Pretty much since the James Bond novels were published, there have been attempts to bring the series to the big screen. We now know what a phenomenon it has become, and everyone knows that the first movie was Dr. No in 1962, but the journey to movies was a mess to put it mildly, and it was Ian Fleming who fucked up on that.
In 1958, Fleming was eager to have a film of Bond so he got together with screenwriters Jack Wittingham, and Kevin McClory to write a cinematic Bond script called James Bond of the Secret Service that involved Bond investigating hijacked nuclear warheads in the Bahamas. Sound familiar? It should, because when Fleming didn’t want to work with Wittingham and McClory anymore, he took elements of the script and incorporated it into his novel Thunderball.
When McClory read an advanced copy of the novel, he was basically like, “What the flying Fuck??!!!” and sued the shit out of Fleming. In 1963, he won his case and while the novel was already released, it had to acknowledge the original screenplay and writers, while Fleming got to keep the rights to the novel, but McClory got to keep the rights to the story, the SPECTRE organization, and villian Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Not pictured: Dr. Evil
After the massive success that was Goldfinger, producers Harry Saltzman, and Cubby Broccoli worked out a deal with McClory to co-produce Thunderball. They weren’t going to let this guy make a rival Bond movie and fuck up their cash cow. So, they make the movie, and it becomes the highest grossing Bond film ever. But by making the film, McClory was not allowed to make a Bond movie for ten years, including the use of Blofeld and SPECTRE.
Once the ten years were up, 1975, McClory went about developing his own Bond movie called Warhead. This was pretty much an original story involving SPECTRE hijacking warheads and holding New York for ransom. EON productions sued for copy write infringement, leading the court to rule that McClory can only make a movie of his Thunderball screenplay and nothing else. He did end up doing just that.
The only notable thing was that McClory got Connery to come back. The movie was a success, but not as much as Octopussy which was released the same year. For most people that would have been the end of it, but not McClory. The thing is that he felt ownership over the cinematic Bond, feeling that the film series’ success was because of elements he felt he created. Basically he wrote the first Bond screenplay, so movie Bond was his creation.
In the late 90s, when Bond was enjoying it’s resurgence, McClory teamed up with Sony as they owned the rights to the Casino Royale novel, to produce a rival James Bond series using elements of introduced in Casino Royale and Thunderball with Timothy Dalton set to return as 007. MGM and EON productions lost their shit, so they went to court where it was ruled that the cinematic rights to Bond belonged to EON and MGM. A trade was worked out that in exchange for the rights to Casino Royale, MGM would give Sony the rights for Spiderman. And that put an end to any chance for a rival Bond film series.
McClory died in 2006, and was still proclaiming ownership of Bond till his dying day. Since 1971, Blofeld and SPECTRE haven’t been in an official Bond movie, and I never thought I would ever see Bond’s archenemy ever again. But in 2013, without many details released, EON bought the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE, finally ending this nasty, bitter legal fight after 50 years. I gave up hope for this resolution years ago, but when the title to Bond 24 was announced I lost my shit! (Talking about Spectre). Why is this such a big deal for me? I’ll leave you with just this image and fans will understand: