007 MAGAZINE - The World's Foremost James Bond Resource!

Are Forever

50th Anniversary 1971-2021


Diamonds goes gold! Diamonds Are Forever 50th Anniversary 1971-2021

The return of Sean Connery was announced in the press on March 3, 1971 - a month before shooting began in Nevada. The star gave an interview to The Times printed on April 12, 1971 - the day after he left London for Las Vegas, in which he made it very clear that his return to the role of James Bond was a one-off, and financially motivated. Also with an eye on the finances, United Artists hastily initiated a re-release of three of Connery’s James Bond films in the UK paired with Clint Eastwood Westerns. From April 1971 You Only Live Twice would be seen on a double-bill with A Fistful of Dollars (1964); Goldfinger was paired with For A Few Dollars More (1965) from June, and From Russia With Love went out with Hang ‘Em High (1968) [another United Artists distributed film] in November. The posters utilised the tag-line “The One And Only!” - as if to erase the existence of George Lazenby from the public's memory forever. The double-bills were an unusual choice as the ‘X’ certificate Clint Eastwood Westerns excluded cinemagoers under 18 years of age, so many cinemas chose to screen the Bond film with another ‘A’ certificate Western at afternoon performances [usually The Magnificent Seven (1960), or its sequel Return of the Seven (1966)] to allow children to attend unaccompanied by an adult, and thereby maximise their box-office profits.

Charles Gray as Ernst Stavro Blofeld & Jill St. John as Tiffany Case

Whilst the producers were still looking for their new 007, Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) had delivered his first draft of the screenplay, which was closer to Ian Fleming’s original novel. Other drafts were a direct follow-up to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with Bond on a vengeance mission following the murder of his wife Tracy; and another version involved Auric Goldfinger's twin (to be played by Gert Frobe), seeking revenge for the death of his brother! Producer ‘Cubby’ Broccoli suggested a storyline that featured a Howard Hughes-type recluse, after having a dream where he meets his former employer Hughes, only to find he is an imposter. This idea became the Willard Whyte character who has been kidnapped by Blofeld, who has also created clones of himself and taken up residence in Whyte’s hotel penthouse. Also at the suggestion of David Picker, American screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz (1942-2010) was brought in to adapt these elements into a new screenplay that ultimately became the story used in the final film. In an interview with Sheridan Morley for Film Night broadcast on BBC TV on July 31, 1971 whilst filming was underway at Pinewood Studios, Sean Connery said he thought the script was the best they’d had for a Bond film thus far… In the same interview Connery also stated that his return to Bond after four years was to the lack of success of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service without him, and was the reason he was asked to return, which gave him a much better  bargaining position financially rather than being just a pawn in the game, as he had been in the past. This is true to a degree, but OHMSS was far from being a failure, and did little to help its reputation at the time. In reality On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the biggest box-office attraction in the UK in 1970, and ultimately recouped ten times its $8-million budget in worldwide release.

Putter Smith & Bruce Glover as Mr Kidd and Mr Wint

With a budget of $7.2 million Diamonds Are Forever began principal photography on April 5, 1971 with the Nevada Desert standing in for South Africa where Bruce Glover and Putter Smith openly gay as killers Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd filmed the sequence where they kill Dr. Tynan and obtain the diamonds needed for the construction of Blofeld’s satellite. The production then moved to the Circus Circus Hotel in Las Vegas where many of the casino interiors were filmed, before moving out onto the streets on April 12th to begin shooting the night-time car chase. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli’s friendship with Howard Hughes (1905-1976) proved very useful, as many streets needed to be closed off in order to control the action and crowds, and Hughes’ considerable influence in the city allowed this to take place. Sean Connery arrived on set on the evening of April 14, 1971 to begin work on what he was adamant would be his final performance as James Bond. The filmmakers had a product placement deal with the Ford Motor Company to use their vehicles, and Ford's only demand was that Sean Connery had to be seen driving the 1971 red Mustang Mach 1. Filming the sequence where Bond flips the car onto two wheels in order to escape the Las Vegas sheriff proved very difficult to achieve on location and was completed at Universal Studios with different stunt drivers. The original team had performed the stunt on location with the Mustang exiting the alleyway on the correct two wheels, but the footage was unusable as crowds of onlookers were visible in the shot. Unfortunately the driving team at the studio performed the stunt on the opposite two wheels to the location footage, so a new studio insert shot of Sean Connery and Jill St. John inside the car was filmed to give the impression Bond flipped the car again whilst inside the alleyway. This glaring continuity error consequently marred an otherwise clever stunt sequence.

Sean Connery on location in the Nevada desert with the Diamonds Are Forever Moon Buggy

For the first week in May 1971 production moved to the Johns Manville Gypsum plant outside Las Vegas, which stood in for Willard Whyte's Techtronics, where the Moon Buggy chase was filmed. The Moon Buggy was conceptualised by Oscar-winning Production Designer Ken Adam, and engineered and built by famed movie custom-car designer Dean Jeffries in his California workshop. Unlike any other famous Bond vehicle the Moon Buggy is truly unique - there was only ever one built! In addition to its appearance in the 1971 film, it was used as the major centrepiece of the worldwide advertising campaign for Diamonds Are Forever. After a worldwide publicity tour to promote the film, the Moon Buggy was discarded in the UK and allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. The vehicle was eventually located by Graham Rye, editor and publisher of 007 MAGAZINE, who organised the restoration of the buggy to its original condition. On hire, the Moon Buggy was displayed as the impressive centrepiece in Planet Hollywood's restaurant at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas from 1994 to 2004. On offer in auction at CHRISTIE'S ‘Film and Entertainment’ sale on December 14th 2004, the Moon Buggy sold for £23,000 and was purchased by Planet Hollywood owner Robert Earl for display at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Casino. In 2019 the Moon Buggy was again offered in auction and sold for $400,000.