In Remembrance: Kevin McClory


     Kevin McClory, the screenwriter and producer who worked on the 1965 James Bond thriller Thunderball, has passed away on November 20, 2006. He was 80.


     Born June 8, 1926 in Dublin Ireland, McClory’s career began at Middlesex, England’s Shepperton Studios, where he worked as a boom operator and an assistant to director John Houston during the productions of The African Queen (1951) and Moulin Rouge (1952). After serving as location manager for the World War II film The Cockleshell Heroes (1955) for actor/director Jose Ferrer, he re-teamed with Houston for Moby Dick (1956), this time serving as Houston’s Assistant Director.


     Following a stint as an Associate Producer on Around The World In Eighty Days (1956), McClory wrote, directed and produced The Boy And The Bridge (1959), the story of a boy struggling to cope with the deaths of his parents during World War II.


     McClory became involved with the Bond film franchise in a roundabout manner. In 1958 he collaborated with Bond creator Ian Fleming and writer Jack Whittingham in the development of either a James Bond film or television series. Although the project failed to materialize – partly due to the critical and financial failure of The Boy And The Bridge – Fleming took several of the ideas that were developed into a screenplay and converted them into the ninth Bond novel Thunderball, published in 1961. Since Fleming did not give either McClory or Whittingham any credit for the material used in the book they created, the pair sued Fleming. Ultimately, Fleming agreed to an out of court settlement in 1963 which awarded the two writers credit on all future reprints of the novel and McClory retained film rights to the book.


     Armed with the film rights, McClory began preparation to bring Thunderball to the silver screen in direct competition to the Bond series featuring Sean Connery and being produced by Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s Eon Productions, which already had three successful entries – Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964) – to its credit. But by the fall of 1964, McClory had a changed his mind and approached Broccoli and Saltzman with an offering to collaborate on the film. Broccoli and Saltzman agreed, granting McClory the sole on-screen producers credit on the final film.


     McClory didn’t stay with the series but didn’t end his association with James Bond. In 1976 he announced his intention to exercise his right to remake Thunderball under the alternating title of Warhead and later James Bond Of The Secret Service. However, legal entanglements kept the film appearing until 1983 when it was finally released as Never Say Never Again with McClory taking an Executive Producer credit. The film starred Sean Connery making a return to the role of James Bond after a 12 year hiatus. Although both films did well at the box-office Never Say Never Again was still outperformed at the box office by rival Eon Production’s Octopussy starring Roger Moore as Bond.


     McClory would try to mount another Thunderball remake and even tried to use his rights to the material as grounds to launching a rival Bond series with Sony Pictures. After another round of legal battles, the courts found in favor of MGM Pictures, the distributors of Eon’s Bond films and against McClory, squelching any further plans to produce an independent Bond pictures.