|Never Say Never Again|
|James Bond||Sean Connery|
|Also starring||Kim Basinger
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Max von Sydow
|Directed by||Irvin Kershner|
|Produced by||Jack Schwartzman|
|Novel/Story by||Kevin McClory
|Screenplay by||Lorenzo Semple Jr.|
|Music by||Michel Legrand|
|Main theme||"Never Say Never Again"|
|Editing by||Ian Crafford|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||October 7, 1983|
|Running time||134 min.|
Never Say Never Again, released in 1983 by Warner Bros., is a remake of the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball. Unlike the majority of other Bond films it was not produced by EON Productions. Because of this, it is referred to as an 'unofficial' James Bond film. The film stars Sean Connery as British Secret Service agent James Bond 007. Connery had been the first actor to portray Bond in a motion picture, in 1962's Dr No, but after a series of commercially successful films Connery left the franchise in 1971. For Never Say Never Again he portrayed Bond for the seventh and final time on the screen, although he would reprise the character as a voice actor for the 2005 From Russia With Love video game.
Although the film was not part of EON's Bond film franchise, subsequent mergers and dealings mean that it is currently owned, like the rest of the series, by United Artists' parent, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: It was released only four months after the EON Bond film Octopussy, starring Roger Moore. MGM acquired the distribution rights in 1997 after its acquisition of Orion Pictures. The film also marks the culmination of a long legal battle between United Artists and Kevin McClory that goes back to his working on the original story with Fleming and Jack Whittingham.
The title is based on a conversation between Sean Connery and his second wife, Micheline Roquebrune. After initially retiring from the role following Diamonds Are Forever (1971) he told her he would 'never' play James Bond again. Her response was for him to "Never say never again." She is credited at the end of the film for her contribution. As a result, it was the first Bond movie to use a non-Ian Fleming originated title. The film opened in the autumn of 1983 and was a commercial success, grossing $160 million at the box office.
The film opens with a middle-aged, yet still athletic James Bond making his way through an armed camp in the midst of a Central American jungle. His mission is to rescue a girl who has been kidnapped. After infiltrating a house and killing the kidnappers, Bond lets his guard down, forgetting that the girl might have been subject to the Stockholm syndrome (in which a kidnapped person comes to identify with his/her kidnappers) and is stabbed to death by her. Or so it seems.
In fact, the attack on the camp is nothing more than a field training exercise using blank ammunition and fake knives, yet one Bond fails because he ends up "dead" (a previous "fake" mission saw his legs get blown off by a land mine). A new M is now in office, one who sees little use for the double-0 section. In fact, Bond has spent most of his recent time teaching, rather than doing, a fact he points out with some resentment.
Feeling that Bond is slipping, M orders him to enroll in a health clinic in London in order to "eliminate all those free radicals" and get back into shape. While there, Bond succeeds in charming the uniform off Miss Fearing, a flirtatious staff nurse. The seduction concluded and all passion having been spent, Bond witnesses a mysterious nurse (Fatima Blush) beating her patient in a room across the way. He is wrapped in bandages; and after Fatima is through with him, Bond sees him using a strange machine which scans his eye. Bond's suspicions are aroused further when he is evidently recognized and an attempt is made to kill Bond in the gym; however, the conflict ends in the assassin's death after an intense fight that ranges through the clinic's kitchen and ends in the laboratory.
Blush and her charge, an American Air Force pilot named Jack Petachi, are in fact operatives of SPECTRE, a criminal organization run by Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Petachi has undergone an operation on his right eye which matches the retinal pattern of the American President. Using his position as a pilot and the president's eye pattern to circumvent security, Petachi infiltrates an American military base in England and orders the dummy warheads in two ALCM cruise missiles replaced with two live W80 nuclear warheads, which SPECTRE captures and uses to extort billions of dollars from the governments of the world. Blush then murders Jack by blowing up his car.
M reluctantly reactivates the double-0 section, and Bond is assigned the task of tracking down the missing weapons, beginning with a rendezvous with Domino Petachi, the pilot's sister, who is kept a virtual prisoner by her lover, Maximillian Largo. Bond pursues Largo and his yacht to the Bahamas, where he engages Domino, Fatima Blush, and Largo in a game of wits and resources as he attempts to derail SPECTRE's scheme.
After arriving in Nice, France, Bond and his American counterpart from the CIA, Felix Leiter, attempt to board Largo's motor yacht the Flying Saucer, in search of the missing nuclear warheads. Bond becomes trapped on the boat and is taken, with Domino, to Palmyra, Largo's base of operations. Largo punishes Domino for betraying him by auctioning her off as a slave to some unsavory Arabs. After her rescue, Domino and Bond track Largo to a location known as The Tears of Allah, located below a desert oasis. After Bond and Leiter infiltrate the underground facility, a gun battle erupts and Largo makes an underwater getaway with one of the nuclear warheads. Before it can be detonated, Largo is killed by Domino, taking revenge for her brother's death.
Bond returns to the Bahamas, presumably retired; but is interrupted by Nigel Small-Fawcett from the British Consulate, pleading for Bond to return and safeguard the civilized world. Bond replies, "Never again." Domino comes up to him and asks somewhat skeptically, "Never?" Bond smiles and the two engage in a kiss, after which Bond looks into the camera and winks, implying that he will return as the credits begin.
The Flying Saucer, Largo's ship, is a translation of "the Disco Volante", the name of Largo's ship in Thunderball. In this film, the Flying Saucer dramatically dwarfs the vessel present in the EON Productions film continuity. Bond observes that Largo has the offices and computer power to "run a small government from here." Largo replies that he could actually "run a large government from here."
The Disco is still the base of underwater operations by Largo. In real life, the 282' yacht used in long shots was known as the "Nabila" and was built for Saudi billionaire, Adnan Khashoggi. The casino where Bond and Largo go head to head in a video game was called Casino Royale.
McClory originally planned for the film to open with some version of the famous "gun barrel" opening as seen in the EON Productions Bond series, but ultimately the film opens with a screen full of "007" symbols instead. When the soundtrack for the film was released on CD, it included a piece of music composed for the proposed opening.
The film re-used submarine special-effect footage from Ice Station Zebra.
Rowan Atkinson, who later became world-famous for the Blackadder and Mr. Bean comedy series, plays a British agent in this movie, the bumbling Nigel Small-Fawcett. Later he would play a James Bond parody in Johnny English.
Edward Fox, who plays M, had personally known James Bond creator Ian Fleming and in 2006, expressed his disdain for Daniel Craig's portrayal of Bond prior to the release of Casino Royale: "So ugly! He is utterly wrong for Bond. The opposite of what Fleming intended, and I knew Fleming."
Former EON Production's editor and director of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Peter R. Hunt, was approached to direct the film but declined due to his previous work with EON. According to the Lee Pfeiffer/Philip Lisa book The Films of Sean Connery, Richard Donner was given the chance to direct but declined.
As a non-EON Productions movie, this film features several differences to the EON Productions films James Bond universe.
In the openings of the EON Productions films, Bond is shown through a gun barrel, turning swiftly and shooting the screen. In this film the camera zooms in on a long sequence of '007s', through which the set for the beginning of the movie appears. In the EON Productions films, the credits are shown after the gun barrel sequence, in this film the credits are shown during the 007 sequence. Actor Connery also breaks the fourth wall during the final scene by winking at the camera (something George Lazenby previously did in On Her Majesty's Secret Service).
The film makes a major departure from the EON Productions films continuity by ending with Bond indicating his intention to retire from MI6 (and settle down with his leading lady).
As a standalone film, it takes place in an alternative timeline compared to previously released films. Specifically, while the portrayal of Connery as Bond is true to the fact Connery played Bond for 6 of the 7 first films, most involving SPECTRE, this film ignores the events of those films, as Blofeld is active and apparently previously unknown to Bond and MI6.
Several fans however, those of whom decide to place the film's story within the EON Bond series, have speculated that the events depicted show a failed attempt from Blofeld and Largo to bring back SPECTRE from the dead, without obviously counting at Bond's resurgance from retirement. Even in this scenario, the whereabouts of Blofeld remain unknown.
MI6 is shown to be underfunded and understaffed. A new 'M', as confirmed in the film, has little time for the double 0 assets, consigning them to training duties. M is also portrayed as being overly officious in his running the department, rather than a pragmatist. It is only on learning of SPECTRE's demands that M is requested to reactivate 007 to operational status. The EON Productions franchise takes a similar approach when Judi Dench becomes another new M in GoldenEye. In Q Branch, the character 'Q' is only referred to by the character "Algernon". In the EON Productions Bond series Q's name was Major Boothroyd, from the character's first appearance in the series in Dr. No. Q's personality is also depicted differently, as is his impoverished background environment; Algernon makes no bones about expecting "gratuitous sex and violence" from Bond, which the 'Q' of the EON Productions series is very much against. Nigel Small-Fawcett, a local MI6 asset that assists Bond, is portrayed as a bumbling incompetent, rather than the more experienced bit-parts in the EON Productions films. Felix Leiter, Bond's CIA friend and colleague, is portrayed by a black actor for the first time. This was not done in the EON Productions universe until MGM/Columbia's reboot of the Bond film franchise, Casino Royale, in 2006.
In this film, Bond does not have his usual specially modified car, in favor of a mildly armed motorcycle that Algernon promises to send him if he can "get it to work". He is also portrayed as driving his beloved old (vintage) Bentley from the novels, rather than contemporary models of car. The classic James Bond car chase features a Renault 5 Turbo and a 1974 Chevrolet Camaro. The EON Productions films portrayed Bond's sidearm as a 7.65mm Walther PPK, in this film it is a 9mm Walther P5. Maximilian Largo's Disco Volante (known here by its English language name, The Flying Saucer) is portrayed differently. Still launching a wet-sub from a secret chamber, the vessel is private motor yacht, lavishly equipped as well as being a technically advanced control center.
Phyllis Hyman recorded "Never Say Never Again", written by Stephen Forsyth and Jim Ryan, as the title song. Warner Brothers, however, informed Forsyth that Michel Legrand, who wrote the score for the film, had threatened to sue the studio, claiming he contractually had the rights to the title song. An alternate title song composed by Legrand was eventually used, performed by singer Lani Hall, formerly of Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. Mendes produced her vocal arrangement. Hyman's version was released in 2008.
The film opened at #1 on October 9, 1983, and marked the biggest opening for a autumn release at the time. The film went on to gross US$160 million at the box office. Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of 4 stars, and wrote that Never Say Never Again, while consisting of a basic "Bond plot", was different from other Bond films: "For one thing, there's more of a human element in the movie, and it comes from Klaus Maria Brandauer, as Largo. Brandauer is a wonderful actor, and he chooses not to play the villain as a cliché. Instead, he brings a certain poignancy and charm to Largo, and since Connery always has been a particularly human James Bond, the emotional stakes are more convincing this time." Ebert went on to add, "Sean Connery says he'll never make another James Bond movie, and maybe I believe him. But the fact that he made this one, so many years later, is one of those small show-business miracles that never happen. There was never a Beatles reunion. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez don't appear on the same stage anymore. But here, by God, is Sean Connery as Sir James Bond. Good work, 007." Danny Peary wrote that "it was great to see Sean Connery return as James Bond after a dozen years," that Klaus Maria Brandauer’s "neurotic, vulnerable" Largo is "one of the most complex of Bond’s foes" and that Barbara Carrera and Kim Basinger "make lasting impressions." Peary also wrote that the "film is exotic, well acted, and stylishly directed…It would be one of the best Bond films if the finale weren't disappointing. When will filmmakers realize that underwater fight scenes don't work because viewers usually can’t tell the hero and villain apart and they know doubles are being used?"
Originally, the film was scheduled for release in direct competition with the EON Bond film, Octopussy, starring Roger Moore, which led to the media dubbing the situation "The Battle of the Bonds". Ultimately, the two films were released at different points (after the release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) in 1983 and both were big box-office successes. Octopussy grossed slightly more than Never Say Never Again, most likely because one film was released in the summer and the other was released in the autumn.
The film was first released on DVD in 2000 with only an original theatrical trailer as a special feature. A "Collector's Edition" DVD and Blu-Ray was released in 2009. It features three documentaries---"The Big Gamble," "Sean is Back," and "The Girls of Never Say Never Again." It also features an audio commentary by director Irvin Kershner and by James Bond expert Steven Jay Rubin.
In the UK, MGM released Never Say Never Again as part of a two disc set, the other disc containing Casino Royale, to date the only other non-Eon Bond film.