James Bond Producers and Studio Settle Rights Dispute
A decades-long legal battle between James Bond Producers and the estate of Kevin McClory has finally come to an end, allowing certain James Bond icons to return to the big screen.
It all started in 1959 when James Bond creator Ian Fleming collaborated with Kevin McClory on the story for a Bond film, which Fleming turned into the novel Thunderball, without properly crediting McClory for his work on the original script and idea. McClory sued Fleming over the novel, attempting to stop its publication. Settling out of court, McClory was given the literary and film rights over the original screenplay, while Fleming retained the rights over the novel but it was required to be recognized as based on a screen treatment by McClory, Fleming, and a third collaborator Jack Whittingham. In the settlement, Fleming also admitted that his novel did in fact share and reproduce copyrighted elements from the original script treatment. Having lost the rights to the original screen treatment, the later James Bond films were unable to use certain plot points originated in Thunderball, including master villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his organization, SPECTRE. Due to the legal dispute, Blofeld would not be seen in the Bond franchise after Diamonds Are Forever for another ten years until he appears unnamed and partially unseen in the pre-credit sequence in For Your Eyes Only where Roger Moore as Bond finally kills him. In 1983, McClory was finally able to get his vision of Thunderball on the big screen with an unofficial remake called Never Say Never Again, starring Sean Connery as James Bond. McClory would again try to create a remake to Thunderball in the 90s, titled Warhead 2000 A.D. with Ralph Fiennes as James Bond. Legal disputes between MGM and Sony prevented the film from being made and Fiennes would later join the official James Bond franchise as the new M in Skyfall.
Now, over fifty years later, the dispute has finally come to an end, with Danjaq, LLC and MGM reaching a settlement with the estate of the late Kevin McClory, giving Danjaq and MGM all James Bond rights held by McClory. According to the press release,
Danjaq, LLC, the producer of the James Bond films, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the longtime distributor of the Bond films, along with the estate and family of the late Kevin McClory, announced today that Danjaq and MGM have acquired all of the estate’s and family’s rights and interests relating to James Bond, thus bringing to an amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years.
This settlement allows EON Productions to use intellectual property like Blofeld and SPECTRE in the Bond films once again if they so desire. The idea of an evil organization was brought up in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but under the name Quantum and with no leader revealed. It’s far too early to tell if Blofeld with return in the next Bond film, set to reunite Daniel Craig with director Sam Mendes after the successful Skyfall, but as Skyfall saw the return of Q, Moneypenny, and even M’s old office, it would be wise for Mendes and EON to figure out a way to bring Blofeld back.