Swedish actress Maud Adams stars in Octopussy
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When Never Say Never Again and Octopussy were released in the same year, everyone was gripped by the Battle of the Bonds. Two rival studios and producers mounted rival 007 blockbusters featuring the same British secret agent. Even before then and for decades after, the focus has been on the supposed rivalry between the two Bond actors. Yet Moore painted a fascinating picture of how the two of them were playing their own game behind everyone else’s backs.
Few realise that Moore was actually originally considered for the role even before the Scotsman was cast for 1962’s Dr No..
In his typically self-deprecating was, he said: “That’s what they told me, at least. They also said I was (Bond author) Ian Fleming’s first choice. But Ian Fleming didn’t know me from sh**. He wanted Cary Grant or David Niven.”
Fleming had certainly (and vocally) not wanted Connery and the producers had to give him a full Pygmalian make-over to make him suitable for the suave role.
By 1983, both Moore and Connery were free agents, so when two competing Bond movies were in the works, the Brit revealed they struck a deal between themselves.
Moore was actually preparing to bow out as 007 after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. His original three-film contract had actually expired after The Spy Who Loved Me, so he was free to renegotiate each time.
Producer Cubby Broccoli was actually in the process of signing up James Brolin to take over the role in the next film in the main EON franchise, Octopussy.
Meanwhile, producer Jack Schwartzman’s long battle to mount his own rival Bond film had finally come to fruition – and Moore revealed that he was approached to step in.
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During a promo interview for Octopussy, Moore openly said: “Of course, Jack Schwartzman came to me and asked me if I wanted to do that, or did I want to do this. So, yes, of course, that gave me a certain amount of leverage.
“I said to Sean, ‘Which one do you want to do?’ and he didn’t want to do the one with Cubby, so I’m here and he’s there.”
He’s’ referring to the legendary bad blood between the original Bond actor and the franchise’s equally legendary (and strong-willed) producer.
The alpha pair had famously fallen out and refused to be on set at the same during the filming of 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.
The ‘leverage’ was understandably considerable. Moore was able to hold out for a pay rise and a larger share of the profits on Octopussy.
Connery, meanwhile, had been very public about his disdain for the role but was eventually tempted back by a $3million paycheque (over $8million today) and share of profits.
The film’s working title was James Bond of the Secret Service but the actor’s wife, Micheline Roquebrune, made a jokey reference to his infamous declaration that he would never play the role again, and the title stuck.
Both films were released in the second half of 1983 and for the first time fans were able to vote with the feet (and wallets) to establish who was the most popular Bond.
James Bond 'Never Say Never Again' 1983 trailer
In the end, Connery’s final Bond outing banked $160million on its $36million budget. Moore’s official Bond movie took $187.5million on a $28million budget.
Moore and Connery, of course, simply laughed all the way to the band – and eternal fame.
The Englishman insisted the two actors were rivals: “No more than two jockeys who are going to be paid anyway for running the race. But it would be nice if you won because you’d get the extra bonus. But really, no more than that. Sean and I are friends.”
Discussing how it was possible for audiences to go and see two different Bonds in the same year, Moore made the point that you could go to London and see two Hamlets or Midsummer Night’s Dreams playing. Asked which his version of Bond was, Moore quickly quipped, “Hamlet.”
Ever the suave charmer, Moore later spoke of the situation in his autobiography, My Word Is My Bond.
He said: “There was no animosity between Sean and me. We didn’t react to the press speculation that we had become competitors in the part. In fact, we often had dinner together and compared notes about how much we’d each shot and how our respective producers were trying to kill us with all the action scenes they expected us to do.”
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN IS ON ITV ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28 AT 3.15PM
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