Since 1962’s Dr. No, the James Bond franchise has been an institution, reinventing itself subtly (or with greater force at times) transitioning from one actor to the next. But there was a moment in 1983, however, when two of the role’s most recognized actors, Sean Connery and Roger Moore, were almost in direct competition with two distinctly different Bond films. The story of how this came to be is the result of a long legal battle over author Ian Fleming’s source material and an unfilmable adaptation that dates to the late 1950s.
Most “Bond” films are considered to be part of the same canon, but there is a small handful of unofficial Bond films that are each considered separate entities. The first is a largely-forgotten 1954 American production of Casino Royale that aired on CBS, and starred Barry Nelson as “Card Sense Jimmy” Bond, a distinctly American spin on the character. That title would be recycled in 1967 for the spy parody starring David Niven. The final entry is 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which, after 12 years, saw Sean Connery return to the role he’d made famous.
Back in the late 1950s, independent film producer Kevin McClory had worked with Fleming and screenwriter Jack Whittingham to produce a Bond movie tentatively titled Longitude 78 West, having obtained partial screen rights to the character. At the time, the movie was deemed too expensive to produce, and the project was shelved. However, Fleming liked some of the elements that went into the story, and as a writer who was “always reluctant to let a good idea lie idle,” used several of the script’s elements in his 1961 James Bond novel Thunderball. McClory then took Fleming to court that year for failing to credit him and Whittingham for their contributions.