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Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery's James Bond Movie That Wasn't

Entertainment | August 25, 2020

Sean Connery and Kim Basinger in 'Never Say Never Again.' Source: IMDB

The 1983 James Bond movie Never Say Never Again stars Sean Connery as 007, features beauties Kim Basinger and Barbara Carrera, Euro-villains Klaus Maria Brandauer and Max Von Sydow, and charismatic allies Bernie Casey and Rowan Atkinson. The characters Q, M, and Moneypenny appear as well. These are your standard Bond movie ingredients, with perhaps a little extra star power. But Never Say Never Again was no standard Bond film -- in fact, it may not be a Bond movie at all.

Never Say Never Again is an anomaly, enabled by a contractual loophole, featuring a Bond actor who came out of retirement to remake a movie outside the official franchise.

The one unsanctioned Bond movie. (warpedfactor)

The one and only true Bond, James Bond, Sean Connery made seven films as the iconic British MI6 agent. Six of those legendary Bond films were made by Eon productions who produced and created the vast majority of the 007 movies -- 25 of them, including No Time To Die (2020). However, one of Connery’s magnificent seven, Never Say Never Again, was made outside of the Eon umbrella, 12 years after Connery’s last Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever. The story of how Never Say Never Again came into existence was nearly as convoluted as the plans laid by Bond villains.

A Fight Over Bond

A young Rowan Atkinson in one of his earliest roles. (sharetv)

The person most responsible for Never Say Never Again was Kevin McClory, who worked with Ian Fleming back in 1959 on a screenplay that was not based on an existing novel. When the movie (titled "James Bond: Secret Agent") failed to happen, Fleming wrote a novel based on the plot, entitled Thunderball. McClory tried and failed to stop Fleming from publishing Thunderball, but a court did award McClory the film rights to the original script. Not wanting a non-canon Bond film in theaters, Eon producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman worked with McClory to bring Thunderball to the screen as an Eon production starring Connery. McClory was credited as producer on the 1965 film, and Broccoli and Saltzman listed as executive producers. Importantly, McClory retained the right to produce his original story once 10 years had elapsed. 

Never Say Never

Bernie Casey, Sean Connery, and Kim Basinger in 'Never Say Never Again.' Source: IMDB

After Diamonds Are Forever drew a tepid response from moviegoers, Connery vowed to "never again" play the British secret agent. McClory smartly asked Connery to help write the screenplay with Len Deighton, knowing the Scottish legend was not interested in playing Bond again. Of course, once Connery started writing the script he became attached to the work. Once his wife suggested he play the part, Connery thought, well, why not?

Naturally, once he decided to play the part, as Connery said in an interview, “There was a terrific furor with lawyers because obviously there was a great deal of money involved and that always attracts a lawyer.” According to Connery, it was also his wife who suggested the title Never Say Never Again in part because he himself said he would never play Bond again. It replaced its original title of “Warhead,” thank God.

Back To Basics

A double of helping of “nice birds” in “Never Say Never Again.” (talkfilmsociety)

A big reason why Connery stopped doing the Bond films was because he felt they had become too long, more about hardware, and less about what Fleming had originally written about. For Connery, “From Russia With Love contained the best of Fleming with the marvelous locations and interesting ambiance and good stories and interesting characters and like a detective story with espionage and exotic settings and nice birds.” And by "birds" he did not mean feathered friends -- he meant women.

Connery also felt that the newest Bond films were undercast and he played a big role in hiring great actors such as Kim Basinger, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, and even a young Rowan Atkinson. 

Octopussy Vs. Never Say Never Again

Two of the great Bond’s to ever go shaken not stirred. (screenrant)

Never Say Never Again came out in 1983, as did an official Eon Bond Film, Octopussy, starring Roger Moore. Inevitably, the two films were compared to each other by fans, critics, and Connery himself. “I played Bond with reality, credibility, and hopefully still accomplishing stunts and out of it some indigenous humor," he said. "I feel that Roger, which he may have inherited in part from Diamonds Are Forever, where they were getting into that area of too much hardware and that was more important and his was a sort of parody of the character.”

Connery had all the respect in the world for Moore but saw the newer Bond movies sacrificing what made 007 such a great character for laughs or gadgets. 

Never Say Never Again had some natural disadvantages -- for starters, it couldn't use the surf-rock Bond theme or the famous opening sequence. And while the characters of Q, M and Moneypenny were in the movie, they were played by different actors. 

Ultimately, Octopussy made $187 million while Connery’s film pulled in $160 million. Nevertheless, there’s only one true Bond, James Bond and that’s Sean Connery. 

Tags: Barbara Carrera | Bernie Casey | James Bond | Kim Basinger | Klaus Maria Brandauer | Never Say Never Again | Rowan Atkinson | Sean Connery | Eon Productions

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!