It’s not a TOTALLY unknown story, but it might be news to you since it happened over half a century ago. See if you can follow how Kevin McClory helped create James Bond‘s nemesis, Blofeld, the evil organization SPECTRE, and almost derailed the whole Bond franchise…
Author Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory first met in 1958 at a screening of The Boy and The Bridge, which McClory had co-written, directed and produced. At the time, Fleming had unsuccessfully tried to get all seven of his Bond novels turned into movies but the closest he had come to success was in 1954; when he sold the rights to Casino Royale to CBS for $1,000. (That’s a whole ‘nother story…) McClory’s existence and disappearance have been marred in controversy since ’61 when Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball novel neglected to credit (and compensate) SPECTRE’s cocreator: Kevin McClory. It was McClory who suggested to Fleming that they take James Bond into an underwater world, as well as create a super-villain character, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. This nemesis would be a diabolical, intelligent, seemingly invincible mastermind. Fleming said in 1959,
“…the trouble with writing something, especially for the screen, is I haven’t a single idea in my head.”
Fleming and McClory began work on a script in ’59 and were later joined by British screenwriter Jack Whittingham. The script included the introduction of SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. As Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham were completing the Thunderball script, Fleming sent a draft copy to his agent, Lawrence Evans.
The novel Thunderball was published in ’61, based entirely on McClory and Whittingham’s script, without the knowledge or consent of the coauthors. In March of ’61, McClory and Whittingham filed a lawsuit against Fleming, citing a breach of copyrights, breach of confidence, conversion, of contract, false representation of authorship and slander of title. The trial was held at the High Court in London in November 1963 and lasted for 9 days. During it, Fleming admitted to the court that he had indeed based the Thunderball novel on Whittingham and McClory’s scripts, and agreed to publicly acknowledge this fact.
The court ordered Fleming to assign and sell the film copyright of the novel Thunderball and all copyrights in the screenplay to McClory and under the order of the court, Fleming gave appropriate authorship acknowledgement in all future editions of Thunderball.
But in ’61, despite the ongoing legal dispute, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, together with United Artists, commissioned Richard Maibaum to write a screenplay based on the Thunderball novel. They had no assignment of film rights from Fleming, McClory or Whittingham. They intended to film Thunderball as the first in a series of James Bond movies and they even used the script to lure Sean Connery to the series, who is quoted as saying,
“The first James Bond film which I was hired for was Thunderball for United Artists and the first [Bond] script I was given to read by Broccoli and Saltzman’s company was Thunderball.”
Because of the lawsuit, they were not able to use the script as the first Bond film, but elements of Thunderball were incorporated into the first film Dr. No, most importantly, the introduction of SPECTRE.
More lawsuits followed and, eventually, Kevin McClory was given the full rights to SPECTRE and the Thunderball story. This settlement resulted in Never Say Never Again, a 1983 spin off Bond film, produced by McClory, famous for bringing Sean Connery back to the series.
In the decades that followed, various rumors were heard about McClory creating another unofficial film. After decades of lawsuits, Kevin McClory died on November 20, 2006, and the rights to Thunderball, Blofeld and SPECTRE passed on to his estate. In 2013, McClory’s family finally agreed to return those rights to MGM and the creators of all official Bond films. The agreement finally put an end to the 50 year-old rivalry and paved the way for the film being released today, which contrary to some reports just might feature Christophe Walz as Blofeld. (if they own the name, why wouldn’t they use it?) The tile of the film? SPECTRE.
(via Universal Exports)