Topic: Lost Bond Films: Doomsday 2000

Here’s the next chapter on the James Bond films that were never made, cancelled and abandoned- this time focusing on Kevin McClory’s final dalliances with Bond in the 1990s…

Lost Bond Films: Doomsday 2000

In 1995, the James Bond franchise was well and truly back in action. After skating on thin ice for much of the previous six years, following tumultuous legal battles and casting difficulties, GoldenEye was eventually released in November of that year. Aided by a strong promotional campaign and mostly glowing reviews, the seventeenth official Bond adventure was able to gross over $350 million worldwide, a sweeping re-statement of the series’ pop culture relevance that guaranteed its continued box office dominance for years to come.

Yet this new wave of success bred rivals, none of them more alarming to Eon Productions than the return of disgruntled Irish producer Kevin McClory. Having worked to develop initial script ideas for Thunderball alongside Ian Fleming in 1958, McClory fought hard for the legal rights to produce his own film based on the story concepts established during these early meetings with 007’s creator. In 1965, McClory managed to strike a deal with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, which stipulated that he would gain the ability to make use of Thunderball’s plotline in his own cinematic ventures after a contractual period of ten years had passed. By 1975, this court deadline had definitively elapsed, and McClory set about attempting to gain funding and business partners to launch an independent James Bond picture. Over the next eight years, the producer’s efforts drifted in and out of various states of haphazard legal limbo, as Eon’s lawyers tried to prevent the mooted project from getting off the ground. Ultimately, however, their resistance proved futile. In late 1983, Never Say Never Again emerged. Starring original Bond Sean Connery, the film made in excess of $160 million across the globe; admittedly not quite as much as that year’s official 007 outing, Octopussy, but still a tidy profit considering Never Say Never Again’s $36 million budget. In the end, McClory’s determination had apparently been vindicated, against all the odds.

Consequently, McClory was keen to repeat the experiment a second time. As Eon’s Bond franchise descended into a murky legal quagmire in the early Nineties, their one-time competitor began to investigate avenues by which to resurrect his own dormant series. From a legal point of view, the only Bond story McClory could realistically utilise in any future script was Thunderball; all other Fleming plot elements remained strictly off-limits. In reality, this meant that McClory’s creative options were highly limited. Ultimately, he decided to move forwards with another direct remake of Thunderball, under the working title of Warhead, a codename previously appended to his earliest Bond script drafts in the mid-to-late Seventies. The first step was to find a willing 007 to headline the film. Hoping to repeat the ingenious casting coup of Connery’s central involvement in 1983, McClory approached the actor again with a view to starring as the secret agent for an eighth time.

McClory’s renewed persistence appeared, at first, to have succeeded. In October 1997, just two months before the release date of Eon’s eighteenth adventure, Tomorrow Never Dies, Sony Columbia put out a press statement boldly declaring their intention to work with McClory on the development of a brand new James Bond film, set for release in 1999.  According to the press document, this latest instalment would be “propelling James Bond into the 21st century”, with Sony’s Chief Operating Officer John Calley enthusiastically remarking on how "the new James Bond films emphasize our commitment to create motion picture franchises that serve as tentpoles for our release schedule and create business opportunities throughout the Sony family...” Calley’s breezy reference to an entire series of “films”  hinted that McClory and his colleagues expected to calmly ignore the plot restrictions imposed in the 1965 deal.  At the same time, Columbia’s vice-chair, Gareth Wigan, assured audiences that the recent move would be “giving James Bond a new home at Sony Pictures."

At Pinewood, Eon Productions, along with parent companies United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, reacted with fury.  Later the same month, MGM filed a $25 million dollar lawsuit in federal courts against Sony, citing copyright breaches. As part of the challenge, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s lawyers made a succession of dramatic and shocking claims. They argued that John Calley himself, a former United Artists president before his transfer to Sony, was trying to vindictively cause harm to his ex-employers, and accused him of stealing and misappropriating confidential marketing information about the Bond brand. They also pointed out that Sony’s announcement had been timed to coincide with MGM’s public offering on the stock market. As a result, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer now sought millions in damages.

In early 1998, People magazine quoted an unnamed insider, who declared confidently that Sony’s production had, in fact, managed to secure the services of Sean Connery: “a ‘well-connected agent’ tells the mag that Connery’s return as 007 is ‘real…its’ happening…”  On 20th February the same year, Sony capitalised on the positive press rumours by counter-suing MGM. This time, Sony attempted to claim that McClory was entitled to over $2.5 billion dollars’ worth of fiscal reimbursements, on the curious basis that he was just as responsible for the invention of the cinematic Bond as Ian Fleming himself. Plainly, the situation was quickly descending into farce. Despite the mayhem, Sony Columbia were still keen on forging ahead. In October 1998, the World Entertainment News Network carried reports that Sean Connery would star as James Bond in Doomsday 2000, to begin filming in January 1999 in Australia, Britain and Bahamas. A direct contest with Eon’s then-upcoming The World Is Not Enough seemed inevitable, replicating the circumstances faced in 1983.

At the last moment, however, Sony Columbia pulled back from the brink. In March 1999, it was revealed that MGM and Sony had settled out of court. We now know that the main plank of this arrangement involved Sony agreeing to hand over the creative rights for Fleming’s Casino Royale to Eon Productions, and both parties would later enter into a more amicable partnership when Sony took over home media distribution of the Bond series.  The saga of Kevin McClory’s final efforts at making a James Bond film remain intriguing, however, especially Sony’s insistence that their project would actually star Sean Connery. How much of this rumour was definite fact, as opposed to simply being unreliable gossip on the part of dubious ‘insiders’, is tantalisingly unclear- and when one factors in the vitriolic personal conflicts surrounding figures such as McClory and Calley, the picture becomes even more interesting. Ultimately, Doomsday 2000 stands as one of the most contentious and controversial lost Bond films…

Does anyone else know anything about this ill-fated attempt at making an unofficial Bond film? What do others think of the Connery casting debacle- idle gossip, or serious proposal? Would Doomsday 2000 potentially have been an improvement over McClory’s previous venture- and how might it have fared against TWINE in 1999?

Last edited by SpectreOfDefeat (22nd Aug 2020 23:21)


Re: Lost Bond Films: Doomsday 2000

Great stuff, thanks for writing. Must admit I didn't pay a huge amount of attention to all of the McClory things as they were going on then as they always sounded a bit fanciful and unlikely to happen, but Doomsday actually doesn't ring a bell, and I think I missed the talk of Connery doing it too.
In a way it could be interesting, Connery was still a powerful screen presence at the time, and you could almost imagine them getting creative with it and taking Bond somewhere quite new.

It's always mentioned that Connery's character in The Rock was a bit of a riff on Bond, so it'd be fun to think if you could have turned that into a Thunderball adaptation. Maybe Shrublands is actually a top security secret prison where the 60-something Bond has been incarcerated for many years, having been betrayed previously, and Count Lippe is a fellow inmate who escapes. Maybe you could have it so Bond isn't even working for MI6 either but escapes too in order to stop his and Largo's plan, only being brought onside much later in the film when he demonstrates he's on the side of the angels. An older, rougher, gruffer Bond... Quite fun to speculate!

You could even imagine a bit of twist on the Casino Royale 'dinner jacket' moment, when the older Bond, having been in prison overalls for years, has to infiltrate Largo's party and puts on his dinner suit again for the first time in years...



Re: Lost Bond Films: Doomsday 2000

Big Tam could easily have played Bond again. I wouldn’t underestimate his affection for the character, and his animus for Eon. Given a high degree of creative control I’m sure he would have been “all in”.