Co-writer fails in bid for slice of Bond gold

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The Independent Culture

"A hero seeking to redeem his stolen fortune. The villainous organisation that stands in his way. Mystery! International intrigue!" It reads like the sort of advertising blurb that might have accompanied a James Bond film from the Sixties. But rather it formed part of the summing-up by a United States court which stepped into a 40-year dispute involving one of the original creators of the world's most famous secret agent.

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that Kevin McClory ­ who co-wrote the novel Thunderball with Bond originator Ian Fleming ­ was not eligible for the royalties he was claiming from Danjaq Productions LLC, which is owned by the family of the legendary Bond film producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli.

Mr McClory's struggle for greater recognition and compensation is almost as epic as those of the hero whom he helped create. In 1998 he finally brought a lawsuit, claiming that he owned the rights to the novel Thunderball and to script materials developed while working on that screenplay, which introduced the world to the criminal organisation SPECTRE, run by villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Thunderball ­ which took Bond to Nassau on the trail of Emilo Largo, who was trying to hold the world to ransom, and where he was also distracted by Largo's delightful escort Domino ­ was intended to be the first Bond movie. A lawsuit over its rights spurred the producers to instead make Dr. No first. Mr McClory claimed that the film incorporated material from his earlier scripts. Fleming settled in 1963, giving McClory some rights to Thunderball. In 1976, Mr McClory went to court alongside Sean Connery, in an attempt to block The Spy Who Loved Me on grounds that the film infringed on a script the pair was preparing.

Mr McClory also wrote and produced the 1983 film Never Say Never Again and persuaded the ageing Connery to polish up his Walther PPK and polish off another martini for one more adventure.

But the court ­ upholding an earlier decision by a lower court ­ ruled that Irishman Mr McClory essentially took too long to make his latest claim. He said he had been forced to delay his action because of the death of his sister-in-law.

"We conclude that McClory's claims are barred in their entirety ... (and) affirm the district court's dismissal of McClory's suit," wrote Judge Margaret McKeown in the court's ruling.

Mr McClory, a sailor during the Second World War, may be deterred from continuing his struggle for due credit by the comments of Judge McKeown, who concluded: "So like our hero, James Bond, exhausted after a long adventure, we reach the end of our story."