Hollywood History returns to Last Movie Outpost and this time we talk about the ultimate cinematic match up. This is not just fan boy fantasy conflict. Not “Who would win a fight between Superman and the Hulk?”. Not even “Who was the best Bond?” This is about a real head-to-head. A time when James Bond genuinely went up against James Bond. An historic tussle of two movie heavyweights. The Battle Of The Bonds.
The Battle Of The Bonds
Roger Moore was done. He was out as 007. He had only signed a three picture deal with Eon and that had expired as the closing credits rolled on The Spy Who Loved Me. From then on, he had negotiated on a movie-by-movie basis. After Moonraker, he was undecided about coming back. After some very public reluctance, the producers called his bluff. With the Bond movie factory a literal machine, they weren’t waiting for their leading man to make up his mind with cameras ready to roll on For Your Eyes Only.
They engaged in a public search for a new 007. According to some rumors, The Professionals actor Lewis Collins (Who Dares Wins / The Final Option) was very close. Others say Ian Ogilvy and Michael Billington were in the frame. Either way, it shook Moore out of his hubris and he signed on. For Your Eyes Only became the fifth Roger Moore led 007 outing.
Now, though, he was definitely out. Broccoli and the rest of the Eon productions crew weren’t going to be played again. They were getting a new Bond. Moore was seemingly happy to step away, having equalled Connery’s initial run as Bond, before Diamonds Are Forever lured him back.
The casting machine went into overdrive and the worldwide search for a new James Bond was the usual media circus. Many were tested. One was chosen.
James Brolin was to become the first American to play James Bond. Thanos’ Dad, husband of Barbara Streisand, was to be 007. He had already picked his apartment in London. He was back home in the USA with a voice coach to work on the accent, and stunt trainers to prepare physically. Production on Octopussy, with a new Bond in the tuxedo, was just months away.
Then something happened. A dark cloud was forming on Bond’s horizon. A blast from the past was about to re-appear and attempt to destroy everything. Kevin McClory.
When Ian Fleming first thought about having his James Bond novels adapted into movies, he had been introduced to Irish writer and director McClory. After an ill-fated, and short, partnership there was no movie but there was the novel – Thunderball, written by Fleming but based on a screenplay by Fleming, McClory and Jack Whittingham.
When Thunderball was published, legal tussles kicked off. They commenced again when Thunderball was released as a movie. After many court cases McClory gained the literary and film rights for the screenplay, while Fleming was given the rights to the novel, although the novel had to be recognized as being:
“…based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and the Author”.
This left McClory with a way back into the world of cinematic 007. After many years, and many attempts, he was ready to begin production on a rival Bond production. He had the rights to Thunderball, and could remake it after a ten-year grace period. It had been more than ten years, so that was exactly what he was going to do.
The project was to be called Warhead. For the screenplay, he turned to bestselling thriller author Len Deighton and, as an adviser, he tapped up the man who knew cinematic 007 better than, potentially, anyone else.
Connery was a paid adviser, and he had no intention of starring in the movie. When asked if he would ever play James Bond before, he had famously replied:
He was still angry with Eon and Broccoli, who he felt got rich off his time as Bond without paying him his full due, refusing to renegotiate his fees. When McClory offered him a $3 million upfront payment and backend points on the production, he decided to return to the role. Remembering his statement when asked about playing Bond again, Connery’s wife suggested the title was changed to the more Bond-esque Never Say Never Again and they were off and running.
No More Yankee-Bond
When this news reached the formidable Cubby Broccoli, he unleashed his lawyers to try and block the production. When this failed, he knew he could not go up against Connery with a brand new, un-tested Bond… and an AMERICAN too! He called up Moore and persuaded him to return to the role to see off the threat.
Bond had been good to Roger Moore, and he was very close to Broccoli, so he agreed. James Brolin got a very unfortunate phone call that he answered in the middle of packing to fly to London. His time as 007 was over before it started. Rog was back!
Then the release dates were firmed up and it became clear. In 1983 cinema’s two greatest secret agents would be going head-to-head. Moore’s Octopussy would be released in the summer, then as Fall arrived Connery would return to his most famous role for Never Say Never Again. The Battle Of The Bonds was on.
Moore and Connery were old friends by this point. They thought the idea of both being Bond, and having two competing movies against each other, was good fun. They considered it harmless sport, and simply about friendly bragging rights.
For the producers of the movies this was settling a long simmering score. For fans of the movies this was a generational conflict, and a clash of the ages.
No matter that Moore was actually slightly older than Connery. This was an age thing. If you were an “old fart” then you were in Connery’s corner. If you were a young whippersnapper (in 1983) then it was all about Moore. This was Roger Moore, for God’s sake – had had taken Bond into outer space!
Licence To Age
Both Bond’s were noticeably later middle-aged by this point. Moore’s high wasted trousers hide his spread, and his hair takes on a dyed hue. Connery wears a lot of roll-neck sweaters in his outing to hide his jowls.
Octopussy could fall back on classic Bond idents and tropes. A familiar Moneypenny, Q, that theme song, the gun barrel opening and pre-title scene.
Never Say Never Again was not allowed to use any of these, having to recast the entire Bond family and forbidden even to refer to Q as either Q or Major Boothroyd, hence here he is called Algernon. It had to color well and truly within the lines of Thunderball.
Octopussy could mine other Fleming stories, and does. It uses elements of Property Of A Lady and Octopussy from Fleming’s collection of short stories – Octopussy And The Living Daylights. They were not, however, allowed to use SPECTRE or Blofeld. The McClory settlement left that out of their reach… for now.
The marketing was brutal. The press loved it. just the taglines alone were a declaration of war on the rival production. Eon went with the taglines:
“Nobody does him better”
“James Bond’s all time high”
McClory and his crew went with:
“Sean Connery IS James Bond”
Moore’s Bond was dispatched to Cuba (in reality an RAF base in the UK), Berlin, Moscow, and Udaipur in India. Connery gets England, the Bahamas, the South Of France and North Africa.
Both movies involve nukes, gambling and potential global destruction. Moore faces off against the sly Louis Jourdan and the scenery chewing Steven Berkoff. Connery takes on an exceptionally great Klaus Maria Brandauer, while Barbara Carrera’s Fatima Blush is the stuff of both fantasies and nightmares all in one, as all good Bond bad girls should be.
On the downside, the trademark silliness of Moore’s Bond cannot be denied within Octopussy, despite it’s cold war, espionage stylings. This movie, perhaps over all others, seemingly gives Austin Powers much of its material. At least, though, with all the usual trappings, it actually feels like an authentic Bond movie.
Never Say Never Again, despite all its efforts, always feels like a facsimile. A copy. You know you are watching an unsanctioned, and not quite real, James Bond movie.
Both movies received mixed reviews from professional critics, but were absolutely lapped up by fans. But who actually won the Battle Of The Bonds?
The reviews seemed to slightly favor Connery’s outing, as Moore’s more whimsical portrayal of Bond was a hit with fans but not critics. However at the box office there was only one winner. Octopussy came in $27.5 million ahead of Never Say Never Again. That is nearly $90 million ahead in todays money.
McClory would try again, and again, to make yet another Bond movie but he was never successful. He was stopped, either in the courts or by the production falling apart. Meanwhile Eon’s Bond would continue to power ever onwards.
McClory died in 2006, and in November 2013 MGM and the McClory estate formally settled the issue with Danjaq, sister company of Eon Productions. The official Bond movies now acquired the full copyright film rights to the concept of SPECTRE and all of the characters associated with it, leading to their reintroduction in Daniel Craig’s penultimate outing.
Not only would Eon win at the box-office. They eventually won everything.
Like our articles on the history of Hollywood? Previously we have looked how Trading Places gave us The Eddie Murphy Rule. We looked at the insanity of 1989 and The Summer Of The Bat, as Batmania swept the globe. Then we linked that to a follow–up piece looking at the sequel that went wrong – Batman Returns.
We have written about the legal wranglings behind the scenes on Rocky IV, looked into the truth behind those terrible VFX in Jaws III, and covered the version of Jaws 2 we nearly got.
Before that we have looked at such varied aspects of Hollywood as the hidden story behind George Lazenby’s decision to only play 007 once. We have looked at the history of stunts, of special effects, of the studio system, and explored Hollywood’s ties to the mob. We have also examined some of the spooky goings-on associated with Tinseltown and we told the story of one of the true giants of Hollywood. We delved into the backstory of one of the best-known names in the history of horror, Hammer. We took a walk through the history of one of cinema’s greatest art forms – the world of miniatures and model-making for movies.
We explored the history of the box that changed so many Outposters lives – the VCR. We even delved into the murky waters of movie money and the hidden world of Hollywood Accounting and we went deep into genre with a history of disaster movies. Uncover the mystery and the horror surrounding a little known on-set incident during the making of Shark!
We have looked at the Hollywood History of superhero movies, we even looked at the story behind Cannon Films.
Do you have an interest in a period of Hollywood History that you want to share with our community of Outposters? If so, reach out at [email protected] and let us know.
Featured Article Image: Credit to Paul Ferry’s Universal Omnibus Blog.
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