“Look after Mr Bond. See that some harm comes to him.” 


 Lewis Gilbert . 1978

Musical turned thriller star John Payne was the first Hollywoodian interested in making the Bond novels into a film series. He only surrendered his option on Moonraker when realising he could not obtain (afford?) the rights to the entire 007 series. That was 1955 and Payne’s next film indicated his potential Bond girls. He shared Slightly Scarlet, a rare 50s’ film noir in colour… with Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl.

Britain’s wannabe MGM, the Rank Organisation, then moved in on the book – paying Fleming £10,000 for the screen rights. Never knowing what to do with them, Rank sold the rights back to Fleming in 1959 and the book was back home in time for the complete package (er, minus Casino Royale ) bought by Harry Saltzman in 1960.


Because of the Rank connection,

there was some credibility to the news of

a secret 1956 Moonraker with Rank’s top (only) star

 Dirk Bogarde as 007, Orson Welles s as Hugo Drax

and, in his gang, the first Bond villain, Peter Lorre.

However, that news was dated April 1, 2004.


Bond 11 should have been For Your Eyes Only but with a successful launch of NASA’s Space Shuttle and the rarified global success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it was time – now or never – but why? – to put Bond into orbit.

007 . At times, Roger Morgue was more of a April Fool’s Day joke, more catalogue model than action hero. And a notorious stunt coward, reported Ian Holm. But Broccoli had no one else on tap, and the box-office was ticking over nicely enough. In case Moore was going to prove inordinately expensive, Michael Billington (like who else?) did his fourth test as Bond – mainly to examine such potential Bond Girls as Shelley Hack, Susasn Reed, Sylvia Kristel (Emmanuelle, herself) and Cyrielle Besnard in Paris.

Hugo Drax .  The old MGM foes, Stewart Granger and James Mason, both refused; not long, though, before the MGM lion joined the 007 credits.. French stars Louis Jourdan and Lino Ventura also passed on the richest 007 villain of ’em  all. (Jourdan  changed his mind two films later for Octopussy – refused by Ventura, who didn’t want his kids seeing him as a nasty villain and besides: “My range as an actor is limited.”) Fleming had described Drax as “a Lonsdale figure” and, by chance, it was bilingual French actor Michael Lonsdale who proved a perfectly malevolent megalomaniac. “You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season”and “Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.”

Holly Goodhead .  I liked Holly,” declared Lois Chiles. “That she was capable of doing everything that Bond could do.  It was a real step forward in the James Bond genre…   I have to say that I actually like that I have one of the more obscene names.” Until Lois   changed her mind about retiring, Carole Bouquet was seen for  the female lead… She won that, next time around,  in For Your Eyes Only.  Sylvia Kristel was another contender in Paris, although the UK scripter Christopher Wood suggested, “rather ungallantly,” that her Emmanuelle  movies “seemed to have taken a lot out of her.”Hardly true given her looks in her four films of that year, including Hollywood’s  The Concorde… Airport 79.

The trouble with  Mr Wood’s autobiography  is that he also  mentions  Piers Brosnan (sic)and says that when five numbers are tapped out on a door’s entry panel in Moonraker, “the numbers ring out the motif from Kubrick’s 200l: A Space Odyssey. Nice touch.” Wrong film! The musical motiff was, of course, from Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.And Mr Wood, did I forget to add, actually wrote the script forMoonraker

Corinne Dufour . The Paris locations also led neatly to another French beautyCorinne Clery (from Histoire d’O/The Story of O) as supper for Bond and lunch for Drax’s Dobermans.  Nicole Calfan has refused the role in order to make Les chiens (The Dogs) opposite the new French movie superstar. Gérard Depardieu.  Kim Basinger was also considered. She went on to win Connery’s 1983 comeback.

Moore’s fourth (Gilbert’s last) was showing signs of battle fatigue, repeating much the previous movie, including Richard Kiel back as Jaws – which news produced Michael Wilson’s line: “Jaws bites shark.” And he did!

“We had to bring him back,” explaijned Gilbert, “because he had so much fan mail from chidlren.  He was the only villain to come back.  He was not so much frightening as loveable and people  liked the idea of him being indestructuible.  A wonderful character!” 

Like the series, Moore’s fourth (Gilbert’s last) was showing signs of battle fatigue, repeating much the previous movie, including Richard Kiel back as Jaws – which news produced Michael Wilson’s line: “Jaws bites shark.”And he did!

Lois Maxwell-Moneypenny’s daughter, Melinda Maxwell , was among Drax’s Master Race specimens. Getting back to basics was postponed until For Your Eyes Only.