50 Year Old JAMES BOND Copyright Issues Resolved And What It Means For 007

battle-for-bond

Everything Or Nothing, the documentary covering the cinematic history of James Bond is a nice watch with great anecdotes, but it feels a little slight. It’s safe and sanitised and it skims over the darker periods of James Bond’s big screen reign. It comes across as more of a great DVD special feature than a documentary in its own right. The biggest omission (or the least in-depth) is the tense and litigious relationship between Ian Fleming, the Broccoli family and the late Kevin McClory (well documented in Robert Sellers’ book The Battle For Bond). Now, after 50 years the convoluted copyright issues at the centre of this have finally been resolved.

Before James Bond was even a twinkle in Sean Connery’s eye, Ian Fleming joined forces with Irish producer Kevin Mc Clory and writer Jack Whitingham to create a big-screen Bond adventure. The film was never produced and Fleming went on to use this script as the basis for his novel Thunderball. Mc Clory sued Fleming, winning the rights to the story and partial rights to certain James Bond elements –the iconic villain Blofeld is one of these. The Broccoli family (along with Harry Saltzman) negotiated with Mc Clory to bring Thunderball to the screen and the result was a massive hit – grossing $63 million at the US box office back in 1965 – more than $600 million in today’s money.

McClory retained the remake rights meaning that he was (potentially) able to tell the Thunderball story in perpetuity. In 1982 he produced Never Say Never Again, which saw Connery return to the role of Bond (Connery also had a gripe with the Broccoli’s over his Bond salary). The film faced-off against Octopussy – both were hits, but the Roger Moore adventure won the box office battle. McClory tried to remake the movie again with Connery and then with Timothy Dalton during the Pierce Brosnan era with a script titled Warhead 2000 A.D. He failed, but his last attempt saw him team with the might of Columbia Pictures and there was a moment when it looked like there could potentially be two James Bond franchises running concurrently. In the end common sense prevailed and Columbia backed-off after MGM gave them their rights to Spider-Man (at that time the web-slinger was languishing in development hell).

Mc Clory passed away in 2006 at the age of 80 and now his estate has reached an agreement with MGM and Danjaq (the Bond rights owners). The estate’s representative, William K. Kane said:

“We were pleased to represent the estate of Kevin Mc Clory in bringing to resolution this lengthy and contentious copyright dispute over the James Bond franchise. The 50-year intellectual property row involving James Bond was settled because of a great deal of hard work by the attorneys for the estate of Kevin Mc Clory, MGM, and Danjaq and will benefit James Bond film fans throughout the world.”

This now means Daniel Craig’s James Bond can now face-off against Blofeld, his nemesis who hasn’t been in an official Bond film since 1971 (a nameless version of the character appears in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only). Skyfall ended with the Bond franchise retuned to zero, the potential for a whole new mythology which could use the original films in the series as a template. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace have implied a larger, more villainous force behind their dastardly plots, so now we have the potential for Blofeld to return. It remains to be seen if he’ll be the bald, beige suited pussy-stroker that we’ve seen before, or if the Austin Powers movies will lead him to having a makeover. The latter is more likely – but I’m sure that we’ll find out soon enough. It’s unlikely that the character will appear in the 24th James Bond film (currently in development) but it’s safe to assume that Blofeld will return.