Kevin McClory was a bit of a ‘jack-the-lad’ with the ladies. Such was his
playboy reputation, that while working on Around the World in 80 Days
other crew members used to call him ‘around the girls in 80 ways.’ McClory
even introduced Elizabeth Taylor to film entrepreneur Mike Todd, with whom
she was later married until his untimely death in a plane crash in 1958.
McClory was also romantically linked with Shirley MacLaine and briefly
toyed with the notion of casting the actress as Domino in Thunderball.
Every Bond reader knows that David Niven, Trevor Howard and Cary Grant
were early candidates to play James Bond but my research has uncovered a
few hitherto unknown names that were considered first - notable among them
Richard Burton. What’s even more interesting is that Burton was Fleming’s
choice. In a letter dated 11 August 1959 to close friend Ivar Bryce
Fleming wrote that, “Richard Burton would be by far the best James
Bond!” It’s a fascinating suggestion, and possibly the first recorded
statement by Fleming about who should play his hero.
The choice of Burton would most certainly have radically changed cinema
history. It’s likely that the Welshman would have missed his role as Marc
Anthony in 1963’s Cleopatra and thus never have fallen in love with
his co-star Elizabeth Taylor. And Sean Connery would have lost his
opportunity for world stardom!
McClory at this point favoured Trevor Howard and met the actor at least
twice to discuss it, in July and October 1959. Fleming disagreed with him
saying that Howard, at 43, was too old and that someone in his early 30s
was required. Fleming now suggested Peter Finch. When reminded by McClory
that Finch was actually only a year younger than Howard, Fleming wrote
back, “I would be happier if the part could be given to a young unknown
actor, with established stars playing the other roles.”
As production of the film loomed ever closer two new fascinating names
entered the frame, both never before linked to the Bond role. Dirk Bogarde
was briefly considered by McClory (his fee £30,000), but the producer was
also interested in fellow Irishman Richard Harris. Just embarking upon
what was to become a highly successful film career, Harris was interviewed
for the Bond role personally by McClory in November 1959. What a Bond
Harris would have been, and a definite foretaste of what Daniel Craig has
done with the role.
For years the name of Alfred Hitchcock has been linked to the Bond legend
by a number of writers, and Bond fans have long debated the dream notion
of Hitchcock directing a 007 film. Finally my book reveals the first
documented proof that not only was Hitchcock sought to direct the first
Bond movie, but he was the preferred choice of Fleming himself.
Both men knew each other slightly; “Hitchcock has always been
interested in the Bond saga,” Fleming wrote to Ivar Bryce. In the end
Fleming sent a cable to the director personally asking if he would direct
Thunderball. When Hitchcock responded positively Fleming
immediately wrote to Bryce. “Hitchcock is in search of a vehicle,
particularly for James Stewart but, whether our story would suit Stewart
or not, he is definitely interested and wants to see (a script).”
Stewart was a regular star for Hitchcock who’d used him already in four
movies, notably Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958).
“Of course James Stewart is the toppest of stars.” Fleming continued, “And
personally I wouldn’t at all mind him as Bond if he can slightly anglicise
his accent. If we got him and Hitchcock we really would be off to the
races. Cross all your fingers.”
Was Fleming mad? Can you imagine James Stewart in a tuxedo rogering the
hell out of a conveyor belt of Euro-totty and saying, ‘my name is B, B,
Booooond, J, J, J James Booooooooooond.”
In contrast to Fleming’s bursting enthusiasm for Hitchcock, Bryce soon
went cold on the idea, fearing the director would take over the whole
thing, lock, stock and barrel. “Also I shudder at lackadaisical Stewart
portraying dynamic Bond.” Here Bryce displays more sense than Fleming!
Ultimately Hitchcock passed on the opportunity of making Thunderball,
turning his back on big budget productions to make a small black and white
movie that changed cinema forever, one that might never have been made if
Hitch had said yes to 007 – Psycho.