1965: Thunderball’s script drips with swagger

Thunderball's tri-panel poster in 1965

Thunderball’s tri-panel poster in 1965

After a number of false starts, Thunderball finally was going to be a reality in 1965 at the peak of the spy craze.

As a result, the script for Thunderball — assured of being a big hit — drips with swagger starting with the very first page.

A copy we got from 007 collector Gary Firuta begins much the way the final film version did — at a funeral, where we see the initials JB on a casket. Quickly, we learn Bond has been present, observing it along with a woman.

This stage direction pretty much sets the tone.

Here stand two people looking down, apart from the crowd, yet interested. One of them is an elegant FRENCHWOMAN in her late twenties, and beside her, that idol of the intelligentsia, that opiate of the oppressed and working classes, JAMES BOND.

This page is dated Jan. 19, 1965, not long before filming was to start. But this copy of the Richard Maibaum-John Hopkins script indicates things still weren’t locked down.

For example, in the pre-credits scene where Bond punches out Colonel BoitIer (posing as his own widow), Boiter’s outfit gets ripped “leaving half the dress in BOND’s hand, exposing the falsies he is wearing.”

That’s not all. “BOND, still holding the falsies, whips them around BOITIER’s throat, like a garrotte…Then he slowly tightens the falsies around his neck and strangles him.”

Bond gets away with the jet pack, but instead of the Aston Martin DB5, to a Ford Thunderbird, where the woman agent is waiting.

“As he lands, she helps him step out of the harness, and watches him as skilfully he folds up the mechanical contraption,” according to the stage directions. “It takes him no longer to do this than a golfer with a collapsible trolley, or a secret agent in Istanbul would take with a folding sniper’s rifle.” (Emphasis added) Presumably, that’s a reference to From Russia With Love, which will come up again shortly.

Meanwhile, the Tbird doesn’t have gadgets and Bond simply drives away to lead into the end titles.

Afterward, Largo makes his appearance in Paris on his way to the SPECTRE board meeting. The stage directions say Largo’s car is “not a Ford, but something of the Ferrari-Maserat (sic) breed.” Evidently, in the final film, Ford Motor Co. had to make sue with a consolation prize and have the Tbird be driven by Largo.

At the SPECTRE meeting, we’re told Largo is No. 3 (rather than No. 2 as in the film). Ernst Stavro Blofeld (his face not seen), says, “I was saying how much we at Spectre regret the death in the Istanbul affair of Number Six…Rosa Klebb, who will be sadly missed.” Nice to know Blofeld has a sentimental side.

Also, amusingly, when the financial reports are given, we’re told about the kidnapping of the young woman referenced in Maibaum’s 1961 first draft of Thunderball. In this version, we’re told she’s the “daughter of the Argentine industrialist” and SPECTRE got 1 million pesos. No mention of a sexual assault, as in the ’61 script.

As in the final film, we see Blofeld kill one of the members about embezzling proceeds from distribution of Red Chinese narcotics in the U.S. We’re given the additional information the guilty party had gambled heavily.

What’s more, this draft clearly was written before all the casting was in place. The femme fatale is Fiona Kelly, who is “red-headed, Irish” and “the most beautiful accomplished young witch since Morgan Le Fey.” Of course, the character’s nationality and name would be changed when red-headed Italian Luciana Paluzzi was cast.

Also, there seemed to be a debate what to call the SPECTRE operative who’d be called Count Lippe in the movie. On the pages dated Jan. 19, he’s named Lipson, but in other pages he’s called Lippe. Maibaum had called him Count Lippi in his 1961 effort.

This script also reuses a bit from Maibaum’s 1961 screenplay where Bond pretends to be an attendant with a Cockney accent in trapping Lipson in the steam bath.

The scene where Bond has sex with Patricia Fearing in the sauna is a little different than how it plays in the movie.

Steam billows round the camera as it moves forward, and it is with difficulty that we can just make out a woman’s bare feet as she stands on her tiptoes stretching upwards. A few inches away are the man’s feet and legs.

(snip)
PATRICIA
No, you’re wrong…this is *not* what I meant by the *full treatment*.

The steam rises higher and higher making is even more difficult to see anything at all.

This is probably just as well.

After SPECTRE hijacks the jet with the two atomic bombs (and Fiona kills Lipson/Lippe), Bond is back for his briefing with the 00 agents. Another stage direction makes it appear the filmmakers were considering all-star cameos for the agents.

As those agents rise get up the stage directions state that they are “ALL big stars who have played intelligence agents. If not, faces should not be shown.”

The script also demonstrates that the story was being revised during filming. Some pages are dated March 3 and later. In any case, the female lead character is named Dominique, a change from Maibaum’s 1961 script.

Unlike the 1961 script, the character of Q had been established. The script, again, is similar to the movie with Q having to equip 007 in the field. However, here Bond does specify that Q is Major Boothroyd.

The script also has some bits between Largo and Fiona that didn’t make the final movie. When they’re talking at Palmyra about how Bond was almost killed while swimming underwater around the Disco Volante, this comes up.

LARGO cradles FIONA’s face in one of his hands. She does not move away from him. She does not react at all.

LARGO
I think you forget — I found you. I made you.

At that point, both watch Domino swimming “briskly across the pool.” Fiona says, “That woman should be here, Largo. It is dangerous.”

When Bond arrives at Largo’s invitation at Palmyra, the two shake hands. Largo says he likes “a man with a strong grip,” while Bond replies that Largo’s handshake “is undeniably — forceful.”

“Not like a spectre?” Largo asks.

There’s a lot more (including a scene cut from the movie where Bond gets to go aboard the Disco Volante) and the Fiona-Bond seduction scene, which is written differently that the final film. But let’s go to the climatic fight. Based on this script (pages are dated March 10), the sequence is still coming together.

After Felix Leiter rescues Bond from a nasty spot, he takes 007 to a “cushioncraft,” where Q and a maintenance crew are waiting with Bond’s gear. The cushioncraft skims “across terrain toward the water” Once in the water, it’s going faster than the Disco Volante.

Felix is ready to drop Bond off so he can participate in the big underwater fight. The CIA man asks 007 if he should come with him. “You mind the store,” Bond says.

The good guys are AQUAPARAS while the bad guys are SPECTRES. When the combatants begin to surface, Leiter gets in some action from aboard the cushioncraft, shooting two of the SPECTRES while others surrender to the Aquaparas.

As in the finished movie, Bond and Largo have at it on an out-of-control Disco Volante. Domino shoots Largo, and she, Bond and scientist Kutze jump off the ship before it crashes and explodes.

Felix shows up in the cushioncraft and rescues Bond and Domino, without any mention of Kutze (!).

But the script isn’t over. It has an odd epilogue (to take place during the end titles) where two surviving SPECTRES in a sub get blown up after trying to get a container that was dropped from an aircraft by parachute into the water. It was probably just as well this was dropped.

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