Kevin O’Donovan McClory was an Irish screenwriter, producer, and director. McClory was best known for adapting Ian Fleming’s James Bond character for the screen, for producing Thunderball, and for his legal battles with Fleming (later United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions).
Kevin McClory´s 007 production:
- Thunderball (1965)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Thunderball (1965) – Man smoking at Nassau Casino (uncredited)
James Bond: 1965, 1983
Bryce was a close friend of Ian Fleming. In 1958 Fleming approached McClory to produce the first Bond film. McClory rejected all of Fleming’s books but felt that the character James Bond could be adapted for the screen. McClory, Bryce, Fleming and Jack Whittingham developed the new James Bond character through a number of treatments and screenplays. McClory, Fleming and Bryce settled on the screenplay Longitude 78 West (later renamed Thunderball) and went into pre-production. Fleming had assigned his interest in the film to McClory and Bryce’s company Xanadu and would make no more money from the project. He conspired with Bryce to force McClory out of the film, denying that McClory had any legal interest in the screenplays and treatments that had been written during their collaboration. Later and without permission, Fleming novelised the draft screenplay Thunderball, his ninth novel, in 1961, which initially did not credit McClory or Whittingham. The two sued, and the case opened to the High Court in London on 20 November 1963.
After nine days, the case was settled. Fleming paid McClory damages of £35,000 and his court costs of £52,000, and future versions of the novel were credited as “based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming” – in that order. Fleming and Bryce conveyed to McClory any rights they held in the screenplays and treatments that McClory, Whittingham and Fleming had written during their collaboration. Fleming also conveyed to McClory the worldwide film rights in the novel Thunderball. Harry Saltzman’s and Albert R. Broccoli’s production company Eon Productions later made a deal with McClory for Thunderball to be made into a film in 1965, with McClory producing. Under the deal, Eon licensed McClory’s rights for a period of ten years and in return they assigned to McClory any rights they had in the scripts and treatments. McClory made an uncredited cameo in the film.
In 1976, McClory announced he was to produce an original James Bond film to be titled either Warhead, Warhead 8, or James Bond of the Secret Service, but the project was severely hampered as a result of legal action brought by the Fleming Trustees and United Artists. McClory won the case. The Trustees and United Artists appealed to the Supreme Court of Judictature The Senior Courts of England and Wales but again they lost to McClory. Lord Justices Waller, Fox and May affirmed McClory’s right to make James Bond films and enjoined the Plaintiffs from taking similar legal action against McClory in the future. McClory went on to licence his rights to Jack Schwartzman. The resulting film titled Never Say Never Again starred Sean Connery as Agent 007 in a highly publicized return to the role after a 12-year absence.
In 1989, McClory attempted to recycle the Warhead script again, retitling the project Atomic Warfare. He approached Pierce Brosnan who had missed out on the role of James Bond to Timothy Dalton due to his contract with NBC’s Remington Steele.
McClory subsequently continued to try to make other adaptations of Thunderball, including Warhead 2000 A.D. which was to be made by Sony. MGM/UA took legal action against Sony and McClory in the United States to prevent the film going into production. MGM/UA abandoned the claim after settling with Sony. McClory’s rights were untouched. In 2004 Sony acquired 20% of MGM; however, the production and final say over everything involving the film version of James Bond is controlled by Eon Productions, Albert R. Broccoli’s production company and its parent company Danjaq, LLC. Prior to Sony’s settlement with MGM in 1999, they filed a lawsuit against MGM claiming McClory was the co-author of the cinematic 007 and was owed fees from Danjaq and MGM for all past films. This lawsuit was thrown out in 2000 on the ground that McClory had waited too long to bring his claims. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed this decision in 2001.
On November 15, 2013 MGM and Danjaq, LLC announced they had acquired all rights and interests of McClory’s estate. MGM, Danjaq and the McClory estate issued a statement saying that they had brought to an “amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years.”
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