The James Bond Files ~
Untold Stories of 007, Part 2
– The James Bond Curse?
By Ronald Payne,
As told to Wesley Britton
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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
I asked Jack why he didn’t produce a second Bond
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 –
“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
“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
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.
Since writing up this interview, Ron has sent the following
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)
(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.