The American who almost directed an official 007 movie

Reports (at least partially confirmed) that U.K.-born Sam Mendes may direct Bond 23 point out something viewed as tradition — that the directors of the official James Bond series are either British or are from the British Commonwealth.

Aside from German-born Marc Forster, director of Quantum of Solace, the others directors of the official series fit the pattern: Terence Young (a Brit born in China); Guy Hamilton (British, born in Paris), Lewis Gilbert (born in London), (Peter Hunt (born in London), John Glen (Sanbury-on-Thames, U.K.), Martin Campbell (New Zealand), Roger Spottiswoode (Ottawa, Canada), Michael Apted (U.K.) and Lee Tamahori (New Zealand).

But once upon a time, specifically when Dr. No was in pre-production, there was a possibility that an American might have directed an official 007 adventure.

British film historian Adrian Turner, in researching his 1998 book on Goldfinger, discovered that United Artists was keen on Phil Karlson, who had helmed modestly budgeted films such as Kansas City Confidential, The Phenix City Story and, on television, a two-part story on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse that became the de facto pilot for The Untouchables series.

According to Turner, Dr. No producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman initially favored Guy Hamilton, but he turned them down. United Artists wanted Karlson but the director’s agent asked for $75,000, Tiurner wrote in Adrian Turner on Goldfnger (page 49). Problem: Broccoli and Saltzman were due to only receive $80,000 as a producer’s fee, plus 50 percent of the profits. So the producers instead hired Terence Young, who had a $40,000 asking price, the same amount that was paid to screenwriter Richard Maibuam and star Sean Connery.

Today, Karlson is fondly remembered for some of his tough crime dramas. Karlson also directed the first and fourth Matt Helm movies, The Silencers and The Wrecking Crew. Here’s a scene from the latter:

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Americans did direct two unofficial 007 movies: John Huston was one of five directors on the 1967 spoof Casino Royale while Irvin Kershner directed Connery in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

2 Responses

  1. Very interesting indeed ( besides I love the Matt Helm films ! )

  2. I liked Murderers’ Row, but I can’t be bothered with the others, ESPECIALLY The Silencers and The Wrecking Crew. If this is what Dr. No could have been like, thank God EON got Terence Young. Young was a Bondish type in his own right, and trained Sean Connery up to be the bon vivant he appeared to be. He took a one-million dollar budget and made it look like three on the screen. Karlson appears to have had a talent for doing just the opposite.

    Let American directors direct movies like Matt Helm. Leave 007 to directors who understand real class (ie: British commonwealth).

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