James Bond and the long-awaited return of SPECTRE
Ron Seifried | On 05, Dec 2014Conceived by former British Naval Intelligence Officer Ian Fleming in the early 1950’s, the James Bond franchise has appeared in countless novels, film, comics, radio and video games. Over fifty years after Fleming’s death, the 24th official feature film is about to start production, reprising the fictional global terrorist organization SPECTRE for the first time since the uncredited “cameo” of supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofield and his trademark white cat in For Your Eyes Only in 1981. Why the long wait for SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) organization? Because, it wasn’t until November 2013 that MGM finally reacquired the film rights to SPECTRE and the Blofield character, opening the possibility of reinventing the terrorist organization for the 21st century. The Lost Years of SPECTRE By 1958, Fleming had written six of his twelve novels (two additional books contained a series of short stories), and was exploring the possibility of a Bond film. Along with Ivar Bryce, Kevin McClory and Ernest Cuneo, the partnership Xanadu Productions was formed. Never finalizing into an actual corporation, the foursome developed ten outlines, treatments and scripts that included the basis of SPECTRE. After McClory’s film The Boy and the Bridge was poorly received at the 1959 Venice Film Festival, Fleming lost faith that the writer/director’s was able to deliver a quality screenplay. McClory then bought in writer Jack Whittingham, who completed a full shooting script for Longitude 78 West, which Fleming later renamed Thunderball. By early 1960, Fleming completed the novel Thunderball, based on his screenplay with McClory and Whittingham but without the co-writers credit. Within a year, McClory and Whittingham petitioned the London High Court to stop publication, which was denied. McClory then sued Fleming in 1963. During the three week trial, Fleming suffered his first heart attack, prompting the novelist to offer McClory the literary and film rights to the film Thunderball, while Fleming retained the rights to the novel. McClory’s film rights had the stipulation that any film based on Thunderball could not be produced until ten years after the Eon Production in 1965. In subsequent publications, the novel Thunderball states “based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and the Author.” Fleming passed away on August 12, 1964 at the age of 56, one year before the film’s release, which was produced by McClory, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Since McClory retained the film rights, he was able to remake Thunderball in 1983 without Broccoli and Saltzman, as the non-canonical Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery reprising his role as an aging Bond. The new title was based on a quote Connery responded to the press if he would ever return to the Bond character after Diamonds Are Forever (1971). McClory tried once again to produce a Thunderball-based film with Sony in the late 1990’s entitled Warhead 2000 AD, but was sued by MGM/UA , the owners of the James Bond feature film franchise. MGM/UA and Sony settled out of court, but McClory retained his rights to Thunderball and SPECTRE. Because the literary rights for Thundeball, SPECTRE and Blofield remained with Fleming and his heirs, novelist John Gardner was able to incorporate their elements in several of his official Bond novels in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Since SPECTRE, Blofield and all of the organization’s origins were first conceived in Thunderball, the elements were not included in any Bond films since the 1970’s. This changed in 2013 when MGM and the McClory estate formally settled the issue, with all the rights to SPECTRE and Blofield acquired by MGM. Christop Waltz will be portraying Franz Oberhauser in the new Bond film, possibly the son of Hans Oberhauser, Bond’s father figure and ski instructor introduced in Fleming’s novels. Speculation is high that this casting announcement is a red herring to throw everybody’s scent off and that Waltz will actually play Blofield. Daniel Craig will portray the British Secret Service agent for the fourth time in Spectre, to be released in October 2015. Director Sam Medes returns and the film co-stars Chistoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott, Dave Bautista, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Jesper Christensen.