Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part II: a star talks about moving on

Advertisements proclaimed that with Thunderball, “Here Comes the Biggest Bond of All!” For Sean Connery, things had already gotten too big and he sounded as if he was already looking forward to his post-007 career.

Connery detailed his views about James Bond IN AN INTERVIEW WITH PLAYBOY MAGAZINE. The exchange wasn’t like the quick promotional “interviews” now seen on television and on the Internet, where hordes of interviewers are brought in, each one given a few minutes each. Playboy also asked the star questions about his non-Bond movies and he talked enthusiastically about the military drama The Hill, which also came out in 1965.

Connery in his interview comments talked like a man looking forward to ending his Bondage. The interview was a warning sign to 007 fans that big changes were ahead.

PLAYBOY: In any case, Dr. No turned out to be a hit, and you found yourself under contract for a series—exactly what you said you wanted to avoid.
CONNERY: Yes—but it allows me to make other films, and I have only two more Bonds to do.

PLAYBOY: Which ones?
CONNERY: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and possibly You Only Live Twice. They would like to start On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Switzerland in January, but I’m not sure I’ll be free in time and I don’t want to rush it, although they say the snow will be at its best then. I’m not going to rush anything anymore.

At this point, Connery still left the door open for future Bond films after his contract ended — while indicating his price would go up. “But as far as this series is concerned,” he told Playboy, referring to the Bond movies, “after the next two, the only condition for making any more would be $1 million plus a percentage of the gross.” Connery told Playboy he only got 6,000 British pounds, or $16,800 at the time, to play 007 in Dr. No. When asked by Playboy’s interviewer if $500,000 was “off the mark” for his Thunderball salary, Connery replied, “No, not really.”

The star also told the magazine that “with Thunderball we’ve reached the limit as far as size and gimmicks are concerned…. What is needed now is a change of course—more attention to character and better dialog.”

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted Connery’s contract so he’d be free after the next Bond film, 1967’s You Only Live Twice (deciding to delay OHMSS). In the interim, Connery unsuccessfully sought to be made a partner after watching Dean Martin make more money than the Scotsman did because of such a parternship arrangement with the Matt Helm movies.

Broccoli and Saltzman threw out the plot of Ian Fleming’s Twice novel to try and outdo Thunderball in terms of spectacle and not the change of course that Connery was seeking.

The duo were unable to entice Connery back for Majesty’s — a film that would have provided Connery the chance to get more into characterization as Bond.

OHMSS’s 40th anniversary Part I: The men who would be Bond

In a few short weeks it will be the 40th anniversary of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film is a) one of the best, if not the best, James Bond movies; b) the “first major hiccup” in the Bond series (as TCM weekend host Ben Mankiewicz put it in introducing Diamonds Are Forever when that film was shown on TCM in May; c) the rare Bond film with an unhappy ending.

It’s such an important film to the Bond series, we figured it was worth the same treatment we gave to Goldfinger’s 45th anniversary. The best place to start is with the obvious: it was the first film in the official 007 film series not to star Sean Connery.

The reasons for that have been much written about, including Connery’s tiring of the role *and* feeling unappreciated and underpaid (particularly in comparison to the paychecks Dean Martin was getting for the Matt Helm film series). You can’t have a Bond movie without a Bond, so somebody had to be chosen.

Life magazine gave its readers a view of the five finalists in a collage of photographs taken by Loomis Dean.

The late Peter Hunt, the film’s director, described in the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service there were numerous potential Bonds tested. The Life photos gave a hint of that, including actor John Richardson performing a love scene. Also shown was a shot of actor Anthony Rogers’s screen test. Others under consideration were Hans De Vries, Robert Cambell and an Australian model named George Lazenby.

Life also showed actors auditioning for other roles including Agneta Eckemyr doing a screen test, apparently for the role of Tracy, 007’s doomed bride. In that photo Hunt can be seen in the lower right.

In the end, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman went with George Lazenby, the least experienced of the five 007 finalists. The move would have a major effect on the film.