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NOV
15
8 MOS

MGM, Danjaq Settle 50-Plus Year Legal Fight Over James Bond Rights

The family of Kevin McClory, reputed to have proposed the idea of making 007 films, sells its stake in the iconic character.

Sean Connery: Thunderball (1965)
MGM
"Thunderball"

James Bond rights are finally secure after a half-century-long battle, 25 films, billions of dollars in the box office and quite a few vanquished villains intent on global control.

On Friday, Danjaq, LLC, the producer of James Bond films, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the longtime distributor of the Bond films, announced they had reached a settlement with the estate of Kevin McClory.

The dispute dates back to 1959 when McClory met with Ian Fleming, the author who created the famous 007 in a series of spy novels. McClory took credit for proposing to Fleming the idea of a Bond film set in the Bahamas. A writer was hired to create Thunderball, which later also became a Fleming novel.

STORY: How the Bond Franchise Almost Died 

In 1961, after the Thunderball novel came out without credit to McClory, a lawsuit was filed. McClory claimed co-authorship and the creation of characters and elements.

Instead of Thunderball being the first film released, Fleming licensed Dr. No into production. That film came out in 1962. Then, Fleming and McClory arrived at a settlement that paved the path for the latter's Thunderball in 1965.

But the complicated saga of James Bond was merely getting warm.

According to the law firm of BakerHostetler, which represented McClory, "Interpretation over the intellectual property rights granted in the McClory/Fleming settlement resulted in lawsuits over Bond for decades. Most famously, a significant ruling in the London courts in 1983 held that McClory was allowed to produce James Bond films."

And so, while a predecessor company to Danjaq produced almost all of the James Bond films over the years, McClory was able to make Never Say Never Again in 1983. The film again starred Sean Connery, and went head-to-head with Octopussy, which starred Roger Moore as the title character.

McClory became less lucky in later years after courts ruled he had waited too long to assert claims for James Bond film royalties. McClory also attempted to sell rights to make a Bond film to Sony, but a judge enjoined the studio from doing so. (Here was the 2001 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.) McClory, born in Ireland and once connected romantically to Elizabeth Taylor, died in Dublin in 2006 at the age of 80.

Now, McClory's family has finally made up with the rest of the James Bond family. As part of the agreement, MGM and Danjaq have acquired the McClory family's rights. Financial considerations haven't been disclosed.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner