BOND: 10 Things You Might Not Know About CASINO ROYALE (1967) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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BOND: 10 Things You Might Not Know About CASINO ROYALE (1967)

Geek Dave has a very low threshold of death.

1. The story of the 1967 production of Casino Royale predates the first "official" James Bond movie, Dr. No, by seven years.

In March 1955 Ian Fleming sold the film rights of his novel Casino Royale, the first book featuring the character of James Bond, to the producer Gregory Ratoff for $6,000. The following year, Ratoff set up a production company with Michael Garrison to produce a film adaptation, but wound up not finding financial backers before his death in December 1960. After his death, the producer Charles K. Feldman represented Ratoff's widow and obtained the Casino Royale rights.

Albert R. Broccoli, who had a long time interest in adapting James Bond, offered to purchase the Casino Royale rights from Feldman, but he declined. (Broccoli, and co-producer Harry Slatzman, then initially turned their attention to acquiring the rights for Thunderball, as we discussed here, before settling on Dr.No). Feldman passed on the offer as his friend, the director Howard Hawks, had an interest in adapting Casino Royale himself. The pair considered Leigh Brackett as a writer and the English-born, American actor Cary Grant as James Bond.

They eventually gave up once they saw the 1962 film Dr. No, the first Bond adaptation made by Broccoli and his partner Harry Saltzman through their company Eon Productions.

2. By 1964 Feldman had invested nearly $550,000 of his own money into pre-production of Casino Royale. Around this time he even went as far as approaching Sean Connery directly to ask him to play Bond (which would surely have been a breach of Connery's contract with EON), but rejected Connery's offer to do the film for one million dollars.

Unperturbed, Feldman decided to go back to Albert R. Broccoli and try to make a deal with Eon Productions and its distributor United Artists. Serious talks took place but the attempt at a co-production eventually fell through as Feldman frequently argued with Broccoli and Saltzman, especially regarding the profit divisions and when the Casino Royale adaptation would start production.

Finally, Feldman decided to make his film a spoof of the Bond series instead of a straightforward adaptation. He offered his project to Columbia Pictures, with a script written by Ben Hecht, and the studio accepted.

3. Sadly, virtually nothing from Hecht's scripts was ever filmed. He died from a heart attack in April 1964, two days before he was due to present the completed manuscript to Feldman. A draft from 1957 discovered in Hecht's papers is a direct adaptation of the novel, albeit with the Bond character absent, instead being replaced by a poker-playing American gangster.

Time reported in 1966 that the script had been completely re-written by Billy Wilder, and by the time the film reached production only the Hecht's idea that the name James Bond should be given to a number of other agents remained. This key plot device, in the case of Hecht's version, occurs after the demise of the original James Bond, an event which happened prior to the beginning of the story.

4. 57 year old David Niven was cast as Sir James Bond, the legendary British secret agent forced out of retirement to fight SMERSH. Niven had been Bond creator Ian Fleming's choice of preference to play Bond in Dr. No, so Feldman, assuming that Fleming had always written the character of Bond with Niven in mind, sent a copy of Hecht's earlier script to Niven who gamely took the role.

Incidentally, Niven was the only James Bond actor mentioned by name in the text of a Fleming novel. In chapter 14 of You Only Live Twice, the pearl diver Kissy Suzuki refers to Niven as "the only man she liked in Hollywood", and the only person who "treated her honourably" there.

5. Once filming got underway, the budget began to escalate and the production proved to be rather troubled. The studio approved the film's production budget of $6 million, already quite large in 1966. However, during filming the project ran into several problems and the shoot ran months over schedule, with the costs also running well over. The final production budget doubled to $12 million, making Casino Royalet one of the most expensive films that had been made to that point. The previous Eon Bond film, Thunderball, had a budget of $11 million while the soon-to-be-released contemporary You Only Live Twice, had a budget of $9.5 million.

Actors expressed dissatisfaction with the project. Five different directors helmed different segments of the film, with stunt co-ordinator Richard Talmadge co-directing the final sequence. Various writers got involved in the production, with members of the cast, including Woody Allen and Peter Sellers, also contributing to the screenplay and hiring additional writers to provide their own dialogue. In the case of Sellers, he hired Terry Southern, in an attempt to "outshine" Orson Welles and Woody Allen.

Some biographies of Sellers suggest that he took the role of Bond to heart, and was annoyed at the decision to make Casino Royale a comedy, as he wanted to play Bond straight. This is illustrated in somewhat fictionalised form in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, based on the biography by Roger Lewis, who has claimed that Sellers kept re-writing and improvising scenes to make them play seriously. This story is in agreement with the observation that the only parts of the film close to the book are the ones featuring Sellers and Welles

6. Talking of Sellers and Welles, much of the behind-the-scenes drama of this film's production concerned the filming of the segments involving them both, Sellers especially. Screenwriter Wolf Mankowitz declared that Sellers felt intimidated by Orson Welles to the extent that, except for a couple of shots, neither was in the studio simultaneously. Other versions of the legend depict the drama stemming from Sellers being slighted, in favour of Welles, by Princess Margaret (whom Sellers knew) during her visit to the set. Welles also insisted on performing magic tricks as Le Chiffre, and the director obliged to Sellers disgust.

One of the directors Val Guest wrote that Welles did not think much of Sellers, and reached a point where he refused to work with "that amateur". Another director Joseph McGrath, a personal friend of Sellers, was allegedly punched by the actor when he complained about Sellers' behavior on the set. After an initial attempt (as depicted above) with the pair of them together was cut short due to them both storming off set, most of the filming of the scene where Sellers and Welles face each other across a gaming table actually ended up taking place on different days with a double standing in for the other actor.

Eventually, Peter Sellers became such a problem during the filming that the decision was made to fire him before he had finished all of his scenes. As a result, the end of the marching band torture scene was noticeably altered and Sellers' subsequent scenes were written out.

7. Casino Royale marks the debut of David Prowse, later the physical form of Darth Vader in the Star Wars series, as Frankenstein's monster (a role he would later play again in the Hammer films The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell).

At the Intercon science fiction convention held in Slough in 1978, Prowse commented on his part in this film and claimed that he was originally asked to play "Super Pooh", a giant Winnie-the-Pooh in a superhero costume who attacks Tremble during the Torture of The Mind sequence. This idea, as with many others in the film's script, was dropped during production.

8. Casino Royale also proved to be young Anjelica Huston's first experience in the film industry as she was called upon by her father, John Huston, to cover the screen shots of Deborah Kerr's hands.

9. Casino Royale takes credit for the greatest number of actors in a Bond film either to have appeared or to go on to appear in the rest of the official Eon series.

Deep breath - Besides Ursula Andress in Dr. No, Vladek Sheybal appeared as Kronsteen in From Russia with Love, Burt Kwouk featured as Mr. Ling in Goldfinger and an unnamed SPECTRE operative in You Only Live Twice, Jeanne Roland plays a masseuse in You Only Live Twice, and Angela Scoular appeared as Ruby Bartlett in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Jack Gwillim, who had a tiny role as a British army officer, played a Royal Navy officer in Thunderball. Caroline Munro, who can be seen very briefly as one of Dr Noah's gun-toting guards, received the role of Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me. Milton Reid, who appears in a bit part as the temple guard, opening the door to Mata Bond's hall, played one of Dr. No's guards and Stromberg's underling, Sandor, in The Spy Who Loved Me. John Hollis, who plays the temple priest in Mata Bond's hall, went on to play the unnamed figure clearly intended to be Blofeld in the pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only. John Wells, Q's assistant, appeared in For Your Eyes Only as Denis Thatcher. Hal Galili, who appears briefly as a US army officer at the auction, had earlier played gangster Jack Strap in Goldfinger.

10. Casino Royale was released on 13th April 1967, two months prior to Eon's fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. Critical reception was generally negative; some critics regarded it as a baffling, disorganised affair. Despite this the film was a financial success, grossing over $41.7 million worldwide, and Burt Bacharach's musical score was praised, earning him an Academy Award nomination for the song "The Look of Love".

Peter Sellers reaped the rewards, as even though he was fired from the film prematurely he had negotiated an extraordinary 3% of the gross profits. To this day proceeds still go his estate.

When box-office receipts are adjusted for inflation, Casino Royale has earned $313 million (as of 2018), making it the twentieth-largest grossing of all the Bond films.

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