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

Sony Abandons Bond Ambition--March 30, 1999

It's official: Sony Pictures Entertainment won't ever say Never Again, and Pierce Brosnan is the only James Bond who'll be coming to a theater near you this Christmas.
Warhead 2000 Mock Poster
Warhead 2000 AD Mock Poster
Created in 1997

The studio announced plans for a rogue James Bond film franchise in October 1997, and had hoped to kick things off with a remake of the 1965 Bond film Thunderball — famously remade once already by Warner Bros. as 1983's Never Say Never Again — later this year.

Just weeks following Sony's initial announcement, however, lawyers for MGM claimed their studio had exclusive rights to the James Bond character through its proprietorship of United Artists and filed a $25 million infringement suit against Sony.

The case was set to go to trial next month, but the Associated Press reports that legal reps for Sony and MGM have resolved the matter out of court and Sony will no longer pursue a Bond film or franchise.

"Essentially," said Sony attorney David W. Steuber, "we have given up the universal right to make a James Bond picture."

Details of the settlement include payouts from both studios. In addition to laying aside its Bond ambition Sony will fork over $5 million of the damages MGM was seeking. For its part, MGM has agreed to pay Sony $10 million to shore up its exclusive international rights to the James Bond franchise and for certain specific rights to the 1967 Bond spoof Casino Royale.

Sony obtained the remake rights to Thunderball from producer and screenwriter Kevin McClory, who collaborated with Bond creator Ian Fleming on material that eventually became the script for Thunderball. Both Sony and McClory had argued that the sum of his contributions amounted to his having co-created "an original cinematic Bond character."

McClory was also a driving force behind Never Say Never Again — the title is a winking reference to the presence of original Bond Sean Connery, who'd vowed after completing 1971's Diamonds Are Forever that he would "never again" play the role — after winning limited remake rights to Thunderball in a legal battle with Fleming.

Sony had reportedly offered its initial Bond project to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the creative duo responsible for Independence Day and 1998's Godzilla, with Liam Neeson potentially attached to star as the suave superspy.

The beginning of the end came last July, when a federal court substantiated MGM's arguments by issuing a preliminary injunction to prevent Sony from starting production on a Bond film until the matter had been resolved in court.


Connery to return as 007 in Doomsday 2000-October 24, 1998

By World Entertainment News Network

Movie legend SEAN CONNERY is set to return as JAMES BOND at the age of 68.

Connery is lined up for another remake of THUNDERBALL - and a head-to-head challenge with latest 007 PIERCE BROSNAN.

The new movie DOOMSDAY 2000 will probably be released at the same time as Brosnan's new 007 film, to be called either PRESSURE POINT or THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.

Filming for Doomsday 2000 is due to start in January (99) in Britain, Australia and the Bahamas.

And studio sources say the original MISS MONEYPENNY - LOIS MAXWELL - has already been signed up for the role.

A source says, "Sean Connery has been approached and he is very interested. It is a question of money - they have the money and they will get him."

The first remake of IAN FLEMING's THUNDERBALL was NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN - Connery's eighth and last Bond film. Now the second is to pitch him against Brosnan.

Bosses at UNITED ARTISTS and MGM, who are making the new Brosnan movie, say their legal fight to stop COLUMBIA making their new Bond movie is still on. (WNTMI/TS/VC)


Judge postpones Dec. 15 trial date-Sept. 18, 1998

By JANET SHPRINTZ

Sony Corp. scored a minor victory in its pursuit of a James Bond franchise when the trial judge agreed to postpone the Dec. 15 trial date. The delay is to give the appellate court an opportunity to rule on Sony's appeal of the preliminary injunction won by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which bars Sony from developing a Bond series while the case is pending.

In his order, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie of Los Angeles noted that the 9th Circuit's ruling "may have a sig-nificant effect" on the issues for trial. Because it is inefficient to hold a trial when the "outcome may be altered" by a higher court's opinion, Rafeedie decided that the trial will not be held until 60 days after the 9th Circuit rules.

Sony lawyer David Steuber stressed that Rafeedie's decision was not a routine order: "I think this is a significant step because it's a recognition that the validity of MGM's position is not clear cut and there is a legitimate dispute about controlling questions of law." MGM, however, scoffed at the significance of the order. Spokesman Craig Parsons said, "This doesn't change the merits of the case one iota. We are as confident about winning in January or February as we are about winning in December."

Rafeedie granted MGM's motion for a preliminary injunction on July 29, and Sony appealed a few days later. In an exten-sive opinion, Rafeedie concluded that the rights Sony purchased from Kevin McClory, who collaborated with Bond creator Ian Fleming, did not rise to the level under U.S. copyright law of making McClory the joint owner of the Bond character, as Sony has argued. Rafeedie's preliminary conclusion was that Sony cannot create a Bond series that would compete with MGM's 35-year-old franchise.

Because Rafeedie's decision was so far-reaching on the underlying merits of the case, a reversal by the 9th Circuit could significantly alter the terrain. A decision from the 9th circuit most likely would come by the end of the year or early next year.


Sony co-CEO ordered deposed in MGM suit-September 14, 1998

LOS ANGELES, Sept 14 (Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled that Sony Corp. co-Chief Exeuctive Officer Noboyuki Idei can be deposed as part of a long-running legal battle between Sony and rival Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. film studio.

The suit stems from Sony's desire to make a movie based on the fictional British spy James Bond. MGM and its partner Danjaq Llc, claim they own the exclusive right to make Bond films, but Sony is challenging that claim.

The companies have filed suits and countersuits in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In this latest skirmish, U.S. Magistrate James McMahon agreed with MGM that there is sufficient evidence showing Idei, who oversees film studio Sony Pictures Entertainment for its corporate parent in Japan, has direct personal knowledge of matters in the case.

In court documents, MGM alleges Sony encouraged studio Chief Executive Officer John Calley, a former top executive at MGM, to disclose proprietary and privileged information about the James Bond franchise.

McMahon said Idei could be deposed in Japan at Sony's corporate headquarters no later than Oct. 30. The end of the case's discovery phase is set for Nov. 1, and a trial has been scheduled in December.

Sony's attorney in the case was unavailable to comment.

McMahon ruled that a second Sony executive Tadaau Kawai, corporate vice president, could not be deposed at the current time because there was no evidence suggesting he has direct personal knowledge of events in the case.

McMahon added, however, MGM can continue to investigate Kawai's involvement for a possible deposition at a later date.


Judge Tells Sony To Halt Bond Film--July 30, 1998

By MICHAEL WHITE
AP Business Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Metro (NYSE:MGM - news)-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. tightened its grip on the James Bond film franchise as a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering Sony Entertainment Corp. to halt work on its own 007 thriller.

The order, signed by U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie Wednesday, prohibits Sony from developing the film until MGM's copyright infringement lawsuit is resolved.

The case is scheduled to go to trial Dec. 15.

``I think the injunction is a portent of the trial in December. Judge Rafeedie was very firm in his view of the law,'' MGM attorney Pierce O'Donnell said.

``We're going to prove Sony is a corporate predator,'' he said. ``We're going to seek millions upon millions of dollars in damages.''

The injunction bars Sony from working on a Bond film or seeking agreements with Hollywood talent or advertisers in connection with a Bond movie.

``The plaintiffs have demonstrated that by operation of law, they now own the U.S. film and television rights ... for all of the (Ian) Fleming novels which feature the James Bond character,'' Rafeedie wrote.

Rafeedie rejected Sony's argument that an injunction would jeopardize its discussions with the ``Independence Day'' and ``Godzilla'' team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to direct and produce a new Bond movie.

Sony attorney David Steuber said he likely would appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.

``We believe we do have rights to make James Bond movies and we believe the law and the facts support those rights,'' he said. ``It's clear that (Rafeedie) did not appear to agree with our position and, with all due respect, we believe he's misread the cases and is wrong.''

Steuber noted that in his opinion, Rafeedie said MGM had not shown evidence to justify applying the injunction worldwide, raising the possibility that work could continue outside the United States. Rafeedie wrote that MGM and it's co-plaintiff, Danjaq LLC, could apply separately for a worldwide injunction if they feel it is needed.

``The burden is on MGM to preclude us from doing something outside the United States,'' Steuber said.

Rafeedie indicated in a hearing on Monday that he probably would rule in favor of MGM.

MGM claims exclusive rights to the James Bond films, due in part to its longstanding deal with Danjaq, which produced 18 of the 20 Bond movies released since ``Dr. No.'' in 1962.

Sony announced last October that it had obtained rights to a remake of the 1965 Bond film ``Thunderball'' and hoped to begin its own 007 franchise. Sony obtained the rights from Kevin McClory, who collaborated with Fleming during the 1960s.

Sony claims McClory is the co-creator and co-owner of ``an original cinematic Bond character'' with separate rights to exploit the 007 character.


James Bond Clone Killed--July 27, 1998

From Correspondent Casey Wian
July 27, 1998: 7:57 p.m. ET

LOS ANGELES (CNNfn) - Sony Pictures Entertainment doesn't have the license to replicate the agent who is "Licensed to Kill," a federal judge ruled on Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie declared he will rule in the coming days in favor of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. the Hollywood studio that has owned the rights to the James Bond franchise since 1962.

"This has to be one of the darkest days in the history of Sony studios. Their attempt to kidnap James Bond has been foiled and once again 007 has prevailed," said Pierce O'Donnell, partner at O'Donnell & Schaeffer, MGM's outside counsel.

The dispute dates back to October 1997 when Sony reached an agreement with producer/director Kevin McClory to make a new series of James Bond feature films.

The rival studio argued it can legally make the movies because McClory - who wrote the original screenplays that became Thunderball in 1965 and Never Say Never Again in 1983 - has an agreement with the late novelist, Ian Fleming, that predates MGM's right to the character.

Sony feels that it is justified in spinning off its own Bond franchise, said David Steuber, partner at Troop Meisinger Steuber & Pasich, Sony's outside counsel.

However, MGM contended that any rights McClory had to the Bond name expired by 1989 under U.S. copyright laws.

Lawyers for Sony and McClory persuaded the judge to delay granting MGM's request for an temporary injunction while he reconsiders their arguments. But in court the judge seemed unconvinced and is expected to rule in MGM's favor later this week.

For MGM, the stakes are huge. The franchise is the struggling studio's only consistent money-maker with $2.5 billion in box office receipts from 18 Bond films since the 1962 classic, "Dr. No."

MGM blames Sony for disrupting MGM's initial public offering last year by announcing its competing Bond plans at the same time.

And MGM accuses Sony Pictures President John Calley, a former MGM executive, of stealing trade secrets and using them to help Sony develop Bond films.

Sony will have another shot at 007 when this case proceeds to trial in December. Both sides are seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages.


McLory makes official claims to Bond rights -July 14, 1998

Paul Karon, Erich Boehm

LONDON - Reasserting the legitimacy of film rights he received more than 35 years ago, one-time 007 film producer Kevin McClory has filed his formal opposition to MGM's legal quest to quash Sony Picture Entertainment's efforts to develop a rival franchise around cinematic super-spy James Bond.

MGM's attorney scoffed at McClory's latest in-court declaration, deriding the producer as a "supreme irrelevancy" in the battle for control of the vastly valuable Bond film property.

Reason for delay
McClory filed his declaration in U.S. district court in Los Angeles, in response to MGM's request for preliminary injunction to stop Sony and McClory's plans. McClory's filing had been delayed after the 74-year-old producer had collapsed at his Washington residence in early April.

Although McClory maintains his health problems are now behind him, he is nevertheless presently undergoing at least minor exploratory surgery.

In his declaration to the court, McClory spells out his ownership claims to 007 and also takes issue with MGM's tactics to date. McClory struck a rich deal with Sony in October ostensibly giving the studio the right to make a series of Bond films with McClory as producer.

The declaration reads: "The level of stress I have suffered during this period has been exacerbated by an exorbitant number of internet death threats made against me personally, along with inquiries as to the whereabouts of my children and other family members, because of public statements regarding my character by spokesmen for the plaintiffs."

"My concern has been the statements from (MGM lawyer) Pierce O'Donnell," McClory told Daily Variety. "I think people like O'Donnell should temper their rhetoric. He referred to me as Rip Van Winkle. He should remember that Rip Van Winkle woke up."

MGM's view
MGM has disputed McClory's claims of ownership in the Bond character and series, claiming that the last of the rights McClory received from 007 novelist Ian Fleming lapsed in the early 1990s.

"McClory is largely a fading footnote in this lawsuit," said O'Donnell. "His declaration is supremely irrelevant - it's really of no moment."

McClory's claim to 007 stems from 10 "Thunderball" scripts co-written with Bond creator Ian Fleming in 1959-60. McClory won the rights to the scripts in a 1963 court case against Fleming where it was accepted that Fleming's later novel, "Thunderball" did not credit either McClory or the third script collaborator, Jack Wittingham.

McClory subsequently went on to produce the "Thunderball" film (1965) and in 1983 brought back Sean Connery for the de facto "Thunderball" remake, "Never Say Never Again." He argues that the evil org S.P.E.C.T.R.E and other key Bond elements first appeared in "Thunderball," and therefore constitute a basis for not only remaking "Thunderball," but a series of 007 pics.

Vying for profit share
On the back of this, Sony has countered MGM's $25 million lawsuit for damages - filed in November - with a suit seeking some of the $2.75 billion in profits MGM has received for Bond films over the years.

"The plaintiffs know only too well that they have made a number of motion pictures without any rightful claim to do so," the declaration says. "In short, the plaintiffs have been engaged in a long-standing effort to create a Hollywood illusion of rights for themselves in the McClory scripts where none exist and to deny and obstruct my use of the legitimate, broad rights to make James Bond films that I and my companies have."

A ruling is due July 29 and the case is set to come to trial Dec. 15.


MGM seeks injunction to halt rival Bond film -May 20, 1998

LOS ANGELES — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. asked a court to stop rival Sony Corp. from working on a James Bond movie, arguing that MGM owns exclusive rights to the Bond franchise.

MGM, which has produced Bond films since 1962, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Sony on Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

The stakes are significant for MGM, which is trying to revive its fortunes after foundering during the 1980s and early 1990s. Bond is not only a key to MGM's future, it's Hollywood's most successful movie franchise. Since MGM launched the series in 1962 with "Dr. No,'' its 18 Bond movies have earned more than $2.5 billion in box office receipts worldwide.

MGM sued Sony last November when Sony announced its intention to develop a Bond film. MGM is now asking for a preliminary injunction because it believes Sony actually has begun making the movie.

"We understand that Sony may be commencing their process a little faster than we thought,'' said MGM attorney David Johnson. "We don't want them in the process of making movies while the suit is in litigation.''

Sony attorney Lou Meisinger declined to say whether work is under way on a Bond film. The question would be answered in the studio's response to the MGM motion, he said.

"The motion is remarkable only for its volume, not its merit,'' he said of the 35-page filing.

MGM itself is currently developing a 19th Bond installment. A script is being written for the film, which will star Pierce Brosnan, and a director will be named soon, said MGM spokesman Craig Parsons.

The dispute hinges on the rights controlled by Kevin McClory, a writer and producer who produced the Bond films "Thunderball'' in 1965 and "Never Say Never Again'' in 1983. McClory said he had a relationship with late Bond novelist Ian Fleming that predated MGM's deal.

MGM contends in its motion filed Tuesday that McClory's rights to Fleming's material and characters were restricted by the 1963 settlement of a breach-of-copyright lawsuit McClory filed against Fleming over "Thunderball.''

In its lawsuit, MGM also accused John Calley, a former MGM executive who is now president of Sony Pictures, of taking MGM trade secrets when he left the company. The suit alleges that Sony is using the information in its development of its Bond film.


MGM Takes Bond Action-April 15, 1998

Janet Shprintz

Likening the defendant to Rip Van Winkle, Metro-Goldywn-Mayer has moved to dismiss Sony Pictures Entertainmentís counterclaim seeking profits from 34 years of James Bond films on the ground the claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

MGM's motion, filed late Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, argues that rights holder Kevin McClory never pursued a claim for profits from MGM and Bond producer Danjaq during the years when the studio released Bond movies ranging from From Russia With Love in 1963 to Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997.

Only after MGM sued Sony, the motion states, did McClory awake from his long slumber and make the astonishing assertion that he was entitled to millions of dollars for a claim which could have been brought as early as 1962.

We received their motion and we will be opposing it. We don't think it has merit, said Ron Reynolds of Troop, Meisinger, Steuber and Pasich, which represents Sony and the other defendants.

The basis of MGM's motion is that Sony's counterclaim is barred by the three-year statute of limitations in the Copyright Act. Although on close inspection Sony's counterclaim asks for profits for at least to the extent accrued within the applicable limitations period as determined by the Court, MGM cites cases for the proposition that a claim for profits is totally barred including a claim that Sony is entitled to profits only for the last three years.

The Bond litigation began last fall when Sony announced it would make a series of new James Bond feature films with McClory, a man now in his 70s who has been described as a collaborator with James Bond's creator, British author Ian Fleming, on what ultimately became the script for Thunderball

Sony bought McClory's rights, which typically have been viewed as the film rights to Thunderball, but Sony clearly has a far more expansive interpretation of the McClory rights.

MGM responded to Sony's announcement with a lawsuit on Nov. 17 seeking a declaratory judgment that no one but MGM has the right to produce or distribute any Bond motion pictures. Sony came back in February with an answer and counterclaim asserting that McClory is the joint owner of the cinematic Bond character.

Based on the assertion of joint ownership, in the third of its nine counterclaims, Sony sought an accounting for some portion of the profits from the over $2.75 billion in worldwide theatrical box office receipts MGM has amassed from the Bond franchise.


Sony Drops Bond Bomb-Feb 20, 1998

By Paul Karon

Sony Pictures, in its high-stakes attempt to kidnap British superspy James Bond from his 35-year-old home at MGMÌs United Artists, has come forth with startling claims of ownership of the 007 movie franchise and is suing MGM for a cut of the profits generated from the 18-film action series.

Legal documents recently filed in U.S. district court by Sony and its attorneys outline a strategy based on complex international copyright laws to buttress their right to go forward with their nascent Bond movie franchise.

SPE is claiming it has the legal right to the 007 franchise through its association with producer Kevin McClory, whose co-ownership of the Bond character stems from collaborations with Bond author Ian Fleming.

Sony suggests in its claim that the cinematic Bond character is not only separate from the literary secret agent, but is in fact partly McClory's creation, and therefore co-owned by him.

And because of his ownership of the Bond character, Sony said, McClory is owed some portion of the estimated $3 billion the franchise has generated.

According to the documents, Fleming worked with McClory and scriptwriter Jack Whittingham through 1959 and 1960, developing 10 treatments and scripts that weren't based on any of the existing Bond novels. The joint script efforts, ultimately titled Thunderball, were intended to become the original James Bond film.

Though those scripts and treatments did not result in the production of a film, Sony said, Fleming later wrote a novel based on them, also titled Thunderball, without giving McClory credit or payment from the book. McClory successfully sued Fleming, and in 1963 was awarded various rights, including the ability to reproduce any part of the Thunderball novel in films, and to use the Bond character.

As a consequence of his joint authorship, McClory has at all times been at least a co-owner of copyright in and to the McClory scripts and all their elements, including the James Bond character as delineated therein, according to the Sony counter-claims. Consequently, McClory (and now SPE) may freely exploit the McClory scripts.

Though a Bond pic called Thunderball was produced in 1965, Pierce O'Donnell, lead attorney for MGM and Bond pic pro-duction company Danjaq, disputed Sony's attempt to use that film as the source of McClory's ownership.

The cinematic James Bond was fully delineated by the time Thunderball was made, said O'Donnell, citing the already-released UA pics. Instead of meeting us on the merits of our claim, they've concocted this bizarre claim that a man who spent a few months working on an unsuccessful Thunderball script with the man who created James Bond can somehow become the owner of the cinematic James Bond.

O'Donnell also questioned the timeliness of the suit.

This novel claim is being asserted for the first time in 35 years, after UA has made 18 Bond movies, said O'Donnell. It is preposterous as a matter of fact and of law.

MGM and Danjaq released a brief response to the new Sony claims of ownership. The defendant's response confirms our strongly held belief that Sony was delusional in asserting that it can launch a new series of James Bond films, an official MGM statement said. Expanding radically upon Kevin McCloryÌs time-worn assertion of his rights to make James Bond movies based on Thunderball, Sony now makes completely unfounded new claims.


Sony Strikes Back In Legal Battle Over James Bond-Feb 20, 1998

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a legal battle that grows more bitter at each turn, Sony Pictures Entertainment has countersued rival film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. over the movie rights to fictional spy James Bond.

Since October, when Sony signed a deal with former Bond producer Kevin McClory to make movies featuring the British secret agent 007, MGM has asserted it owns exclusive rights to the Bond franchise. MGM in November sued to block Sony from making Bond movies. Sony Pictures is the movie studio wing of Japanese electronics giant Sony Corp.

At stake are billions of dollars in box office success. Over 35 years, some 20 Bond movies have grossed more than $3 billion in theater ticket sales.

The most recent Bond picture, "Tomorrow Never Dies," opened in theaters in December and has grossed about $120 million in the United States. It is expected to eclipse that figure overseas.

McClory, along with Jack Whittingham, helped Bond creator Ian Fleming develop the original story line for 1965's "Thunderball." By virtue of his involvement, McClory now owns rights to "Thunderball" and the characters within it.

What is in dispute is McClory's rights to make movies beyond merely a remake of "Thunderball," which he has already done once with 1983's "Never Say Never Again."

In court documents from the recent countersuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Sony claims that Bond and the Bond movies are all based on the sort of action originally written in the story line for "Thunderball." Because of that, they say McClory is the co-author of the cinematic Bond.

Sony further claims that MGM and Danjaq LLC, the producers of 18 Bond pictures, owe McClory fees for all the Bond movies they have produced because he is the co-author of the cinematic Bond. And they want a full accounting of the profits and losses of those movies.

MGM attorney, Pierce O'Donnell called Sony's assertions "preposterous" and likened McClory to the "Rip Van Winkle of copyright laws. He has been sleeping on his putative rights for over 20 years."

Sony officials declined to comment on the record.

O'Donnell said the suit and countersuit likely would not come to trial for a year.

The two movie studios are likely to continue waging their legal battle in the meantime, and MGM is already at work on a script for its next James Bond movie.


Sean Connery still won't ever say never

Could Sean Connery be looking to step back into the expensive designer shoes of James Bond? People magazine's Jeffrey Wells reports that the sixty-seven-year-old star has been tapped to reprise the role of the suave secret agent he made famous more than thirty-five years ago. But don't look for him to take over for Pierce Brosnan, whose latest Bond pic, M-G-M's Tomorrow Never Dies, has already passed the $200 million mark at the international box office. Instead, Connery's license to kill would be renewed by Columbia Pictures, which is involved in a bitter battle with M-G-M to make its own Bond film based on the Ian Fleming novel Thunderball. Connery, who starred as Bond in the original Thunderball film in 1965, more or less remade the film in 1983 when he starred in the non-M-G-M Never Say Never Again.

According to People, there's a chance that director Dean Devlin and producer Roland Emmerich, the duo who brought the world Independence Day and will soon unleash Godzilla, will produce the "third Thunderball." Sony has said that it hopes to have the film out as early as 1999, but the expected drawn-out court battle with M-G-M could mean major delays. No word from Connery's camp, although a "well-connected agent" tells the mag that Connery's return as 007 is "real . . . it's happening."


A Pending Lawsuit

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Two Hollywood studios are at war over the lucrative James Bond movie franchise.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Monday filed a $25 million lawsuit in federal court against Sony Pictures, charging that Sony's efforts to mount a rival Bond film are due to "a disgruntled former executive of (MGM's) United Artists Pictures."

The suit also names that executive, John Calley, the former UA president who is now Sony's motion picture head.

"This case is about the specious efforts of a global media empire and a disgruntled former executive of United Artists Pictures Inc. to lay claim to the most successful and enduring motion picture franchise in history," MGM's lawyers wrote in the complaint.

Joining MGM in the suit to stop Sony's 007 production plans is Danjaq Ltd., the company originally formed by late producer Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in 1962 to produce Bond films. Eon, the successor company to Danjaq, is run by Broccoli's daughter Barbara and stepson Michael Wilson, and is now partnered with MGM.

The suit charges Sony with attempting to abscond with Bond character and film property rights representing three decades of creative and financial investment by Danjaq and MGM.

"They've created a cloud over our 34-year-old James Bond franchise," said attorney Pierce O'Donnell, of the firm O'Donnell & Shaeffer, which MGM has hired to spearhead its legal battles with Sony.

MGM's initial goal is to halt Sony's Bond production efforts, O'Donnell said. "Assessment of financial damages comes next. If in the process we find that we've been damaged, we're going to take them to a jury trial," he said.

The suit also names Kevin McClory, an early collaborator on a film project with Bond author Ian Fleming, who has maintained rights to Fleming's novel "Thunderball" and who produced two Bond pictures based on the book.

Neither Sony nor Calley commented on the suit. McClory was also unavailable for comment.

O'Donnell told Daily Variety that the $25 million in damages are charged in connection with MGM's recent initial public stock offering.

"They calculated the timing to inflict maximum injury to MGM," said O'Donnell.

He stopped short of saying that Sony's Oct. 13 announcement of its rival Bond project did in fact cause the IPO's less-than-robust acceptance on Wall Street last week, but did not rule it out.

"We are studying that," he said. "We may decide it's more than $25 million," O'Donnell said.

The value of promotional tie-ins and other marketing deals connected with the Bond property could be compromised by Sony's moves, according to MGM's legal team, which added that marketing partners have already committed more than $100 million to the campaign for the upcoming "Tomorrow Never Dies," said MGM senior executive VP and general counsel David Johnson.

The MGM suit attacks McClory's -- and Sony's -- claims of ownership of Bond properties stemming from the Fleming novel "Thunderball," which McClory produced for the screen in 1965, and remade in 1983 under the title "Never Say Never Again." Both starred Sean Connery.

"Although Fleming granted McClory his interest in the copyright in certain preliminary script materials, Fleming did not, and could not, grant McClory the right to use the character James Bond and his pseudonym '007' in non-'Thunderball' films," according to MGM's suit.

MGM also claims that a 28-year U.S. copyright term on Fleming's work had expired and that a renewal of those rights Oct. 30 brought all of Fleming's U.S. copyrights -- including Thunderball-- under the MGM/Danjaq banner.

"They are out of the James Bond business," said O'Donnell of Sony and McClory. "I don't think they can make a martini that's shaken, not stirred."

But MGM is leveling its most personal charges -- theft of trade secrets -- against Calley, who as former UA production president was intimately involved in the reinvigoration of the Bond franchise with the successful 1995 film "Goldeneye."

"During his tenure at United Artists Pictures, Calley acquired highly valuable proprietary information about the optimal ways to develop and exploit the franchise and bring it into the 21st Century," MGM said in its complaint.

Sony and Columbia induced Calley, the suit alleges, "to misappropriate this highly confidential information, which they are now using to, and intend to continue to use, to compete unfairly with the James Bond motion picture franchise which Danjaq and MGM have carefully developed and nurtured through decades by their own skill and effort."


Sony's official press announcement--October 13, 1997

CULVER CITY, Calif., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Columbia Pictures, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company (SPE), today announced a new association with producer/director Kevin McClory and his company Spectre Associates Inc. to make a series of new James Bond feature films. These movies will be based on original works created by McClory, James Bond novelist Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham.
Warhead 2000 Mock Poster 2
Warhead 2000 AD Mock Poster
Created in 1997

A protege of legendary filmmaker John Huston, Irishman McClory worked for Huston on AFRICAN QUEEN, MOULIN ROUGE, BEAT THE DEVIL and MOBY DICK. McClory was Michael Todd's assistant and was a director on Todd's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, which garnered six Academy Awards including Best Picture for 1956.

The first new Bond film, to be produced by McClory, is expected to be released in 1999. McClory produced the James Bond films THUNDERBALL in 1965 and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN in 1983 and was co-author of the original story on which these films were based.

"I had several choices of studios with whom to work," says McClory, "but Sony Pictures and Columbia stood head and shoulders above the other studios in experience, unique production facilities, digital special effects and global distribution abilities. Plus, this is a great opportunity to join old friends John Calley, Gareth Wigan (co-vice chair, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group) and Amy Pascal (president, Columbia Pictures) in propelling James Bond into the 21st century."

Sony Pictures Entertainment President and Chief Operating Officer John Calley said, "The new James Bond films emphasize our commitment to create motion picture franchises that serve as tentpoles for our release schedule and create business opportunities throughout the Sony family. We are especially grateful to Gareth Wigan for his perseverance in creating this opportunity."

Over the past few years, SPE has developed such emerging franchise films as BAD BOYS, JUMANJI and MEN IN BLACK and is building on that momentum with upcoming features such as STARSHIP TROOPERS, MASK OF ZORRO, GODZILLA and CHARLIE'S ANGELS.

Gareth Wigan said, "We have known Kevin for some time and are pleased to join with him in giving James Bond a new home at Sony Pictures."

Sony Pictures' global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home video acquisition and distribution, operation of studio facilities, development of new entertainment products, services and technologies and distribution of filmed entertainment in 67 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.spe.sony.com


[1958-1965]
1958-1965
[1966-2001]
1966-2001
[Warhead 2000 AD]
Warhead 2000 AD News
[Court Dockett]
2001 Court Docket PDF
[Discuss]
Discuss
[Thunderball]
Thunderball
[Never Say Never Again]
Never Say Never Again