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Topic: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

Here’s the next chapter on the James Bond films that were never made, cancelled and abandoned- this time focusing on an effort intended to directly compete with Eon Productions…


In December 1965, Thunderball was released. Based on an earlier screen treatment by Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham which Fleming had fleshed out in his 1961 novel, Thunderball became the highest-grossing Bond film of all time in the United States, adjusted for inflation. Despite this success, however, there remained tensions behind the scenes. In the late 1950s two court cases decided that, since McClory had developed many of the ideas that formed the basis of the Thunderball storyline, he would take ownership of future film and television rights for the use of said plotline. In 1965, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman managed to work around these legal restrictions by striking a deal whereby McClory would be credited onscreen as producer of their version of Thunderball, with a clause stipulating that McClory would be permitted to reuse the essential narrative elements of the story after ten years had elapsed. This arrangement appeared to satisfy all parties involved, and Eon Productions’ Bond franchise continued apace with You Only Live Twice in 1967.


By 1975, though, the situation had changed dramatically. Although Broccoli and Saltzman’s efforts were still going strong, with their latest instalment arriving in the form of The Man With The Golden Gun in time for Christmas 1974, McClory intended to take full advantage of the fact that the ten-year period set out in 1965 was now over. This time, he would be in charge of his own James Bond adventure- without any troublesome interference from Broccoli and Saltzman. There was still a healthy public interest in 007, and McClory duly planned to exploit this popularity for his own independent endeavours. The first step was to recruit experienced screenwriter and spy novelist Len Deighton, once hailed in the early 1960s as the heir to Fleming, to pen the script for this reinvention of the Thunderball tale. Yet McClory’s true moment of genius was to open discussions with Sean Connery regarding potentially involving the actor in the developing screenplay, now tentatively titled James Bond of the Secret Service.


At once, McClory’s labours took on a degree of legitimacy, since the original James Bond, Sean Connery, was now connected with his project. Connery, jaded and frustrated after his departure from the role in 1971, appreciated McClory’s promises of greater creative control over the entire film, believing that he was being afforded more respect than had been the case during his various dealings with Eon Productions. It is also possible that, irritated by Broccoli’s repeated demands for him to return- he was offered $5 million to appear in Live and Let Die in 1972- Connery harboured ambitions to strike out and prove that he didn’t need Eon’s backing in order to make a successful James Bond adventure.


Connery, Deighton and McClory worked on their screenplay, under the modified title of Warhead, for much of the next two years, completing a first draft on November 11th, 1976. There are a number of intriguing elements to be found lurking within this script, which in places leans towards outright self-parody in anticipation of the direction the official Bond series would later take with Moonraker. The plot, perhaps predictably, tends towards imitation of Thunderball, while also spinning off into a few rather strange dimensions. SPECTRE’s scheme is to crash a plane carrying the United Nations Secretary-General and conceal the wreckage with the aid of an underwater base, Arkos, hidden in the Bermuda Triangle. This, in turn, will allow a plastic-surgery double, Petacchi, to sabotage a Russian submarine and steal its cargo of three nuclear bombs. SPECTRE then issue an ultimatum, threatening to destroy a major city if their demands are not met and, for good measure, melt the polar ice caps to flood the entire world. With Felix Leiter’s assistance, Bond determines that the target is New York and manages to prevent SPECTRE’s  fleet of heat-seeking robot sharks from attacking. After army troops storm the Statue of Liberty, Bond infiltrates the underwater base, Arkos, and there is a final fight during which this film’s version of Largo drowns. Bond escapes the base’s destruction and romances Domino, as ‘Rule Britannia’ plays in the background. Roll credits.


It’s a curious script, with aspects of self-mocking humour in the shape of robot sharks and a Bond girl named Justine Lovesit, as well as a ridiculous hang-gliding setpiece and the implication that Q is gay. More interesting, however, is noting the many similarities with The Spy Who Loved Me, which was in development at around the same time. The resemblance is uncanny, to say the least. There is an environmentalist villain who wishes to flood the globe (Blofeld, Stromberg), a gigantic mute henchman (Bomba, Jaws), a secret undersea lair (Arkos, Atlantis) and even the reoccurrence in both scripts of beautiful female agents referred to as Agent Triple-X! These extraordinary coincidences spelled problems for McClory’s production. Christopher Wood, who wrote The Spy Who Loved Me for Eon, recalled: “A copy of our script had come into his hands…paranoia overcame me. Had there been some kind of plagiarism in the past?” He wasn’t alone in wondering. The Fleming Estate and United Artists’ lawyers were swiftly despatched, and McClory counter-sued.


In the midst of mounting legal battles, Paramount Pictures withdrew their fiscal support for the film, leaving McClory without a distributor and with a script tarnished by allegations of intellectual property theft and copyright violations. It appeared that his attempts to make an unofficial James Bond adventure were permanently stalled, trapped in a quagmire of labyrinthine legal issues. However, Warhead’s collapse in 1976 wasn’t the end of the story. Against expectations, McClory won his court feud, even when Eon appealed to the Supreme Court, and the resulting publicity gained him a business partner, Jack Schwartzman. McClory’s planned remake of Thunderball would live to fight another day, although the initial script developed with Deighton and Connery was scrapped. Ultimately, Kevin McClory’s 1976 Warhead stands as one of the strangest unmade Bond films...


Does anyone else know anything about this intriguing attempt at an unofficial Bond film? What do others think of the script's rather ridiculous ideas? Would Warhead 1976 have been an improvement over the film we actually got in 1983 with Never Say Never Again?

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

That was a very interesting read. I knew of the Warhead 2000 project, but I've never read about it in such detail before. It's not often we get new members who are as active and knowledgable as you are. You're very welcome  ajb007/bond

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

Thanks, Number24  ajb007/martini

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

Yes, I'd like to ally myself with N24's post. It's good to see your work, SoD, and I'm hoping there is a lot more of it.
One angle that might be mentioned is that Broccoli was at this point coming to terms with Saltzman's departure from Eon, the legal and financial implications of that, and the introduction of his stepson MGW as (more or less) Saltzman's replacement and his eventual heir- all while McClory was attempting to start his rival production(s).

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

Thanks for sharing this! Great work!

As much as I like Len Deighton, this sounds worse on paper than Never Say Never Again. If this was made, I don't think Austin Powers could have happened. This would have been the Bond spoof to top all Bond spoofs.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

Warhead 76 got a lot of coverage in the press at that time, which was unusual as we would sometimes wait months and even years waiting for news of the latest Bond film. I think the fact that Connery was thinking of making a comeback as Bond was the main reason for this.

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

I remember reading about it in the papers at the time, and there was also talk of the Longitude 78 West title being used (which had been dropped in '65). In certain sections of the public's minds, Connery was still the Bond, and his involvement gave the press a field day. I also recall thinking the title 'James Bond of the Secret Service' was really unimaginative- not a good sign.

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

Wasn’t most of this re-hashed again for Warhead 80? Basically the same nonsense just dated four years later  ajb007/rolleyes

I’m pretty certain it was trotted out once more as Warhead 2000 AD and this time they tried to get Dalton on board ajb007/insane

Weren’t there four concept designs/paintings/prints commissioned?

YNWA 96

The Unbearables

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

"Wasn’t most of this re-hashed again for Warhead 80? Basically the same nonsense just dated four years later 

I’m pretty certain it was trotted out once more as Warhead 2000 AD and this time they tried to get Dalton on board

Weren’t there four concept designs/paintings/prints commissioned?"


To the best of my knowledge there were essentially two versions- this one, and the 1990s Warhead 2000 AD, which I might cover in a future article. Not sure exactly what was in the Warhead 80 outline...

"this time they tried to get Dalton on board"

In the 1990s McClory approached Lazenby, Brosnan and Dalton at various stages. I'm sure he would have got around to trying Barry Nelson and David Niven eventually... ajb007/insane  ajb007/lol

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

In the 1990s McClory approached Lazenby, Brosnan and Dalton at various stages. I'm sure he would have got around to trying Barry Nelson and David Niven eventually... ajb007/insane  ajb007/lol

Well Brosnan actually approached him, which I think is rather interesting. He was so keen to be Bond that he tried to get it off the ground himself.


I do wonder why these scripts didn't deviate from Thunderball a bit more: especially NSNA which sticks really quite close to the original. How close did it have to be to still be considered an adaptation and not an original script I wonder? As close as Die Another Day is to Moonraker? After all, if AVTAK is a remake of Goldfinger, surely they could have drifted a bit further from Thunderball?

In actual fact, could McClory not have counter-sued against Spy Who Loved Me? It is basically the ultimate development of Thunderball: an evil genius stealing not just warheads but the submarines that carry them, and holding them onboard his massive ship.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

"In actual fact, could McClory not have counter-sued against Spy Who Loved Me?"

He did. The court upheld his sole right to use the Thunderball storyline, but failed to demonstrate that the Spy Who Loved Me's script was in itself guilty of plagiarism. I tend to think of Spy Who Loved Me as more derivative of YOLT than TB; stealing spaceships vs stealing submarines, Bond in his naval commander uniform in both films...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

emtiem wrote:

I do wonder why these scripts didn't deviate from Thunderball a bit more: especially NSNA which sticks really quite close to the original. How close did it have to be to still be considered an adaptation and not an original script I wonder?

I think the EON lawyers were all over it. Given his experiences in the courts, I'd imagine that McClory was careful not to do anything which might be the subject of an injunction or any costly litigation.

"How was your lamb?" "Skewered. One sympathises."

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Warhead 1976

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

"In actual fact, could McClory not have counter-sued against Spy Who Loved Me?"

He did. The court upheld his sole right to use the Thunderball storyline, but failed to demonstrate that the Spy Who Loved Me's script was in itself guilty of plagiarism. I tend to think of Spy Who Loved Me as more derivative of YOLT than TB; stealing spaceships vs stealing submarines, Bond in his naval commander uniform in both films...

Ah gotcha. I can see the link, but TSWLM certainly feels more Thunderball- it's even got scuba action. I think he had a point to be honest!

Charmed & Dangerous wrote:
emtiem wrote:

I do wonder why these scripts didn't deviate from Thunderball a bit more: especially NSNA which sticks really quite close to the original. How close did it have to be to still be considered an adaptation and not an original script I wonder?

I think the EON lawyers were all over it. Given his experiences in the courts, I'd imagine that McClory was careful not to do anything which might be the subject of an injunction or any costly litigation.

Fair enough. I wonder how they determined that though?