Never Say Never Again’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds round 2

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Adapted from a June 2013 post. An epilogue is added at the end.

Never Say Never Again marks its 35th anniversary in October. The James Bond film originally was intended to go directly up against Octopussy, the 13th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, that came out in June 1983.

Sean Connery, after a 12-year absence from the role, was going to make a James Bond movie his way. Warner Bros. and producer Jack Schwartzman had made the actor the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. He was not only star, but had approval over various creative aspects. He had much of the power of a producer without the responsibilities.

Schwartzman, an attorney turned film producer, took charge of a long effort to make an non-Eon 007 film. Kevin McClory, who controlled the film rights to Thunderball, had been trying to mount a new production since the mid-1970s with no success. Schwartzman became the producer, with McClory getting an executive producer credit and both men “presenting” Never Say Never Again.

McClory, at one point, had attemped a broader new 007 adventure. Never Say Never Again was only supposed to be a remake of Thunderball. Lorenzo Semple Jr., who had scripted non-serious (the pilot for the Adam West Batman series) and serious (Three Days of the Condor) was hired as writer. Irvin Kershner, who had directed The Empire Strikes Back, was brought on as director. As an added bonus, Kershner had a history of working with Connery on the 1966 movie A Fine Madness.

“As far as I’m concerned, there never was a Bond picture before,” Kershner said in quotes carried in the movie’s press kit. “There is a certain psychological righness to the characters as (Ian) Fleming saw them. He understood people very well. He was an observer of life and that’s what makes him a good writer. I tried to maintain that quality in the film. I wanted the people to be true.”

By the Way

Starlog magazine devoted a cover to the “Battle of the Bonds” in 1983.

Not mentioned in the press kit was the fact that Connery, who had script approval, objected to Semple’s effort. As a result, at Connery’s urging, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were hired to rewrite but didn’t get a credit.

The end result was a storyline that veered from a version of Largo who’s clearly off his rocker to goofy gags involving the likes of British diplomat Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson). Perhaps Connery really meant it when, in 1971, he called Tom Mankiewicz’s lighthearted Diamonds Are Forever script the best of the Eon series up to that point.

Also present in Never was an over-the-top SPECTRE assassin, Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), a far wilder version of Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). In Thunderball, Bond tells Domino (Claudine Auger) her brother has been killed in a dramatic scene on a beach. In Never, he tells Domino (Kim Basinger) in the middle of a tango in a campy scene with loud music playing on the soundtrack.

‘Sean’s Warmth’

Speaking of music, composer Michel Legrand was recruited by none other than star Sean Connery, according to Jon Burlingame’s 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. According to the book, Legrand felt burned out after working on the movie Yentl. “Sean’s warmth and enthusiasm persuaded me,” Legrand is quoted by Burlingame. Legrand’s score is a sore point with fans, who still give Connery a pass for his role in bringing Legrand to the film.

Understandably, fans prefer to focus on Connery’s performance in front of the camera, rather than decisions he made behind it. The actor, who turned 52 before the start of production in 1982, looked fitter than his Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever.

A survey of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant editors some years ago (the survey is now offline) reflects admiration for his acting while mostly downplaying his decision making behind the scenes.

At the box office, Never Say Never Again did fine while trailing 1983’s Eon entry, Octopussy, $55.4 million to $67.9 million in the U.S. The Schwartzman production had been delayed by four months compared with Octopussy.

Years later, Connery was seen on a CBS News show, saying that Never had “a really incompetent producer.” For Schwartzman, things didn’t end happily. He died in 1994 at the age of 61 of pancreatic cancer.

Connery remained a star until he retired from acting in the early 2000s. Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer eventually gained control of the rights to Never Say Never Again.

Cover to Bondage No. 12, 1983

2018 epilogue: Like Octopussy, Never Say Never Again polarizes fans. Maybe more so.

Bond fans who never warmed to Roger Moore say the movie is just fine and superior to many of the 007 offerings of Eon Productions during this era. Evidently, Nigel Small-Fawcett’s goofiness is better than the goofiness of, say, Eon’s Sheriff J.W. Pepper.

During this time, there was a U.S.-based 007 fan publication, Bondage. You got the idea whose side Bondage was taking with the “Battle of the Bonds.” Issue No. 12’s cover had a publicity still of Connery from Never Say Never Again.

“Sean Connery returns in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN,” read the cover blurb. “Plus Octopussy.” The publication devoted a second cover to Never Say Never Again in 1984.  (The Book Bond website ran a 2014 story showing all the covers from 1974 to 1989.)

Meanwhile, to this day, pro-Eon fans still curse the name of Kevin McClory. I’ve seen comments from 007 fans on message boards who abhor Never Say Never Again simply because it’s not an Eon product.

For me, Connery is my favorite Bond actor. But looking back, I suspect Connery discovered being a (de facto) Bond producer is a lot harder than it looks.

There have been fan efforts of re-editing parts of the movie, including one with an Eon gunbarrel logo (putting Connery’s head on top of Timothy Dalton’s body) and overlaying John Barry scores from the Eon series.

Decades after its release, Never Say Never Again still gets a rise out of fans, regardless of their opinion.

Some 007-Star Wars connections over the years

Poster for the original Star Wars in 1977

Poster for the original Star Wars in 1977

Something trending on social media on Friday was whether James Bond actor Daniel Craig appears as a storm trooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as reported in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Some fans say it sounds as if Craig did the role, but at least one entertainment journalist who occasionally reads the blog says it’s not.

Regardless, there are a number of ties between the Star Wars and 007 film series. That’s not a surprise because Star Wars movies are produced at London’s Pinewood Studios, the home base for most 007 films.

What follows are some of the major connections, though it’s not intended as a comprehensive list. To streamline things, this post shortens the Star Wars titles to take out the various chapter numbers.

John Stears: The special effects guru for the early 007 films traded Walther PPKs for light sabers when he was part of the special effects crew for the original 1977 Star Wars film.

Stears shared an Oscar (with John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack) for special effects for his work on that movie. It was Stears’ second Oscar. He won the special effects Oscar for 1965’s Thunderball.

Irvin Kershner: The American-born director helmed the second Star Wars epic, The Empire Strikes Back, considered by some fans and critics as the best Star Wars film. In that 1980 film, things got complicated when it was revealed Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.

The director’s next project was 1983’s Never Say Never Again, a Bond film not part of the series produced by Eon Productions. Its main asset was Sean Connery’s final movie as 007. The director had a relationship with the actor, having directed him in 1966’s A Fine Madness.

Alan Hume: Hume photographed three 007 films in the 1980s — For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. Between assignments for Bond, he was director of photography of Return of the Jedi. In the summer of 1983, his Bond and Star Wars work could be viewed essentially as the same time when Return and Octopussy were in theaters.

Anthony Waye: He was an assistant director on Star Wars. In the 1980s, he started out doing similar duties on Bond and worked his way up to associate producer (on GoldenEye), line producer (on Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough) and executive producer (Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace).

Julian Glover: The actor was a minor villain in The Empire Strike Backs and the lead villain in For Your Eyes Only.

Alf Joint, Paul Weston (and who knows how many other stunt performers): Joint’s most famous 007 stunt work was in the pre-credits sequence of Goldfinger, but he also did Star Wars movies. Weston did as well and with Bond worked his way up to stunt supervisor in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.

Christopher Lee: The British actor and relative of Ian Fleming was the title character in 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun. In 2002 (in Attack of the Clones) and 2005 (Revenge of the Sith), he appears as a villain (though very briefly in the latter film).

Max Von Sydow: The actor played Blofeld in Never Say Never Again and has a small role in The Force Awakens.

Chris Corbould: Part of the special effects crews of numerous Bond films going back to the 1980s, including this year’s SPECTRE. He’s also credited with special effects for The Force Awakens.

 

Never Say Never Again’s 30th: Battle of the Bonds round 2

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Never Say Never Again marks its 30th anniversary in October. The James Bond film originally was intended to go directly up against Octopussy, the 13th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, that came out in June 1983.

Sean Connery, after a 12-year absence from the role, was going to make a James Bond movie his way. Warner Bros. and producer Jack Schwartzman had made the actor the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. He was not only star, but had approval over various creative aspects. He had much of the power of a producer without the responsibilities.

Schwartzman, an attorney turned film producer, took charge of a long effort to make an non-Eon 007 film. Kevin McClory, who controlled the film rights to Thunderball, had been trying to mount a new production since the mid-1970s with no success. Schwartzman became the producer, with McClory getting an executive producer credit and both men “presenting” Never Say Never Again.

McClory, at one point, had attemped a broader new 007 adventure. Never Say Never Again was only supposed to be a remake of Thunderball. Lorenzo Semple Jr., who had scripted non-serious (the pilot for the Adam West Batman series) and serious (Three Days of the Condor) was hired as writer. Irvin Kershner, who had directed The Empire Strikes Back, was brought on as director. As an added bonus, Kershner had a history of working with Connery in the 1966 movie A Fine Madness.

“As far as I’m concerned, there never was a Bond picture before,” Kershner said in quotes carried in the movie’s press kit. “There is a certain psychological righness to the characters as (Ian) Fleming saw them. He understood people very well. He was an observer of life and that’s what makes him a good writer. I tried to maintain that quality in the film. I wanted the people to be true.”

Not mentioned in the press kit was the fact that Connery, who had script approval, objected to Semple’s effort. As a result, at Connery’s urging, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were hired to rewrite but didn’t get a credit.

The end result was a storyline that veered from a version of Largo who’s clearly off his rocker to goofy site gags involving the likes of British diplomat Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson). Perhaps Connery really meant it when, in 1971, he called Tom Mankiewicz’s lighthearted Diamonds Are Forever script the best of the Eon series up to that point.

Also present in Never was an over-the-top SPECTRE assassin, Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), a far wilder version of Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). In Thunderball, Bond tells Domino (Claudine Auger) her brother has been killed in a dramatic scene on a beach. In Never, he tells Domino (Kim Basinger) in the middle of a tango in a campy scene with loud music playing on the soundtrack.

Speaking of music, composer Michel Legrand was recruited by none other than star Sean Connery, according to Jon Burlingame’s 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. According to the book, Legrand felt burned out after working on the movie Yentl. “Sean’s warmth and enthusiasm persuaded me,” Legrand is quoted by Burlingame. Legrand’s score is a sore point with fans, who still give Connery a pass for his role in bringing Legrand to the film.

Understandably, fans prefer to focus on Connery’s performance in front of the camera, rather than decisions he made behind it. The actor, who turned 52 before the start of production in 1982, looked fitter than his Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever. A survey of HMSS editors reflects admiration for his acting while mostly downplaying his decision making behind the scenes.

At the box office, Never Say Never Again did fine while trailing 1983’s Eon entry, Octopussy, $55.4 million to $67.9 million in the U.S. The Schwartzman production had been delayed by four months compared with Octopussy.

Years later, Connery was seen on a CBS News show, saying that Never had “a really incompetent producer.” For Schwartzman, things didn’t end happily. He died in 1994 at the age of 61 of pancreatic cancer. Connery remained a star until he retired from acting in the early 2000s. Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer eventually gained control of the rights to Never Say Never Again.

Oscar update III: John Barry leads off “In Memoriam”

John Barry, the 11-time 007 composer who established the musical sound of James Bond movies (and won five Oscars for four non-Bond movies), was the first person included in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars telecast. But there were a number of others included that contributed to 007 and other spy related entertainment.

They included: Alan Hume, director of photography on three Bond movies in the 1980s; Irvin Kershner, director of the 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again, who is probably best known for directing 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back; Tom Mankiewicz, credited as a screenwriter on three 1970s 007 films and an uncredited writer on two others.

Also included were Robert Culp, the star of television’s I Spy; Anne Francis, the star of television’s Honey West; and Leslie Nielsen, who made a late-career switch to comedy that included a 007 parody, Spy Hard. All three did extensive film work in movies and television.

Irvin Kershner, Never Say Never Again director, dies at 87

Irvin Kershner, best known for directing The Empire Strikes Back as well as the “unofficial” 007 film Never Say Never Again, has died at 87, according to an obituary on the entertainment Web site The Wrap. (UPDATE: For a more detailed obit, you can read The New York Times’s account of Kershner’s career BY CLICKING HERE.)

NSNA had a complicated history. It’s a remake of Thunderball (whose 45th anniversary we’ve been writing about). The original book the subject of a court fight between Kevin McClory and Ian Fleming after Fleming did a novel based on scripts of an abandoned film project. Eventually, McClory, having been a partner in the 1965 original film, began efforts to start his own 007 movie based on his Thunderball rights. After years of effort, that film was NSNA, which would bring back Sean Connery as Bond. Kershner drew the directing assignment and it probably didn’t hurt that he had directed the star in A Fine Madness.

The movie generates a mixed reaction among Bond fans. Some just won’t accept anything that’s not part of Eon Productions’ official series. Others love NSNA because Sean Connery came back for one last outing as 007.

One of the memorable scenes in NSNA where Bond dances a tango with Domino (Kim Basinger taking up the role originally played by Claudine Auger). In one sense, it’s typical of NSNA. Fans either love it or hate it, there’s little middle ground.

007 press kits part I: Never Say Never Again

In this digital age, press kits seem almost quaint. They were intended to spur movie critics of local newspapers to write and/or review upcoming movies. We have a few press kits for James Bond movies, so here’s a look at a few.

First up: the “unofficial” 007 movie Never Say Never Again, which hit U.S. theaters in the fall of 1983. It was unofficial only in that Eon Productions didn’t produce it. But it had Sean Connery as James Bond, 12 years after his final “official” Bond film, and had a budget comparable to the 13th “official” Bond film Octopussy, which came out in the summer of 1983.

The Never Say Never Again press kit was modest. The folder had a color photograph of Connery/Bond but it had a single publicity still inside, again of Connery/Bond.

Part of the press kit included a 12-page biograph of Connery that began thusly:

Sean Connery checked his diving equipment for the last time, adjusted his mask and slipped under the cool inviting water of the Bahamas. Fifty feet below him, on the sea bed, waited an army of highly skilled underwater film technicians. Blazing lights lit up the murky depths and were reflected back in tiny sparkles off the iridescent shoals of fish that swam with regularity past the cameras. The fish swam in safety. The day before, they would have been more uneasy, as the filmmakers had been wrorking with an all-too-real 12-fot shark — a real killer.

Sounds like somebody wanted to emulate Ian Fleming’s writing.

From another article in the press kit, running a modest 26 pages and itended to give the press critic a feel for the film, began like this:

James Bond, British Secret Servie Agent 007, is dangerous.

In a world dominated by computers and bureaucracy, he is a man whose greatest strength lies in his own intuitions, a man who allows his hunches to take him straight to the heart of the danger and who has the courage and the skill to face the greavest perils — and survive.

So when SPECTRE (Special Executor for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) holds the world to ramsom with a devastating act of nuclear terrorism, only Bond is able to cut straigh through to the rotten core of the operation.

Of course, the real name for SPECTRE is the Special EXECUTIVE for Counterintelligence, Revenge and Extortion, but hey, it’s an engrossing tale and who are we to quibble?

Other contents included biographes of Klaus Maria Brandauer, Kim Basinger, Max Von Sydnow, Barbara Carrera, Bernie Casey, Alex McCowen and director Irvin Kershner, who was fresh off directing The Empire Strikes Back.

Kershner prepared for the film by re-reading much of Ian Fleming’s work. There he found the key to the tone and texture of Ian Fleming’s work….In the James Bond books, Fleming was very interested in the characters and wrote wonderful dialogue. Those discoveries influenced Kershner’s work on the script.

Also, in the Kersner bio, we were told this:

“Never Say Never Again” will be a Bond picture with its own unique style based not in reality nor in a cartoon world, but in a world where characters operate from a psychological base that is real,” he explains.

Reading it after 26 years, it didn’t seem the quote marks were all in the right place so we present them as they appear in the press kit.

Newest Never Say Never Again DVD release

Besides the DVD release of Quantum of Solace, this week will also see a new DVD issue of Never Say Never Again, a non-official 007 movie and Sean Connery’s last bow as James Bond.

The DVD will include commentaries by director Irvin Kershner and Steven Jay Rubin, author of The Complete James Bond Film Encyclopedia. Extras include featurettes called The Big Gamble and Sean Is Back.

Never Say Never Again draws mixed reactions from Bond fans. Many love it because of Connery’s participation. Others feel it’s uneven, possibility because its script was a committee job. The official scripter is Lorenzo Semple Jr., who wrote the pilot for the Adam West Batman series but also dramatic movies such as The Parallax View. In addition, the writing team of Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement did an uncredited revamping job on the screenplay.

Whatever your feelings, you can check out the press release about the newest NSNA release by clicking RIGHT HERE.