1. Released in 1983, to coincide with James Bond's 20th anniversary on the big screen, the story of Never Say Never Again is one that begins way, way back in the early 1960s.
During our 10 Things You Might Not Know About Thunderball article we detailed the background behind Kevin McClory's involvement with Ian Fleming and the character of James Bond.
Basically, before Eon Productions started work on the Bond series of films, Fleming had worked with Kevin McClory and scriptwriter Jack Whittingham on a script for a potential Bond movie, to be called Longitude 78 West, which was subsequently abandoned because of the costs involved. Fleming, "always reluctant to let a good idea lie idle", turned this into the novel Thunderball, for which he did not credit either McClory or Whittingham. McClory subsequently took Fleming to the High Court in London for breach of copyright and the matter was settled in 1963.
At this juncture, McClory retained screen-rights to the Thunderball novel and characters featured within. He first planned his own Bond movie in 1964, after the success of Dr. No had shown there was a market for the secret agent. McClory approached Richard Burton to play Bond, but the project came to nothing as Eon Productions made a deal with McClory. He would produce Thunderball as an 'official' Bond film with them, and then not make any further version of the novel for a period of ten years following the release of the Eon-produced version in 1965.
True to the words of the deal, McClory would wait until 1975 to resume work on what would, eight years later, be the independently produced 'unofficial' James Bond film.
2. McClory's project now had the working title Warhead. Even at this early stage he brought in Sean Connery, but not to star in the film! It had only been four years since he had completed work on Diamonds Are Forever and stated he would "never again" play the character of Bond (a quote that would inspire the film's eventual title). Together with writer Len Deighton, Connery's involvement was limited (by himself) to working on the script.
A number of actors were mentioned in the trade press, including Orson Welles for the part of Blofeld, Trevor Howard to play M and Richard Attenborough as director. Of course, the papers all touted Connery for a return to Bond, but the Scot would later clarify that...
"When I first worked on the script with Len I had no thought of actually being in the film"McClory had actually considered hiring another ex-Bond, George Lazenby, but before he did the project ran into difficulties after accusations from Eon Productions that it had gone beyond copyright restrictions, which confined McClory to a film based solely on the Thunderball novel only. It seemed, for now, that the project was on indefinite hold.
3. Except it wasn't! Because in 1978 developments on the project began to be reported again. Now the working title for the production was James Bond of the Secret Service, and there was an eye to releasing it to compete with 1979's Moonraker. Legal issues hampered it again, but when producer Jack Schwartzman eventually became involved in 1981 he cleared a number of these issues, brought on board scriptwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. to work on a new screenplay, and set about trying to convince Sean Connery to play Bond one final time.
Connery agreed, asking (and getting) a fee of $3 million, (that's $7 million in 2017 dollars) a percentage of the profits, as well as casting and script approval.
4. Connery dove straight into the project. He was unhappy with some aspects of the screenply and asked Tom Mankiewicz, who had rewritten Diamonds Are Forever, to work on the script; however, Mankiewicz declined as he felt he was under a moral obligation to Cubby Broccoli and Eon Productions.
Connery then hired British television writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (famous for many British sitcoms including Porridge, and The Likely Lads) to undertake re-writes, although they eventually went uncredited for their efforts because of a restriction by the Writers Guild of America.
5. Micheline Connery, Sean's wife, was responsible for two key things in the production. Fistly, she had met up-and-coming actress Kim Basinger at a hotel in London and suggested her to Connery for a part in the film, which he agreed upon. Secondly, Micheline suggested the title Never Say Never Again, referring to her husband's vow after filming Diamonds Are Forever. The producers acknowledged her contribution by listing on the end credits "Title "Never Say Never Again" by: Micheline Connery".
6. During pre-production Sean Connery wrist was broken by the film's fight choreographer whilst the pair were rehearsing. The choreographer was an up-and-coming martial artist Steven Seagal (yes, that Steven Seagal).
“A number of years ago with a guy who’s become very successful, Steve Seagal. We were going to do a film called Never Say Never Again and there was a possibility I was going to Aikido and what have you. And I got ahold of Steven and we had this training in the building where I had an apartment and he was really very very good and everything and I got a little cocky because I thought I knew what I was doing because the principle is it’s defense, so it’s a pyramid and I got a bit flash and I did that,” he says, gesturing at Leno. “And he broke my wrist.”7 .Many of the elements of the Eon-produced Bond films were not present in Never Say Never Again, mainly for legal reasons. These included the gun barrel sequence, where a screen full of 007 symbols appeared instead, and similarly there was no "James Bond Theme" to use, although no effort was made to supply another tune. A pre-credits sequence was filmed but not used, and a title song was also recorded but replaced at the last minute.
Stephen Forsyth and Jim Ryan wrote the song which was also called Never Say Never Again. It was sung by Phyllis Hyman and Warner Brothers intended it to be the film's title song during the making of the movie, but the film's composer Michel Legrand allegedly maintained that he had contractual rights over the title song and considered suing. Consequently, the Ryan-Forsyth track reportedly had to be jettisoned by the studio just before the release of the movie due to legal reasons.
8. It is rumored that Sean Connery had an alternate ending to the "wink" in mind. As the characters walk down the street, a man brushes by them, causing them to double-take and look back at him. The camera angle shifts, and we see that it is Roger Moore, who turns to look at them and says "NEVER say never again!". Roger Moore and Sean Connery were good friends, and both were apparently willing to do it, but Moore was contractually not able to.
9. After the release of Never Say Never Again, Kevin McClory intended to follow it up with multiple Bond projects, aiming to launch his own series of films. As this advert from the February 1984 edition of Screen Daily suggests...
...Hmmm, good title for a Bond film, that!
10. Obviously nothing came of McClory's planned series of Bond films, but he did have another attempt at resurrecting the original 1975 Warhead script, as he revealed in 1996...
"I'm back in the Bond business because I have a couple of films I want to direct and Bond can provide the finance. I didn't want to make another Bond film, but now that I've come this far, I'm enjoying it immensely. The film will be called Warhead 2000 and an actor has been chosen to play Bond. But we won't announce it yet to keep the competition in the dark. No, it's not Sean Connery. He's too old for the part now. But he has said he would play the villain in a James Bond film if the price was right."Like many of McClory's projects it ended up in court, eventually being abandoned in 1999, but not before yet another ex-Bond was heavily linked with the starring roll. This time it was Timothy Dalton.
James Bond will return in 10 things you might not know about A View To A Kill.
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