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The Battle For Bond: The Genesis of Cinema's Greatest Hero by ROBERT SELLERS


007 MAGAZINE exclusively presents extracts from the upcoming book, Battle For Bond: The Genesis of Cinema's Greatest Hero

“Having read Robert Sellers’ manuscript, The Battle For Bond will undoubtedly become the most important book ever published about the evolution of Ian Fleming’s James Bond from Fifties’ literary sensation to Sixties’ cinematic icon. With many unpublished facts and information drawn firsthand from correspondence between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory, and the other protagonists involved at the inception of Agent 007 becoming a screen hero, Sellers’ book is a ‘must read’ for anyone who considers themselves either a Bond aficionado or a serious student of the history of cinema.”
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Battle for Bond: The Genesis of Cinema's Greatest Hero


"The seemingly endless legal battles that Kevin McClory waged against the James Bond producers split the film world, and the publishing world, into two camps. Bitter arguments, unscrupulous bids for credits and recognition, as well as buckets of money, poisoned lifelong friendships and fostered strange and unlikely alliances. No one had the complete story but everyone had an unshakeable opinion. I knew most of the leading players in this sad drama and this book recalled many memories best forgot. Anyone with a desire to go into the entertainment world should read this exciting, gripping but in the end, melancholy story: it should be enough to change their mind forever."

LEN DEIGHTON (author of The Ipcress File, and creator of the Harry Palmer film series)

Thunderball isn’t just the best Bond movie ever made, it’s my favourite film of all time; sad I know, but there you go. For me it epitomizes all the best elements of the Bond series – exotic locations, casinos, violent action, sultry women, epic set pieces, sharp witty dialogue, outlandish gadgets and Connery’s on peak form as Bond.

Not surprisingly I’ve always wanted to write a book on Thunderball but the journalist in me wanted something more than just an obvious ‘making of’. Then one day I found it. While surfing the net I came across a website run by Sylvan Mason, the daughter of Jack Whittingham, who wrote the first complete James Bond screenplay – Thunderball. I phoned her hoping she might wish to talk about her famous father. As I was later to happily discover, Sylvan is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met and was only too willing to help all she could. That offer would lead to one of the most significant discoveries in Bond history.

Sylvan had already told me that she had all her father’s private documents, including the three draft versions he’d completed of the Thunderball screenplay, but there was more, much more. When I arrived at Sylvan’s house, on the floor of her lounge laid several brown cardboard boxes bound by red ribbon which she’d brought in just for the occasion from safe storage elsewhere. Inside were all the documents relating to the infamous 1963 THUNDERBALL court case. These were the actual papers used by the prosecution in the trial and had remained unopened since then. Kevin McClory’s key lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck had taken charge of them and just before his death passed them on to Sylvan’s safe keeping. Now here we were opening them for the first time in over 40 years. What secrets would they reveal? What treasures would be uncovered?

Most of what you can read in my book Battle for Bond derives from what we found in those age-stained boxes. Inside were hundreds of private letters written by the main protagonists in the Thunderball story – Fleming, McClory, Ivar Bryce and others. There was Fleming’s court statement and also McClory’s, which ran for almost a hundred pages. There were Fleming’s two attempts at a Bond screenplay, written before Jack Whittingham took over the writing reins and so much else besides, all revealing hitherto unknown truths about this most controversial slice of Bond history.

What follows are a few tantalizing facts from the book, much of which you may never have read or heard before.

A Triumphant Kevin McClory (far right) leaves court accompanied by his wife Bobo Sigrist, Screenwriter Jack Whittingham and actor Peter O'Toole

1: The idea for Thunderball really grew out of Kevin McClory’s ambition to make the ultimate underwater movie. In December 1957 he collaborated with John Steinbeck, the celebrated American author of The Grapes of Wrath, on a screenplay about treasure hunters in modern-day Bahamas. Alas, that project faded away.

When McClory teamed up with Ian Fleming to bring James Bond to the screen for the first time early in 1959 he ditched the idea of filming one of the existing novels (Fleming had suggested that either DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER or LIVE AND LET DIE would make suitable films), instead opting to create a totally new Bond scenario. McClory suggested to Fleming that Bond was a character that would perfectly fit in with his dream to make an underwater picture amidst the opulent setting of the Bahamas.

Famously it was Ernest Cuneo, Fleming’s American friend, who came up with the earliest storyline for what eventually became Thunderball. Fleming liked it but criticised the lack of a heroine for his hero to dally with romantically, so suggested a new character, a beautiful double agent under M’s control, her name – Fatima Blush. It’s from her that Bond learns details of the spy plot. In the underwater battle finale Fatima would be on the enemy side and Fleming wrote: “Her appearance in tight-fitting black rubber suiting will make the audiences swoon.” After the underwater skirmish, Fleming continued, “The curtain goes down as Bond and Fatima kiss through their snorkels. My imagination has slightly run riot over this last scene but you see the point.”

After this memo neither the name nor the character of Fatima Blush reappeared in any of the subsequent treatments or screenplays relating to Thunderball, nor in the novel or the 1965 film. Fleming too never reused it. But it was too good a name to ignore and McClory resurrected it for the black widow SPECTRE assassin played by Barbara Carrera in Never Say Never Again in 1983, thus becoming one of the few bona-fide Fleming contributions in the film.


© Robert Sellers, 2007. All rights reserved.


** UPDATE** The Battles For Bond Rages On! An exclusive statement from author Robert Sellers