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1958-1965 | 1966-2001 | Warhead 2000 AD Articles | 2001 Court Ruling PDF | Discuss

With the sale of MGM/UA to Sony Pictures, the nearly 50-year-old battle between Kevin McClory and the Bond franchise has come to a full circle. The fight, which resulted in countless legal battles, the movie Never Say Never Again and the often-rumored second remake of Thunderball, all began in 1958.

Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming:
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 they met, Fleming had unsuccessfully tried to get all seven of his Bond novels turned into movies. The closest he had come to success was in 1954 when he sold the rights to Casino Royale to CBS for $1,000.

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. This nemesis would be a diabolical, intelligent, seemingly invincible mastermind with formidable henchmen, who's single handed defeat by James Bond would make James Bond evolve into a cinematic super-hero. Fleming reluctantly accepted McClory's offer, partly because, as Fleming said in 1959, "...the trouble with writing something, especially for the screen, is I havenít a single idea in my head."

Fleming and McClory began to work on a script in early 1959 and were later joined by well known and accomplished British screenwriter Jack Whittingham. The script, which included the introduction of SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, was written during a 10-month period in 1959 and 1960.

As Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham were completing the script of Thunderball, Ian Fleming sent a draft copy to his agent, Lawrence Evans. The novel Thunderball was published in 1961,

Jack Whittingham

Photograph courtesy Sylvan Whittingham
based entirely on McClory and Whittingham's script, and without the knowledge or consent of the co-authors. On March 31, 1961, 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 nine-day trial was held at the High Court in London, England, in November 1963. During the proceedings, Fleming admitted to the court that he had indeed based the Thunderball novel on McClory and Whittingham's scripts, and agreed to publicly acknowledge this fact. On December 3, 1963, the court ordered Fleming to assign and sell the film copyright of the novel Thunderball and all copyrights in the screenplay to McClory. Additionally, under the order of the British court, Fleming gave appropriate authorship acknowledgement in all future editions of Thunderball.


Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman:
Despite the legal dispute between McClory/Whittingham and Fleming in 1961, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, together with United Artists, commissioned screenwriter Richard Maibaum to write a screenplay based on the Thunderball novel and/or McClory's James Bond film scripts. They had no assignment of film rights from Fleming, McClory or Whittingham.

Saltzman and Broccoli's intended to film Thunderball as the first in a series of James Bond movies. In fact, they even used the script to lure Sean Connery to the series. He 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 Saltzmanís company was Thunderball." Despite being unable to use the script as the first Bond film, elements of Thunderball were incorporated into Dr. No, most importantly, the introduction of SPECTRE.

...The trouble with writing something, especially for the screen, is I havenít a single idea in my head.
     ~Ian Fleming, 1959

The first legal right for Eon to use any material from Thunderball in a motion picture came on March 12, 1965. The permission came in a license from Kevin McCloryís company, Paradise Film Productions, which limited Danjaq/Eonís use of Thunderball for one film only. McClory insisted that the rights revert back to his company after ten years so he could one day make further James Bond films. McClory also retained ownership of all shooting scripts and contents included in those scripts used to make Thunderball.

These rights did return to McClory who, in 1983, produced Never Say Never Again.

Continue on to 1966-2001

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1958-1965
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1966-2001
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[Court Dockett]
2001 Court Docket PDF
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[Thunderball]
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[Never Say Never Again]
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