Warhead 2000 (cancelled James Bond film; 1996-1999)

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Screenwriter Kevin McClory.

Status: Lost

The title Warhead was one of the working titles for various unofficial James Bond film projects, generally written and produced by Kevin McClory and based on the novel Thunderball, which he co-write with Ian Fleming.

While McClory produced the 1965 Thunderball film in conjunction with Danjaq, LLC and Eon Productions as part of the official James Bond series, and later the 1983 film Never Say Never Again independently, several other attempts were made before and after the latter film utilizing different scripts and elements, although legal issues forced McClory to limit himself to the novel.

The 2007 book The Battle for Bond by Robert Sellers includes five screenplays and details on the development of the original screenplay that was used as the basis for the novel. Additional screenplays featuring material by Fleming, McClory, Jack Whittingham, actor Sean Connery, novelist Len Deighton also exist, but have not been released.

Background

Film Producer Kevin McClory was approached by Ian Fleming to produce a film based on his popular novels, which had not yet been adapted for film. McClory found the then-published novels unsuitable, but saw potential in the James Bond character. Fleming worked with McClory, as well as screenwriter Jack Whittingham, to create a script, with the intent for McClory to produce the film adaption. The script notably introduced the criminal organization SPECTRE and the antagonist Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who would become iconic in later film adaptions. McCloy and Whittingham were particularly accredited for the airborne theft of the nuclear bomb, and the characters "Jo" and Sophie Petachi and their fates.[1]

When McClory's film The Boy and His Bridge was financially unsuccessful, Fleming lost interest in working with him.[2] Fleming then adapted the Longitude 78 West screenplay into the ninth Bond novel, Thunderball, and published it without crediting either McClory or Whittingham. A legal dispute that reached the High Court in London lead to them being credited in future editions of the novel, with McClory retaining the worldwide cinematic rights.

Shortly after the case was settled, Eon Productions, who had began to adapt Fleming's novels into a film series, beginning with "Dr. No" in 1961, licensed the film rights to Thunderball from McClory for a ten-year period, and he was the sole credited producer on the 1965 film adaption of Thunderball, starring Sean Connery, with traditional Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli being credited as 'executive producers'.

Warhead (1976)

After the ten-year license expired, McClory immediately sought to make a new version of the film, developing it under the title Warhead and later James Bond and the Secret Service. He approached the former Bond actor Sean Connery and novelist Len Deighton for assistance. Some drafts included original elements not from the novel such as a "Bond girl" known as Justine Lovesit and "robotic sharks delivering nuclear bombs through the sewers of Manhattan".[3] This created legal issues however, and McClory hired Jack Schwartzman to help produce the film. The exact early development of this film at this stage is relatively unknown, but at one point, Richard Attenborough was hop[ed to direct, with Richard Burton as Bond, Orson Welles as Blofeld, and Trevor Howard as M. [4]

McClory also claimed ownership over Blofeld and the Spectre organization, filing an injuction claiming copyright infringement and forcing Eon to be removed these elements from the screenplay for The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and the Eon series for the forseeable future. An unidentified character who is obviously intended as Blofeld (credited as "Man in Wheelchair") is killed off in "Four Your Eyes Only" (1981) as a way to end the arc that had sustained the first several films. This was also characterized by some as an illustration to McClory that the series could go on without his elements.

Irvin Kerhsner, director of The Empire Strikes Back was eventually tapped to direct, and Sean Connery at last agreed, for three million dollars, script and cast control, and profit percentages, to star in the film, despite previously swearing he would never return to the role. His wife suggested new title, "Never Say Never Again".[5] The screenplay included some references to its portrayal of an older and more experienced version of the Bond character, as well as additional scenes featuring Blofeld, who was played by Max von Sydow.

Eon Productions released Octopussy, an official Bond film starring Roger Moore, in June 1983, and McClory's Never Say Never Again was released by Warner Bros. in October 1983. The former film won the supposed "Battle of the Bonds" both financially and critically. Criticism included lacking many elements from the classic series as well as a poor score. The resulting film lacked many mainstays of the main series, such as the iconic gun barrel sequence and theme song, and many recurring crew members on the main series refused to work on the film out of respect to the main series.

The rights to "Never Say Never Again" are now owned by MGM, who owns the official Bond series as well, but it is still not considered an official film, and is not included in 'Complete Series' sets.

Atomic Warfare (1989)

Only a few years later, McClory hoped to again recycle the Warhead script for a rival Bond film, titling this version of the project Atomic Warfare and approaching Pierce Brosnan, star of NBC's Remington Steele, who had been considered and passed over for the role of Bond in favor of actor Timothy Dalton.[6]

Warhead 2000 A. D. (1990s)

After another break from the project, McClory brought the project to Sony Pictures as Warhead 2000 A. D. and contacted Timothy Dalton, who had resigned the role some years earlier, to play Bond, as Connery was now "too old". [7] McClory did occasionally drop Connery's name for publicity purposes, however[8] In addition to working with McClory on Thunderball, Sony also still owned Casino Royle, having purchased Fleming's first Bond novel before he met McClory or became involved with Eon Productions, and thus their ownership of both properties threatened the possibility of a rival Bond franchise.

New legal issues appeared, however, as MGM and Eon Productions sought to prevent production of the film, while McClory filed a lawsuit in return claiming that McClory was, in fact, the co-creator of the James Bond film character and that MGM and Eon actually owed him fees from each of the previous films, but the case was ultimately thrown out in 2001. Sony conceded the film rights to MGM during the legal process, but McClory retained his rights to Thunderball, Blofeld, and Spectre.

Later Developments

McClory often fed tabloid rumors intentionally to gauge interest, such as claiming Connery would reprise the role for a version of the film in 1999, and later offered to sell the Bond rights to the highest bidder in 2002, including all of the material and scripts that had been created over the years. The auction never took place.

In November 2013, several years after McClory's death, it was announced MGM, Eon Productions and Danjaq, LLC, the owners of the main Bond franchise, had acquired all rights and interests of McClory's estate, including the rights to Thunderball, the Spectre organization, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, bringing an "amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years.". These elements were restored to the series in the 2015 film "Spectre".

References

  1. Lycett, Andrew (1996). Ian Fleming. London: Phoenix.
  2. Pearson, John (1967). The Life of Ian Fleming: Creator of James Bond. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 372-373.
  3. 10 Negative Ways Kevin McClory Damaged James Bond
  4. Barnes, Alan; Hearn, Marcus (2001). Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: the Unofficial James Bond Film Companion. Batsford Books. ISBN 978-0-7134-8182-2. p. 152
  5. The Non-Bonds: James Bond's Bitter Decades-Long Battle with James Bond
  6. 10 Negative Ways Kevin McClory Damaged James Bond
  7. Alternative 007 article. Retrieved 6 Apr '16.
  8. 10 Negative Ways Kevin McClory Damaged James Bond