Behind the scenes on efforts to film Fleming’s The Diamond Smugglers

Jeremy Duns of The Sunday Times has an article about the unsuccessful efforts to turn Ian Fleming’s non-fiction book The Diamond Smugglers into a movie.

Duns first provides some background on the book, which centered on John Collard, a one-time MI5 operative who was part of the International Diamond Security Organisation. In the book, Collard was given the given the pseudonym John Blaize.

Fleming portrayed Collard/Blaize as a quieter, shyer character than Bond, although readers would learn that Blaize owned 24 fine white silk shirts and intended to spend 48 hours gambling intensively in Monte Carlo, “to wash the last three years and the African continent out of his system”. This was familiar territory: Bond had put in time at the baccarat and bridge tables in the novels Casino Royale and Moonraker. Diamonds Are Forever had mostly been set in America; now Fleming had locations such as South Africa and Sierra Leone to play with, and he had great fun describing real-life villains every bit as larger-than-life as those Bond had faced, such as “Monsieur Diamant”, whom Fleming called “the biggest crook in Europe, if not in the world”.

In September 1957, the articles began to be serialised in The Sunday Times. They were published as The Diamond Smugglers in book form in November, with an introduction by Collard (under the Blaize pseudonym).

Duns writes that a number of efforts were made to turn the episodic book into a movie but coming up with a dramatic narrative proved problematic. One production team wanted to get Steve McQueen for the lead to give the proposed movie some star power. Not much came of that but Duns tracked down a copy of a screenplay by Jon Cleary, whose novel The Sundowners had been turned into a successful 1960 movie with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.

The putative “Bond” has been renamed once more: no longer John Blaize, he is now Roy O’Brien, a secret agent sent to a diamond mine in Johannesburg under cover as a pilot. His mission: to infiltrate and break up a ring of smugglers preparing to make a huge deal with the Red Chinese. O’Brien is American, and his part reads very much as if written with McQueen in mind. We are told he is “marked with the sun and the scars of a man who has spent a good deal of his life in the outdoors”, and that “he was a boy once quick to smiles”, but is now “a man who has seen too much of sights that did not provoke laughter”. He is quick-witted, laconic, but very likeable.

To read the entire article, JUST CLICK HERE.

2 Responses

  1. Wonderful stuff …
    Can’t wait to get my hands on that mysterious script !

  2. Steve McQueen is on the mind since I just saw the clip of him and Pres. Johnson’s daughter dancing the Watusi.

    Before Barry Nelson got the part of Jimmy Bond in Climax, is there any truth they wanted Steve McQueen for the part or something like he had done previous episodes, but was out-of-town was they were casting? Even if it isn’t, still fun to wonder.

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