No Time to Die will mark James Bond’s 25th outing on the big screen, which is an impressive feat for any franchise. The 007 saga has been a box office behemoth for half a century, and the character, created by author Ian Fleming almost 70 years ago, is the poster child of a pop culture phenomenon if there ever was one. All in all, we can chalk Bond up as a success story.
Of course, any long-serving franchise contains a few movies that never came to be. In the case of Bond, some of the biggest directors in the history of cinema have been linked with the saga, while some ideas have been so crazy that they could have derailed the series if they made it to the screen.
With the world excited to celebrate Bond’s next outing in 2020, now is the perfect time to remember the Bond missions that almost happened. Most of them look quite interesting as well.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Thunderball
Alfred Hitchcock was no stranger to spy thrillers. The English director helmed several espionage films during his decorated career, including Notorious and North By Northwest. Therefore, it’s unsurprising to learn that he was approached in 1959 to oversee the very first Bond movie at the behest of the character’s author.
Fleming sent a telegram to Hitchcock asking if he would direct Thunderball. At the time, Hitchcock was searching for another vehicle and he wanted to read the script, of which he was reportedly a big fan. Furthermore, the filmmaker was interested in casting James Stewart in the lead role, but Richard Burton was also on the list of candidates.
It is not known what led to Hitchcock passing up the opportunity to bring 007 to the screen, but he went on to direct Psycho instead and did alright for himself. Still, the idea of a Hitchcock-directed Bond movie is very enticing, and it’s a crying shame that it never happened.
Kevin McClory’s Warhead
This is a complicated — and crazy — one that involves some confusing legal drama, but allow me to sum it up. In the 1950s, Kevin McClory and Fleming co-wrote a treatment for a 007 film project. Only, instead of writing a story based on one of Fleming’s novels, they decided to come up with something fresh and original. In the end, their planned movie never came to fruition, but Fleming repurposed the pair’s idea for his Thunderball novel.
Fleming didn’t consult McClory beforehand, though, which led to a messy lawsuit. McClory sued his former collaborator and retained the film and television rights to the story. When Eon Productions set about adapting Thunderball in the 1960s, they had to strike a deal with McClory, resulting in him being credited as a producer and afforded the right to remake the film 10 years later.
In 1976, McClory exercised his right. He hired Bond stalwarts Sean Connery and Len Deighton to work on the screenplay, presumably to take advantage of their reputation among 007 fans. The film was to be called Warhead, and while it loosely followed the blueprint of Thunderball, their concept was much wilder.
Warhead would have featured SPECTRE agents hiding out in the Statue of Liberty and using robot sharks armed with explosives to carry out their nefarious plans in the sewers. Some insiders even called their idea Star Wars set underwater, a notion that sounds very entertaining, to be fair.
Of course, it was too good to be true. Connery eventually pulled out of the film due to the messy legal situation surrounding it, but he and McClory eventually worked together on the 1983 Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again. However, McClory had big ambitions for Bond after that movie as well and tried to recycle his Warhead idea several years later.
The proposed film was subsequently retitled Warhead 2000, and Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson were in talks to star as Bond. Unfortunately, the project quickly fell apart after McClory’s ownership rights were questioned in court.
George Lazenby’s Diamonds Are Forever
George Lazenby’s tenure as Bond was short-lived, but he starred in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is widely regarded as one of the franchise’s best outings. It’s also one of the darker films in the Bond oeuvre, as the spy’s wife gets murdered by Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas).
The original plan was for the actor to reprise his role in a direct sequel based on Fleming’s Diamonds Are Forever novel. In the movie, Bond would have set out on a revenge mission to get justice for his wife, all the while mourning his loss between the scenes of retribution.
For a while, the project seemed locked and loaded. Richard Maibaum’s script had been revised several times and everyone was on board — except Lazenby. The actor dropped out of the project and the rest is history. The film was then rewritten to be the much campier 1971 version we got starring Connery, which set the tone for the franchise during the Roger Moore era that followed.
Diamonds Are Forever is a fun movie, but a dark and violent version of the film sounds pretty great. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been the commercially smarter option at the time, but fans of the franchise would undoubtedly appreciate Bond getting some payback.
Timothy Dalton’s The Property of a Lady
Timothy Dalton is arguably the most underrated Bond in the history of the franchise. He only starred in two movies, but he brought an edginess and intensity to proceedings that still feel refreshing to this day. It’s a bummer that he didn’t get to star in more 007 adventures.
For a minute, though, it looked as if he was going to have one last hurrah in the role. The Property of a Lady, based on Fleming’s short story of the same name, was in the works circa 1991, but legal issues between MGM and Danjaq (who own the rights to Bond) prevented the project from pressing ahead. By the time both parties settled their dispute in 1994, Dalton was still interested in making the movie. However, the Bond producers wanted him to commit to several films, which he wasn’t willing to do.
The story would have seen Bond deployed to the Far East to investigate a shady businessman suspected of ordering a terrorist attack on a Scottish nuclear facility. Bond’s exploits would have seen the spy cross paths with the Chinese Secret Service and go up against his old mentor-turned-villain (who would have been played by Anthony Hopkins).
All was not lost, however. The idea was reworked and became 1995’s GoldenEye. The new version includes an opening scene that takes place in Russia, while Bond’s old partner (played by Sean Bean in another movie where he dies) turns out to be the film’s main villain.
Quentin Tarantino’s Casino Royale
Despite having resisted the allure of franchise filmmaking throughout the years, Quentin Tarantino was interested in writing and directing a Bond movie at one point. The maverick filmmaker tried to acquire the rights to one particular novel from the franchise’s producers, but he couldn’t convince them to part ways with the property.
“After Pulp Fiction, I tried to get the rights to Casino Royale away from [Bond producers] the Broccolis, but that didn’t happen,” Tarantino recalled in an interview with Vulture. “That wouldn’t have been just throwing my hat in the franchise ring; that would have been subversion on a massive level, if I could have subverted Bond.”
While he didn’t manage to obtain ownership of Casino Royale, Tarantino approached the studio once again in 2004 to let them know that he was still interested in making the movie. Unfortunately, both parties had different ideas in mind for what the third adaptation of the 1953 novel should be. According to Tarantino, the producers said it was “unfilmable,” even though they subsequently hired Martin Campbell to helm the film that was released in 2006.
If Tarantino had his way, however, the movie would have been a small-scale, character-driven period piece with Brosnan returning as 007, and Uma Thurman in the role of Vesper Lynd. The plan was to base the story in the 1960s and make something more reminiscent of the book, which portrays Bond as a cold, brutally efficient chain smoker. That’s the type of Bond that Tarantino could have some fun with.
That said, when Tarantino says he could have “subverted Bond,” there’s no telling what he had in mind. It’s safe to assume that his contribution would have been the most violent Bond film in history. Maybe he would have changed the name to Casino Royale With Cheese? We can only speculate and dream.
Jinx Solo Movie
There have been rumblings in recent months of Naomie Harris starring in a female-led Bond spin-off centered around Moneypenny. However, this isn’t the first time that a movie dedicated to one of the franchise’s badass women has been considered.
After impressing as the Chinese spy Wai Lin in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, Michelle Yeoh almost got to star in her own solo movie about the character. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts got in the way, effectively stopping the project from moving forward. But it didn’t stop the Bond producers from trying to get a movie about a female character off the ground.
After Die Another Day, a spin-off film centering around Halle Berry’s Jinx was also in the works. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were hired to write a story that chronicled the character’s origins as an NSA agent. Stephen Frears was also on board to direct, though his appointment was never officially announced.
MGM ended up pulling the plug on the project for unknown reasons. While “creative differences” were cited by the producers, the fact that Die Another Day was unpopular among fans and critics may have influenced the studio’s decision.
What makes this one falling through even sadder is that Berry was very interested in reprising her role. The actor has shown that she’s capable of delivering the goods as an action star when she’s given good material. Furthermore, she’s an Oscar-winning performer who deserved more to do in Die Another Day. This movie could have been interesting in the right hands.
Peter Morgan’s Once Upon a Spy
If you thought that Tarantino would take Bond to some extreme places, wait until you get a load of this proposed film.
Once Upon a Spy was written by Peter Morgan, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind movies like Frost/Nixon and The Queen. He’s also found success recently with Netflix’s hit series The Crown. That said, he had some controversial ideas in mind for 007.
Morgan’s plan was to have Daniel Craig’s 007 kill Judi Dench’s M after learning that she was caught up in a Russian blackmailing scheme, which would have been a shocking twist, to say the least. The film would have contained flashbacks to M’s days an agent stationed in Berlin during the Cold War, where she had an affair with a KGB agent. Three decades later, his son — a Russian oligarch — appears and starts making life hell for M and Bond.
According to regular Bond screenwriter Robert Wade, Morgan’s story veered closer to the style of John Le Carre’s brand of spy fiction. Carre’s novels are viewed by some as a refreshing alternative to Bond because they’re more realistic and personal. The author even denounced the 007 character for being too gangster-like.
Unsurprisingly, the Bond producers had too many issues with Morgan’s vision to support his idea, but parts of his story informed the film that became 2012’s Skyfall.