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The James Bond Files

 

 
The James Bond Files ~
Untold Stories of 007, Part 2 – The James Bond Curse?

By Ronald Payne,
As told to Wesley Britton


Introduction ~

According to Ron Payne, in 1998, he was in contact with Branwell McClory, son of Bond producer Kevin McClory. In one of their conversations, Branwell said, “Bond’s been a curse. It broke up my parents’ marriage. James Bond consumed all of my father’s time. I never made any money off James Bond. Tony Broccoli and I were friends, and I see what James Bond did to his life. We’ve all been miserable because of James Bond.”

Ironically, these words echoed what Branwell’s uncle, Desmond, had earlier told Payne – “James Bond is a curse.” Even more ironically, Payne claimed his quest to produce a Bond picture also broke up his twenty-five year marriage. “My wife left me, saying, ‘I’ve had enough of James Bond!’”.

Strange words, perhaps. 007 a curse?

Of course, behind the glamour and glitter and high-flying entertainment of the Bond mythos, there’s always been the murky realm of lawyers, film executives, dueling studios and contractual quagmires that have long been the stuff of insider speculation and sensational news reports. Behind the scenes, creating Bond pictures has been far more complex than casting choices, crafting scripts, or finding and filming in exotic locations. Along the way, more bodies have been cast to the side than all the sacrificial lambs who’ve spent a night in the bed of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, et al.

Here’s one such tale. Below, Ron Payne describes his unique memories of his trying to produce a Bond film – and the costs of his quest.

Note – Unlike Parts 1 and 3 of these files, this section of Ron Payne’s memoirs is filled with very personal adventures and some rather painful descriptions of people he met. In between his comments on Bond films, actors, and producers, he shares how various encounters affected his private life. But these memories are more than personal insights – expect secrets you haven’t encountered before. For example, if you thought you knew everything about Thunderball, Never Say Never Again . . . there are surprises in these paragraphs. And some intriguing might-have-beens. Like Sean Connery vs. the anti-Bond in New York – the anti-Bond being George Lazenby . . .




The Hunt for Kevin McClory

Q – What is the full story behind how you got a copy of the script for the legendary unproduced Bond picture, Warhead? I gather it came about when you tried to get work with Kevin McClory.

My journey to Ireland to find Kevin McClory was part desperation and part intrigue.

It began when Dennis Selinger, Sean Connery’s agent at International Creative Management in London, suggested I look McClory up in County Kildare. I was running out of money each day I stayed in England and I needed a job.

This suggestion happened on a winter afternoon in 1978 when I met with Selinger. He was called “The Silver Fox” because of his gray hair. He was a short little fellow but very nice to me and my wife. He had grown up a childhood chum of Peter Sellers, whom in 1978, he was also handling. He also represented Michael Caine. While we talked, Sean Connery (47 years old, then) sat outside patiently waiting. Selinger was not eager to see him that winter’s afternoon. Connery had come to say farewell. He was moving on to another firm.

Selinger was genuinely heartbroken by the break. I shall always remember him telling us how “Sean left Diane Cilento.” The emphasis here is on “Sean Left Her.” Not the other way round, which happens to be the truth. While his former client waited for the farewell, Selinger told me how Len Deighton, the author of The Ipcress File, had gotten burned in a number of film deals. He and Connery had assisted Kevin McClory in the writing of Warhead, a James Bond script in 1976. Then, it was time for me to go. I was startled as Selinger introduced me and my wife to the former James Bond, who couldn’t have been nicer.

Then, in January 1979, my wife, Ann and I left London for Liverpool and once arrived, quickly booked passage for Dublin on board the ferry Leinster to go to Kevin McClory’s Irish mansion. The snow and ice started to fall. The Irish Sea was very rough. I was so seasick I could barely mumble. We arrived in Dublin just before daybreak. As Dublin was in the midst of a major snow storm, we hurriedly departed the Leinster for a late model Mercedes taxi, which took us to a hotel.

The next morning, my wife and I walked past a theatre showing Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland in The Last Great Train Robbery, based on Michael Creighton’s book. Sean Connery’s image was everywhere. In America, of course, the film kept Creighton’s original title, The Great Train Robbery. But, England had had another “Great Train Robbery” in 1963 and the producers did not wish to confuse their audience.

Leaving the theatre behind, my wife and I were surrounded by a “children gang,” rather than a “gang of children,” who might have derived right out of Dickens. “Mon-ey! Mon-ey! Mon-ey!” they said in monotone, surrounding us. I felt their hands pushing into my coat pockets. Off in the distance, a man stood in the alley, watching. He was, obviously, their Fagan. What a frightening moment, as they boxed in on us, not giving us room to move away. A policeman, just getting off his beat, saw the gang that consisted of children ranging in ages between six and nineteen. They ran in all directions, leaving the policeman exasperated.

We then stayed in Barborstown Castle in a suite that in the past was, usually, reserved for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It was the middle of winter. Snow and ice everywhere. My wife and I walked six miles or so in the snow looking for Kevin McClory’s rose-colored mansion. The sun getting higher in the sky, as the clouds broke away against the snow and rose colored pink of the house produced an extraordinary visual effect. My wife and I were so happy to, at last, reach the house.

It was beautiful inside. It was about three stories or so. The house was beautifully furnished. However, what I noticed immediately was McClory’s “Telex” machine for relaying messages between “Straffen House,” the estate and his home in the Bahamas.

Kevin McClory was not there!

He and his new wife, Elizabeth, were on Paradise Island soaking up sea and sun. The caretaker, whose name I don’t remember, said, “Ah, just received a Telex. Mr. McClory is going to the casino tonight. I’ll send him a Telex that you’re here.”

The caretaker was in his late twenties, and he couldn’t have been more helpful. The Telex intrigued me. So this is how mega-millionaire James Bond producers stay in contact with their staff, I thought, studying the machine in these pre-eMail days. I definitely wanted one once I returned to the States.

The caretaker, ever smiling, sent out, perhaps, six separate telexes. After about an hour, more return telexes ensued. “Mr. McClory regrets he cannot be here, but . . . ” The “but” was his brother, Desmond, was now just arriving at The Dorchester Hotel. This would mean a complete 360 degree turn around and a return to London.

I think the caretaker felt sorry for us. I told him about my desperation and failure to land a job on one of the official Broccoli Bond films. His empathy to our plight was touching. We stayed, perhaps, another hour as the Telex machine zipped along. He showed us the grounds in that wonderfully winter wonderland setting. We discussed Sean Connery and Len Deighton and Warhead.

As my wife and I readied to depart, the caretaker said, “I’m sorry I can’t drive you back to Barborstown Castle. The roads are covered deep in snow. I don’t know how the two of you managed it, but your determination to see Mr. McClory should not go unrewarded. Take this and never tell anyone where you got it.” I accepted the package without looking to see what it was. “Open it when you get back to London,” he said, smiling and shaking our hands. “It’s a photo copy of something you might wish to read.” My wife and I thanked this cheerful fellow whose warmth and kindness toward us I shall never forget.

Before the electric fire in our rooms, I studied the package carefully. Should I wait until London to open it? My wife exited the bathroom. She looked at me with impulsive curiosity in her eyes as I fingered the string around the brown packaging. “Aren’t you going to open it?” she said.

“London, remember. I promised. Bad luck to open it too soon.”

I withstood the bumpy return trip across the Irish Sea by getting a bunk below the water line. From Liverpool, we took the train to London. On board the train, I ran into two suspicious-looking men. The rail car in which we traveled was almost empty except for these two and another person. I was startled when I saw what looked like a hand grenade roll out of a duffel bag onto the floor. Indeed, the one nearest me opened his bag – and I saw an entire bag of hand grenades and other weapons. The fellow closer to me, nonchalantly, picked up his little green pineapple and flipped it back into the bag and closed it up. The two then resumed their serious drinking of a good bottle of Glenfiddish Scotch. Soon, they broke out into song and asked me to join.

“We’re just getting back from Rhodesia, mate,” the bearded one said, his laughing eyes watering and bloodshot.

“We came back into England on a bloody submarine,” the other said, slurring, ever so slightly. The other’s copy of a Frederick Forsythe novel, The Dogs of War, lay on the seat beside him.

“Mercenaries, old boy,” the nearer one said. “The book’s about mercenaries. Freddie got it right in this one.”

After that, both of them slept and the train rushed onward toward London in the worst rain and freezing ice storm I’d ever encountered. As we approached London and Victoria Station, I decided to open the package. After all, I had kept my end of the bargain. When I removed the contents of the package, my heart raced.

“What is it, dear?” my wife said, seeing the expression on my face. “Are you okay?” I held the contents of the package in my hand until she took it away. The train was slowing down and people were preparing to disembark from the other cars. The hand grenade buddies at the front of the car suddenly were wide awake and on their feet, their explosive duffel bags in their hands. “Warhead, a screenplay by Sean Connery, Len Deighton and Kevin McClory. A Kevin McClory Production,” my wife read out loud. “It’s "It's the script to a James Bond film,” my wife said, still not believing her eyes.

“We must hurry, right away, to the Dorchester Hotel and find Desmond McClory,” I said, as we stepped out at Victoria Station. I watched with fascination as our mercenary friends by-passed the rest of us. Suddenly, a black Austin taxi swung violently around the corner and stopped, right in front of us. The two with the explosive duffel bags got in without looking back and the car shot off and away as quickly as it had arrived.


Desmond McClory in London

Ann and I took the fastest cab we could to The Dorchester. Desmond McClory was there ahead of us, already in his suite. When I told him about our rush to County Kildare, he said, brusquely, “Well, we didn’t invite you, you know. Perhaps you should have warned everyone ahead of time that you were arriving. I doubt that Kevin would have seen you, anyway. He doesn’t like being bothered by people he doesn’t know. For that matter, he doesn’t like being bothered by the people he does know. Now, what’s on your mind? I really haven’t a lot of time. I haven’t been getting on well, lately, and time is more than just money. Mine’s more precious than gold, just now. What do you want? You want a job on Warhead?”

I said I did.

“Listen, I don’t feel like the most patient man, right now. It’s not your fault. It’s a big mistake for you to be running all the way out to Straffen House. Just the wrong thing to do.”

Momentarily, I felt saddened, but I refused to be defeated. “Why’s that?” I asked.

Warhead is a long way off in the future,” Desmond McClory said. “I’m not certain if Kevin will ever get it launched. There’s no studio involved. No backing. Lawsuits all over the place. I remember a time when my brother and Broccoli were friends. For all I know, you may be a spy for the competition. I really shouldn’t be talking with you. I don’t know you and Dennis Selinger should stay out of it. He had no business sending you out on a wild goose chase to harass my brother.”

I assured Desmond McClory I didn’t journey all the way to Ireland under the harshest of winter conditions to harass the producer of Thunderball. I simply wanted a job – any job – just the way Kevin McClory, himself, went after John Huston, Mike Todd and Ian Fleming. “Ambitious, are you?” Desmond McClory said.

“If you mean ambitious in the sense I would some day like to produce a James Bond film, absolutely!”

“It’s a curse, believe me,” Desmond McClory countered as we left. “I’m very sorry I cannot help you, but there is nothing to discuss. There is no job for anyone, just now. Kevin is the copyright holder to the film of Thunderball. He is the producer. There is no director. No distributor. No anything. He does possess the right to produce more James Bond films, regardless of what Broccoli and the Fleming estate might ascertain. Go home. Sorry. I speak for my brother when I say this. Maybe in a year or two. Just go home.”


Never Say Never

Q – I understand your interest in Warhead lead to your learning much about how Never Say Never Again came to be.

In the summer and fall of 1991, I was working for a motion picture production company here in the east that was looking for “joint venture productions” and “pick-ups” of independent films in the United States and in Europe. Naturally, I was interested in Jack Schwartzman, the producer who brought Kevin McClory’s Never Say Never Again to the screen. I contacted Schwartzman through his brother-in-law’s production company, American Zoetrope in San Francisco. Jack was married to Talia Shire, Francis Ford Coppola’s sister. His James Bond film had been a TaliaFilm Production. It was even rumored that Francis Ford Coppola, himself, had worked on Lorenzo Semple’s script of the film without credit.

I liked Jack Schwartzman right away. I asked him if he knew how I could find Kevin McClory. He said he didn’t have the slightest idea. He had licensed Never Say Never Again strictly as a business arrangement. He said, “I was working at Lorimar as an entertainment attorney when McClory’s script for Warhead came across my desk. Paramount and Filmways and a couple of other studios had been interested in it, but they all passed on it eventually, as no one wanted to spend the rest of their lives in court fighting with United Artists and Cubby Broccoli. I asked McClory to bring me everything he had from the British courts for review and he did.

“After reviewing Kevin McClory’s case against Ian Fleming in 1963 and reading the judge’s decision, which granted all film rights in the James Bond novel Thunderball to McClory, I was ready to take action. I told McClory I was interested in producing a sequel, but it wouldn’t be Warhead. I told McClory Warhead was too risky as the script he was presenting me, written by Sean Connery, Len Deighton and himself, though it may have been based upon various treatments he owned, moved outside the parameters set by Thunderball, the novel and film.

“I did not wish to lose time debating Warhead in court to lawyers representing Broccoli and United Artists. My course of action was to re-engage the British High Court for a second determination on the matter – just weeks before we were to start shooting in the Bahamas – and we were given the green light, as long as we were making a direct remake of Thunderball.

“The guidelines were very strict. The new film must be the same story. We changed a couple of things around, but it was still Blofeld and SPECTRE and Largo and Domino and Shrublands and the hijacking of the nuclear warheads. Fatima Blush, played by Barbara Carrera, was a reworking of the character Fiona Volpe from Thunderball. Q, of course was called “Algernon” in our film. I also told McClory I would not be interested in producing the film unless Sean Connery returned as James Bond.

“We signed all the papers and TaliaFilm, named for my wife, was created. Sean Connery needed a boost in his career, just about then, and Never Say Never Again came along at just the right time for all of us. I knew if Connery was starring as James Bond, I would have no problem selling the film and that is just what I did. I went to Mark Damon’s PSO (Producer’s Sales Organization) and sold the film territory by territory all over Europe and the rest of the world. Warner Brothers distributed the picture in the United States.”

I asked Jack why he didn’t produce a second Bond film.

“McClory sold me the license to do two Bond films, but I let the option on the second picture lapse. I did not wish to do a third remake of Thunderball, for one thing, though we could have made it quite different from Never Say Never Again, artistically. It would still be the Thunderball story again, but visually and artistically we could have produced a very different looking film. I was not satisfied with the Michelle LeGrand music score, for one thing. I wanted John Barry, who had done Thunderball and the other Bond films, but Barry was a Broccoli loyalist – and I don’t blame him for loyalty to Broccoli, it’s admirable. My second choice was Jerry Goldsmith, who would have been wonderful, but Goldsmith was unavailable. Sean Connery’s wife, Micheline, recommended Michelle LeGrand and he was contacted. We did not have a lot of prep time and LeGrand, I believe, pulled out this jazz score he had written and scored our film with it. I don’t like the music in Never Say Never Again and I hope there will be some way in the future it can be fixed. It is not pretty music. It is not exciting. It is not James Bond. The only thing memorable about the music is that it is so awful. But we have contracts, and those contracts will not allow (for now) anything to be changed.”

When I asked about an opening gun barrel sequence, Schwartzman said, “Of course, we couldn’t use the gun barrel sequence. That belongs to Broccoli and EON and is their trademark. McClory had the idea of James Bond shooting at a target as the opening sequence. It was to be done in a very exciting way that would remind us of the other Bond films without infringing on their intellectual property rights or copyrights.”

Schwartzman went back to his second reason for not doing another James Bond film. “I might have considered doing the second film, if Sean Connery were available, but he was not. Sean and I got along very well, in the beginning. But, by the end of shooting, we were talking very little. Sean had the right of director, writer and actor approval. Sean chose Irwin Kershner, with whom he had worked before on A Fine Madness, to direct, but someone told me afterward Sean felt he was directing the picture and that Kershner felt overwhelmed by his responsibilities. Sean also stated to the press that I had changed my phone number in the Bahamas and was inaccessible. I was always accessible to Sean. How does a producer get a film produced, if he is not accessible?

“Sean deserves a great deal of the credit for the success of Never Say Never Again, but he doesn’t deserve all the credit. Talia and I mortgaged our homes to get the film made. The astronomically rising costs of each day’s shoot went slightly over budget because action films are expensive to produce. And James Bond action films, in particular, are very expensive to make. I knew if we were going to compete in the market place with Roger Moore’s Octopussy, that same summer, we’d better look good.

“We filmed all over the world. The Bahamas. The Mediterranean. The south of France. It was a wise decision for Warner Brothers to release the film in the autumn rather than go head-to-head with Octopussy.”

Schwartzman and I talked for more than three hours. Later, we would exchange several important Bond related letters and talk again by telephone. Somewhere in this time frame, Jack Schwartzman was diagnosed with cancer and died. I was very sad about it. He was an interesting guy.


More McClory Connections

Q – How did you re-connect with the McClory family?

In the spring of 1998, I ran several chapters of Snelling’s Double 0 Seven with some updating on the Internet. I also retroactively ran an article from my James Bond, Secret Agent magazine from 1982 about my pursuit of Kevin McClory and Warhead. It was during this period that I created 21st Century Artists Film Corporation in Delaware for the purpose of producing my own motion pictures.

One morning, it was still dark outside, I received a curious e-mail. In fact, it intrigued me. It was from Branwell McClory, the son of Kevin McClory. He had read my article about my attempt to meet his father. Also, to my surprise, he told me he lived less than 200 miles away from me. We were both now living in Virginia. Even more surprising, I learned Kevin McClory was then living in Washington, D.C.

This was a very special time in Kevin McClory’s life. Sony Pictures had just days before announced that they and Kevin McClory had signed a deal to make a new series of James Bond motion pictures based on the Thunderball scripts and treatments. John Calley, the former head of MGM/United Artists that distributed the Albert R. Broccoli EON “James Bond” films, was now the CEO of Sony Pictures.

The announcement by Sony that McClory would be doing Warhead, after all these years, reignited my desire to get a job on this very special project. It was hinted that Sean Connery, at 68, would once more step forward as “007” to do battle with Blofeld and Largo. I couldn’t have been happier or more excited by the news.

I contacted Sony Pictures and found out that Dean Devlin and Roland Emerich were being considered as the producers of Warhead. I spoke with, at least, six different executives at Sony, who were close to the project. McClory was once again licensing out his “interests” in James Bond. He would make millions from Sony, whether a picture was made or not.

A great many people were affected by Sony’s announcement. One of those persons was Al Ruddy, the producer of the TV series Hogan’s Heroes and the motion picture The Godfather. McClory suddenly revoked Ruddy’s option to do a TV series based on the Thunderball treatments. Everything was now in the hands of Sony Pictures, though Sean Connery, himself stated he had signed nothing to play James Bond. Connery even implied he hadn’t been told anything about the project, though one of the Sony executives I talked to told me Amy Pascal, the President of Sony, was flying to Europe for a secret meeting with the former Bond.


Q – Knowing about your friendship with George Lazenby, did his name cross your mind during this time?

I wanted to get my friend George Lazenby into this picture. I would have loved to have seen George Lazenby portray Bond a second time, but I knew that was out of the question. What I did suggest was this – that George be given the role of Count Lippe. Our Count Lippe would be different from those played by Guy Rolfe in Thunderball and Pat Roach in Never Say Never Again. Instead, George Lazenby’s Count Lippe would always be dressed in a black tuxedo. He would be an expert knife thrower and hired assassin. He would be one of the top members of SPECTRE. He would drive a 1928 Bugatti-Royale. And he would be the ultimate womanizer. In fact, he would be the “flip-side of 007, the dark side of James Bond.”

I called George’s Count Lippe “The Anti-Bond.” I wanted to write this scene for Warhead. When George Lazenby’s Count Lippe attacked Connery, I wanted Lazenby to say, “This is for all the trouble you’ve given me over the years, Mr. Bond.”

And, of course, James Bond (Connery) would kill off Count Lippe (George Lazenby) but Bond aficionados would have a great treat, with this special cinematic moment. The inside joke about “all the trouble you’ve given me over the years, Mr. Bond” had been in my mind since 1979.

Branwell and I exchanged many e-mails and talked on the telephone several times. There were a great many suggested death threats on the internet targeted at Kevin McClory. We both agreed that these fanatics were crazy and dangerous. I told George Lazenby I would do what I could to get him into Warhead. I had George contact Branwell. The conversation between Branwell McClory and George Lazenby went very well, but I think Branwell felt he had been used, which was not my intention.

“You’re quite the middle man, aren’t you, Ron,” Branwell said to me a few days later in one of his e-mails. I sent him a couple of e-mails comparing the differences between Thunderball and Never Say Never Again. Branwell had worked on Never. I had thought Thunderball a far superior motion picture. Branwell’s last e-mail to me said, “If I want your advice, I’ll ask for it.” And, that was the end of what might have been a good friendship.

Branwell McClory had told me things prior to his conversation with George about his relationship with the character James Bond. “Bond’s been a curse. It broke up my parents’ marriage. James Bond consumed all of my father’s time. I never made any money off James Bond. Tony Broccoli and I were friends and I see what James Bond did to his life. We’ve all been miserable because of James Bond.”

At the same time, he was proud of his work on Never Say Never Again and even prouder of his father’s attempt to build a second James Bond franchise at Sony Pictures. By the way, George Lazenby caught up with Kevin McClory at a memorial service in Los Angeles for John Stears, the special effects wizard who had worked on both Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. That meeting went well.

What didn’t go so well was the outcome at Sony. Sony Pictures bailed out on McClory and settled in court with MGM/United Artists. Sony gave up their rights to Casino Royale and a lot of money exchanged hands. Sony also gave up any hope of ever making a James Bond film of any kind. McClory did not settle with anyone. MGM/United Artists and their attorneys, led by Pierce O'Donnell, made it clear to Judge Refedie in Los Angeles that McClory had lost his American copyright standing in James Bond and that all film rights had reverted to Ian Fleming Publications, the owners of the James Bond copyright in the book Thunderball, and that all of McClory’s prior rights derived from that work.

“Officially,” MGM/UA’s lawyers stated, “McClory is out of the Bond business.”

Of course, Sony later bought MGM/United Artists and today is partner to Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions. Their first collaborative James Bond film is Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig, released November 17, 2006. Produced by Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.


Payne and the “Never Say Take Over EON” Affair

Q – Speaking of the official franchise, what dealings have you had with them over the past few years?

In the early 1990s, I received a letter one morning from Mr. Norman Tyre, the attorney for Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli instructing me to “stay out of the business affairs of Danjaq and EON Productions, Ltd.” (As you know, Danjaq is named for Dana Broccoli, Cubby’s wife, and Jacqueline Saltzman, Harry’s wife, is the holding company for the Broccoli family that owns EON Productions.)

It was not simply a request: it was a threat that legal action would be taken against me if I persisted.

I knew who Norman Tyre was. He was the legal eagle behind James Bond 007 and he worked out of Los Angeles. He was the man most responsible for getting Cubby Broccoli started in the Bond movie making business. Tyre was tough. He had fought it out with everybody over the years and sued everyone, including Sean Connery on Broccoli’s behalf. It was rumored he had loaned money to Broccoli to option Bond and to set up his production company in England. Norman Tyre knew everything that there was legally to know about James Bond and the worldwide Broccoli operation. Tyre was also one of Broccoli’s closest friends. He wasn’t about to let a “whippersnapper” like me take control of his most precious asset – “double 0 seven.”

Here’s the backstory. This came about because, in the early 1990s, Cubby Broccoli announced through “Lazard-Frere” in London that his James Bond empire was up for sale. The asking price – $600,000,000. I was already familiar with the EON Productions office at 2 South Audley Street and I had met Reginald Barkshire, Broccoli’s “production controller” more than once and liked him. I wasn’t being delusional when I decided to go after the James Bond franchise. I really wanted it, and I knew what I was going to do with it.

Here’s what I had in mind. I knew several top executives at a major Swiss pharmaceutical company who had the power to raise the money we needed to take over EON and Danjaq and make us partners with United Artists. EON Productions, Ltd. and Danjaq, Broccoli’s holding company, would become subsidiaries of the pharmaceutical firm and be totally controlled by them. I would be made general manager of EON Productions, Ltd. in London and offered a ten-year contract with salary and preferred stock. I wanted to be in total control of all future James Bond films.

I also had a secret agenda: I wanted to sign George Lazenby to a four-picture deal to return as “double 0 seven”. And, if United Artists did not agree to that, I was going to have the people in Geneva think about switching studios to 20th Century-Fox, where I knew the right people to talk with.

Cubby Broccoli made no James Bond films between 1989’s License to Kill, with Timothy Dalton and 1995’s Goldeneye, starring Pierce Brosnan. The reason was a contract dispute with MGM over the profit distribution. Broccoli threatened to move James Bond to another studio.

However, what I learned the hard way was this – Albert R. Broccoli never had any intention of letting his empire slip away from him. His putting James Bond on the auction block was not for real, regardless of how many times Broccoli said he was ready to let it go to the highest bidder. That bidder never came because Broccoli wasn’t going to sell 007 to anyone. I know this because when I came along, I hit a nerve. I was serious about an immediate take over and Tyre set me straight. I was ready to fly to London and take up residence in my new offices as soon as all the paper work was complete.


Q – What creative ideas did you have in mind?

Reginald Barkshire had told me in 1979 that “Mr. Broccoli hates the Bond novel, Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis (Robert Markham) and will never film it.” The first book I put on my list to film was Colonel Sun. In 1985, my last visit to EON Productions, Reginald Barkshire was still there, though a little grayer and the subject of John Gardner’s Bond novels was raised.

“Mr. Broccoli does not like the Bond novels of John Gardner. He would never film any of them.” The second book I put on my list, once I gained command of EON Productions, would be Icebreaker, a James Bond Adventure by John Gardner. I did not understand Broccoli’s aversion to the works of Amis and Gardner, except that by not filming them, he would not have to spend an extra $200,000 or so paying Ian Fleming Publications (the literary copyright holders) for using them.

John Gardner spent some time living in Charlottesville, Virginia, while he wrote his seasonal James Bond thrillers and I know he had no interest in “writing screenplays for the movies.” I don’t think he ever had any contact with Cubby Broccoli. I received a letter from Gardner once about the possibility of George Lazenby and I optioning one of his “Boysie Oakes” adventures. Gardner said something about Broccoli, “Why couldn’t they film one of his many Bond adventures?”

I knew why. Cubby Broccoli hated all Bond novels that were not part of what’s now being called “the James Bond canon.” These are the original books by Ian Fleming.

Anyway, Norman Tyre’s letter was very revealing. It was just as well. The pharmaceutical company in Switzerland soon grew weary of evasive answers from Lazard-Frere and MGM/UA and walked away from the project after six months. This was an enormously humbling and deflating experience for me. I really looked forward to wearing Saville Row tailor-made suits and smoking Jamaican cigars with my brandy in what had once been Cubby Broccoli’s offices. I soon realized my dream of “Ronald Payne Presents George Lazenby as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007” was written in smoke and water.


The Unkindest Cut

Q – Knowing you, I’m sure you remained persistent. Any later tries at working with EON?

In December 2004 I drove to California from Virginia. I was looking for work again on a Bond picture and I decided to go to Danjaq at their MGM headquarters on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica.

Fifteen minutes after arriving in Santa Monica my car was stolen, along with the contents inside. I lost my electric typewriter, all my cash, my clothes, books, etc. Everything I brought with me. Before that, the rear end went out of my Cougar on Wilshire Boulevard when a garbage truck pulled suddenly in front of me. I pushed hard on the brakes in order to miss crashing into the truck. The rear end fell out immediately, and the car would not move another inch. In the heaviest afternoon traffic I have ever witnessed, I pushed the car (alone) up hill and out of the way, with traffic passing me on both sides. Finally, I rolled the car into a parking lot and received permission to leave my car until the following day. I walked across Wilshire to go to the bathroom. When I returned, my car was gone and has not been seen since. My first hour in “Tinsel Town”.

The shock of losing my automobile did not stop me. The next morning I walked from my motel room to MGM on Colorado Avenue. The entire MGM workforce was in exodus to their new facilities in Century City. Everybody was leaving, except Danjaq, LLC., the owners of James Bond. I didn’t even have to go through a guard check to see them. I called them from a phone downstairs and then proceeded to find them in the building.

Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in the most spartan office I had ever seen. Whereas, EON Productions in London had been wood paneled walls and cozy (though cold in the outer offices, where the secretaries greeted the public) the Danjaq offices were stark. The furnishings consisted of one hard-back chair and a short couch. There was a coffee table with one (absolutely) one book about James Bond. It was well worn. On the wall was a full size replica of Cubby Broccoli’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Nothing else. There was a coffee maker with Styrofoam cups peeking at me through another door. A single secretary sat disinterestedly behind a desk. She was younger than the shoes I was wearing.

The office manager came out. Female. Red head. “There are no jobs here at Danjaq.” She spoke so rapidly I had difficulty understanding her and she might as well have been on speed, the way she behaved. I thought what a shocking contrast between the friendly manner of Reginald Barkshire, who entertained me in his beautiful offices in London and this place. The Danjaq offices could have just as easily been the offices of a community college. Or, a correctional center. Concrete. Impersonal. She never invited me to sit down. I think she did offer me a cup of hot tea, but I’m not really certain. I did not feel welcome. The one name hot off her rapidly moving tongue, that morning – Colin Farrell.

“We want Colin Farrell to play James Bond.” I don’t know why this was said in front of me, except I had mentioned being a journalist. I said something about Pierce Brosnan.

“He was fired, wasn’t he?”

She glared at me, as if she hated me. “He wasn’t fired! He didn’t want to do it anymore!”

Things were not going well. Somehow, it came up about Kevin McClory. “He doesn’t have any rights at all. Well, maybe he could make a James Bond film in Australia, somewhere. No studio’s going to touch him out here. We don’t want to hear his name in this office.”

Danjaq’s manager then told me to go downstairs and find a computer and fill out an MGM employment form. And, that was that. It was the most bizarre encounter I could ever have and I wondered, “How come people like her are working for James Bond and I’m not?”

On the elevator, a publicist for MGM, ready to make the exodus to Century City, said out loud in the elevator, “Brosnan wasn’t fired. He wanted too much money. He didn’t want to do Bond anymore.” He, too, glared at me and raced away as fast as his two little feet would carry him.

Was everybody in this place paranoid and crazy? I was not getting a good impression about anyone. I walked through the underground parking lot at MGM and saw the publicist in the elevator get inside his Lexus and speed out, squealing his tires. I was already sick of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. I didn’t care if Colin Farrell or Sean Connery or George W. Bush played James Bond 007. My car was stolen and nobody cared. I couldn’t even find George Lazenby’s telephone number, because it was on the front seat of the Cougar and not in my head.




Addenda ~

Since writing up this interview, Ron has sent the following notes ~

Note 1 – “Wes, you had it right regarding the location where I broke down, except it was Damjaq’s offices in the MGM offices on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, not EON’s. EON’s offices are in London, so they can be near Pinewood Studios.

Several years back they moved out of 2 South Audley Street (where Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton all went to get their assignments.) The last I heard they had moved up to Piccadilly Circus and that is where I sent Curtis Bush, the former middle weight kick boxing champion from Virginia when they were shooting Tomorrow Never Dies. I contacted Debbie McWilliams, their casting agent, about using Curtis in the film. Curtis had never lost a bout and he was defending his title in London, the night the producers were supposed to watch him.

That night, he lost the title for the very first time. Can you imagine? Poor Curtis. No Bond movie. The coveted role went to a large blond actor (the assistant to Jonathan Pryce) and Bond history moves on. The next match Curtis Bush was in, he recaptured the championship. By that time, the film was well into production. Curtis starred in the motion picture, The Dark Angel, which is on DVD under several different titles, too many for me to keep track of, just now.“

Note 2 – Before I forget this – In 1985, Reginald Barkshire told me in his London office (EON) that ~

(a) Sean Connery was offered first dibs on every James Bond script (right up until Octopussy). In short, Connery was getting scripts for every Roger Moore picture and turned them down, mostly out of courtesy to Roger Moore, his good friend, I suspect. Connery disliked Broccoli so intensely, he never wished to work with him again.

(b) Barkshire also told me this about Never Say Never Again. He smiled at me from across his desk. “I don’t think we learned anything from that one,” Barkshire said. Reg Barkshire went on to describe the NSNA screen score as “atrocious” and made several other points as well. He was very proud of the fact Octopussy had won out at the box office. “We made a much more entertaining James Bond film.”

The conversation then switched to how hard Cubby Broccoli pushed Michael Wilson and daughter Barbara to learn the business. Broccoli was a perfectionist, according to Reginald Barkshire, and he wanted his children to know everything from “the bottom up.” Only Tony Broccoli, who had worked on Octopussy, was not interested in getting too involved in the James Bond mythos.




End of Part 2 and Ron Payne’s personal memoirs.

In Part 3 of “Untold Stories of 007”, Ron reveals the secrets of the script of Warhead – perhaps the biggest “what-if” in Bond history.