1. Thunderball was originally going to be the first official James Bond film produced, but this was not possible because it was at the centre of legal disputes which had begun in 1961 after Ian Fleming published his novel based upon a television screenplay that he, and others, had developed into an early film screenplay. Consequently, one of his collaborators, Kevin McClory, sued him for plagiarism. Two years later the case was settled out of court, with McClory retaining certain screen rights to the novel's story, plot, and characters.
By then, James Bond was a box office success, and series producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman feared that McClory would produce a rival Bond film, so they agreed to give McClory a producer's credit for a cinematic Thunderball, under the condition that he may not make any further version of the novel for a period of ten years following the release.
2. The fourth Bond movie was promoted as "Ian Fleming's Thunderball". Yet, along with the official credits to screenwriters Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, the screenplay is also identified as based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham, and as based on the original story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming.
3. Goldfinger director, Guy Hamilton was invited back to helm Thunderball, but he declined as the previous Bond film had taken its toll on him.
"I was drained of ideas, I was very fond of Bond, but felt that I had nothing to contribute until I’d recharged batteries."Producers then turned to Terence Young, the man who had directed the first two Bond movies and been so vital in shaping the franchise and guiding Connery in the role of 007. Back in those early planning stages for bringing Bond to the screen, Young had earmarked three Fleming novels that he felt were best suited for cinematic adaptation. They were Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball, and they ended up being the three films Young directed.
4. The Bell Rocket Belt used in Thunderball was a real working jetpack, but there were only two pilots fully qualified and insured to operate it. One of them, Bill Suitor, who doubled for Bond and flew the jetpack on camera, was initially asked if he would mind flying without a helmet so that 007 could look cooler. Suitor refused for safety reasons, which is why Connery ended up wearing a helmet in the final film.
5. Another 'not cool' moment, albeit of a different kind, occurred during filming of the scenes involving Emilio Largo’s shark-filled pool. Sean Connery was, quite rightly, wary of swimming unprotected with live sharks, so production designer Ken Adam reassured Connery that he would construct an underwater partition made of Plexiglas. Sort of...
"What I didn’t tell Sean was that I could only get so much Plexiglas, so there was a four-foot gap in the partition"Wouldn't you know it, one of the sharks managed to find the gap and swim in! Director Terence Young later said in an interview that the scenes used in the film show Connery's genuine reaction of terror as a shark approached the actor. The Scot escaped the pool with seconds to spare.
6. But that's not the only near catastrophe involving the sharks. To capture the shot in which a shark swims towards Bond as he’s exiting the pool, missing him by inches, it was decided to use a dead shark pulled by wires to reduce the danger. Great idea right? After all, dead shark equals no danger.
Wrong! Very wrong, as special effects coordinator John Stears discovered.
Stears got in the pool to control the shark, the same pool that contained several other live sharks. As Stears began to 'pull' the dead shark it became clear the it wasn’t quite dead! You think maybe someone would've double checked that, right? As the 'dead' shark began moving, other sharks took notice and all swam towards it. A feeding frenzy ensued, with Stears trapped in the middle of a bloodbath.
Thankfully Stears survived, the whole incident was caught on camera, and Stears went on to win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
7. Many actresses were considered for the part of Dominique "Domino" Derval. After seeing her performance in Billy Liar, 'Cubby' Broccoli first approached Julie Christie for the role, but after meeting her personally he was disappointed. Broccoli then turned his attentions towards Raquel Welch after seeing her on the cover of the October 1964 issue of Life magazine, but Welch was already contracted to appear in the film Fantastic Voyage and would not be available.
After that, an extensive list of relatively unknown European actresses and models were auditioned, including former Miss Italy Maria Grazia Buccella, Yvonne Monlaur of the Hammer horror films and Gloria Paul. Faye Dunaway was also considered for the role and came close to signing for the part, before former Miss France Claudine Auger was cast.
8. Composers John Barry and Leslie Bricusse initially wrote a theme tune for Thunderball called Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. The song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey, and later rerecorded by Dionne Warwick (whose version was not released until the 1990s) and it was set to appear in the title credits. However, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that a theme song to a James Bond film would not work well if it did not have the title of the film in its lyrics, so they asked Barry to start over.
Barry then teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote Thunderball, which was sung by Tom Jones who, according to Bond production legend, fainted in the recording booth when singing the song's final note. 'Jones the Voice' had this to say...
"I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning."
9. Produced on a budget of $9 million, which in itself was more than the combined budgets of the previous three Bond films, Thunderball proved a global box office smash. The film ended up earning $141.2 million worldwide! Adjusted for inflation, Thunderball has made approximately $1 billion, making it the second most financially successful Bond film after Skyfall.
10. True to his word (or true to the conditions of his Thunderball contract, rather) McClory first announced his rival Bond production in 1975, ten years after Thunderball's release.
Initially the film went by the name Warhead, and later James Bond Of The Secret Service, however, no matter the title it was always going to be a loose adaptation of Thunderball. McClory had hoped to get Richard Attenborough to direct, and he approached Orson Welles to play Blofeld, but the project ran into difficulties after accusations from Eon Productions that it had gone beyond copyright restrictions, which confined McClory to a film based on the Thunderball novel only. This held the project up for several years, but all the time work still continued on a script. A final attempt by Fleming's trustees to block the film was made in the High Court in London in the spring of 1983, but this was thrown out and the film was permitted to proceed.
Eventually, on October 7th 1983, Never Say Never Again was released, and featured the return of Sean Connery in the role of Bond for the first time in more than a decade. Nearly two decades after Thunderball's debut, Kevin McClory finally made that unofficial Bond film which Broccoli and Saltzman had been concerned about. But EON had the last laugh, as their official production, Octopussy, easily won the 'Battle of the Bonds', grossing over $20 million more.
James Bond will return next Monday in 10 things you might not know about You Only Live Twice.
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