“M says that without you in the service, he fears for the security of the civilized world.”
BOND 15 .
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
John Glen . 1982
And McClory’s got him!
For, unfortunately, another waterlogged version of Thunderball. Yet anything was better than Old Moore’s Almanack.
Kevin McClory had almost pulled it off before, in 1976. Eon’s ten year restriction on any re-make was over. He was free to produce a new Thunderball – or in fact, the contentious McClory-Fleming-Whittingham script: James Bond of the British Secret Service. Kevin called up The Ipcress File author, Len Deighton, to write a script. Len called it Hammerhead .
Then, another writer was invited into the mix. Sean Connery,
That, said McClory was a tremendous experience. “He did not contribute just throwawy lines [he had invented many during his Eon reign], he also got involved in the construction of the plot. And he’s a very good storyteller. Therefore, he’s a good story writer – he writes visually. He made enormous contributions to the script and we all got along very well.”
Too much so for another hammerhead called Broccoli – now totally in charge of the Eon series. He obviously fretted about Sean picking up his double zero prefix again, while new boy Roger Moore was still feeling his way, faltering towards his third mission.
Broccoli and Saltzman had been the movie equivalent of the good cop/bad cop.
As Michael Caine put it:
“Cubby gives you the cigarette…
Harry knocks it out of your mouth.”
Now Cubby was both good and bad cop and started knocking any re-tread out the window.
Connery got the message and withdrew. Life was too short to join gambler McClory’s love of legal minefields.
That was then, this was now…
Sean’s new uber-agent Mike Ovitz called flops “shitburgers” and his client had toop many of them, recently – The Next Man, Meteor, Cuba. It time to rescue the Connery career from a black hole in Hollywood. . “I wore down Sean’s defences until he agreed to sip the shaken-not-stirred martini one last time.” That took some doing, considering Sean hadn’t been Bond for almost a dozen years not since Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, and he had quit the role to avoid type-casting.
Ovitz and his CAA agency promised his clients “better material, better information, better deals – and we’ll make your dream projects happen.” (He went a mile further for director Sydney Pollack – “I’ll kill for you!”). Mike was a Connery-Bond fan. “I felt he simply was James Bond,” he said in his 2018 bioghraphy, Who Is Michael Ovitz?, “and that if audiences and producers were reminded of that, other opportunities would follow. One night, I worked the conversation around to Roger Moore and his shortcomings as Bond. Sean remained the definitive 007, I said – he could not dispute me.”
Sean’s wife, Micheline, persuaded him to return, dropping his “never again” vow, post-Diamonds. She also came up with the Never title and suggested Kim Basinger for Domino. And it was Sean, no longer on the writing strength but helping everywhere else, who recommended Edward Fox as (a fussbudget) M and Pamela Salem (from Connery’s First Great Train Robbery ) as Moneypenny. She thought for him to think of her was lovely – and so was participating in “a part of British folklore and movie history.”
Cubby tried many ways to stop McClory but the Thunderball deal was that it couldn’tbe re-made for ten years. Well, time was up and McClory was ready to rumble.
The return of Connery convinced most everyone else to join up from Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo (Maximilian this time, not Emilio), Nicaraguan Barbara Carrera as Fatima Bush (a name dreamt up by Ian Fleming in an earlyThunderball draft)tooen of theStar Wars directors, Irvin Kershner.
“This is going to be my last Bond!The last one!
We’ll have some fun. We’ll go to Paris…
and the Bahamas. What the hell!”
At first, Sean had repeated his “never again” line when Kevin McClory – and his partner Coppola’s brother-in-law, Jack Schwartzman – came acalling. Sean’s refusal had McClory recalling a Broccoli comment that George Lazenby could have been the best Bond if he stuck at it – and controlled his ego, arrogance and head size. McClory stopped such thoughts on September 20 in Nice when Connery dusted down his old prefix and started shooting the first Bond movie made without an Ian Fleming title – a test Broccoli watched with obvious interest as he was running out of Fleming books, himself, and indeed, his staple diet in the 80s, short stories.
When first trying to set up Warhead in the 70s,
Kevin McClory wanted Orson Welles as Blofeld
and Trevor Howard for M.
Finally, Max von Sydow (nearly Dr No in 1961) and Edward Fox played the (short) roles. Fox’s M was seven years younger than Sean’s 007. That says a lot. Plus the fact that pedestrian director Irvin Kershner never said never – until after Superman and Lethal Weapon’s Richard Donner did.
According to the Ovitz bio again, the Bahamas shoot was, er, strained. “Sean disliked the producer and he wasn’t wild about the script or the director… Also, it had taken so long to put the film together, four years, that Sean was now 52 and vjsibly creaky in some of his action scenes.”
“There was no animosity between Sean and me,” recalled Roger Moore in his 2008 autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, “We didn’t react to the press speculation that we had become competitors in the part. In fact, we often had dinner together and compared notes about how much we’d each shot and how our respective producers were trying to kill us with all the action scenes they expected us to do. I never actually saw Sean’s film. [Nor either of Dalton’s]. I’m told it did very well, but not quite as well as Octopussy!”
“Fortunately,” recalled Mike Ovitz, “Sean’s fans were so hungry for the real Bond that Never Say Never Again was bulletproof – and even if it stunk, I’d put together enough subsequent movies for Sean, based on his growing momentum, that he was safe. The film picked up good reviews and performed decently well at the box-office. I even think Sean was glad he’d done it. He was back from the brink.”
This time, Cubby Broccoli was not worried about any box-office battle. He’d been here before with You Only Live Twice v Casino Royale in 1967. He won that tussle and he did so again, beating McClory by a global$187.5m to $160m.
“Their film took 30% less than ours,” he reported in his autobiography. “There’s more to it than saying: ‘Great, I’ve got the story, I’ve got Sean Connery, I’m going to make another Bond film.’ The question is: How are you going to make it? Who is the right person to direct it? How do we cast it? Is this authentic Bond or a paste-and-scissors job? The picture, which I’m sure they thought would wipe us off the map, didn’t even come close. The reason: we’d learned a lot from making the previous Bonds. They went out on a caper and, in my view, got it wrong.”
Except none of the future Roger Moore Bonds achieved the same box-office figures as Sean’s last stand.
Roger Moore tried to help Connery and Cubby patch up their differences. He once invited them to a party at his LA home. It didn’t work out. It was not long after Sean was quoted as saying that if Cubby’s brain was on fire, he “wouldn’t piss in his ear to put it out.”After Moore got them their drinks,Cubby asked Sean if he’d really said that…
“Cubby,” said Connery, “I’ll gladly piss in your ear anytime!”