next James Bond novel.

Fleming didn’t seek permission for this and McClory sued for plagiarism, in one of the most high profile cases of its type in the 1960′s. This contributed to Fleming’s poor health and death from a heart attack, not long after McClory won the film rights to Thunderball. Bond was of course already a film sensation, and McClory agreed to co-produce Thunderball with Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman as part of the already established mythos. Part of the deal was an agreement by him not to exercise his rights again for another ten years.

Big mistake by Broccoli and Saltzman. McClory, like a bad Bond villain, disappeared, biding his time until he could strike again. In 1975 he secured the writing talents of Len Deighton. Connery had already stated he would never reprise his Bond role, but McClory flattered his ego by suggesting he collaborate on the script. Connery, frustrated by Broccoli and Saltzman’s refusal to make him a partner, was hooked, especially as he respected Deighton.

The first title the three men came up with was James Bond of The Secret Service. EON (the Bond production company) objected to its similarity to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. McClory changed the title to Warhead.

warhead_script

Warhead ostensibly follows the Thunderball template. SPECTRE lure Russian and American bombers to the Bermuda Triangle, steal their nuclear payloads and launch a crazy attack on New York from a secret base in The Statue Of Liberty. A robotic hammerhead shark, armed with a nuke and escorted by further robosharks (with frikkin’ lasers on their heads!) is to be sent into the city’s sewers, to explode under the city. As well as that, SPECTRE also operates from an underwater base that rises to the surface. A massive muscle-bound henchman named Bomba has a drag-down fight with Bond. In the climax Bond is dragged down the sewers by the nuke shark and manages to rip open a control panel, stopping it. He clambers back onto a walkway and fights Bomba, throwing him to the robosharks. Largo, observing on a screen, reactivates the nuke. As Bond tries frantically to deactivate it, Q appears and switches it off.

 

Army helicopters then attack Lady Liberty. Bond waterskis past the remaining robosharks and rises by paraglider to land atop the statue. There he fights Largo. Largo escapes to The Arkos, his undersea base. Bond pursues him aboard and traps Largo within a glass tube, which shoots him deep into the ocean depths. As the Arkos is destroyed on the ocean bed, Bond rescues Domino in one of its mini-subs.

McClory hoped to film in 1977, with Paramount backing him to the tune of $22m. When Connery confirmed he would reprise his Bond role, McClory, ever the showman, trumpeted his return as “Muhammed Ali, when he’s at his most fit, when someone else is champion of the world, throwing his hat into the ring.”

Obviously EON were deeply unhappy. Saltzman had by now moved on, so Broccoli and McClory were engaged in duel for the fate of Bond, mano a mano. Broccoli argued the Warhead plot was too similar to The Spy Who Loved Me, then in pre-production. McClory countered that according to the legal decision in the plagiarism case, he alone owned the rights to SPECTRE. Broccoli had intended to reprise SPECTRE in his next film but, sensing trouble, removed all references of Blofeld and SPECTRE from his script. Broccoli was determined not to back down any further and sought to block Warhead at every juncture.

McClory was ready for a fight, but Connery, ever the canny scot, was more cautious. “Before I put my nose into anything, I want to know if it is legally bonafide,” he said in 1978. For whatever reason, paramount too cooled on the idea and withdrew, leaving Warhead a dud prospect.

McClory finally got his Thunderball remake made in 1983. Never Say Never Again successfully secured the services of Sean Connery. Avoiding a fight, he dropped his plan to release it around the same time as Octopussy, and settled for a later release date the same year. Bouyed by its success, he dreamed of launching his own Bond franchise. After the release of Goldeneye he began talking about Warhead 2000, possibly starring Timothy Dalton. MGM sued him, and McClory hit back, arguing that his involvement in the 1959 Thunderball script set the tone for all subsequent Bond films. Terence Young, the stylish director of Bond’s early hits, would have something to say about that.

SONY, McClory’s backers, walked away and he was forced to call it quits, retreating into obscurity. Part of SONY’s settlement was the promise to pay MGM the rights to Casino Royale. EON chose to reboot the series by bringing in Daniel Craig in a brash, edgy story of the world’s most famous spy earning his Double-O status.

Kevin McClory died peacefully on 20 November 2006, surrounded by his family, four days after the UK release of Casino Royale. A cremation service was said to have taken place. Rumour has it McClory was in fact given a viking funeral as his last dying wish. A fitting send off for a Bond hero – or villain?

For the full amazing story, read Battle For BondThe Genesis Of Cinema’s Greatest Hero, by Robert Sellers. You can read the Warhead script here, thanks to @DeightonDossier the blog and website devoted to all things Len Deighton.

Originally posted 2012-10-21 12:31:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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