MGM and the producer of the James Bond movies have finally acquired all of the rights to the 007 franchise. After a legal battle royale that has gone on more than 50 years, the studio and Danjaq today announced they now have all of the rights and interests to the British spy held by Kevin McClory and his estate. McClory worked with Bond creator Ian Fleming and writer Jack Whittingham on a script for Thunderball in the late 1950s. McClory would later claim he helped created a number of iconic elements of the Bond world and gave the character a more movie-friendly persona. No details of the agreement or a settlement have been released. However, I’ve learned that the agreement over the long-standing dispute was finalized between the parties in the last two weeks.
The courtroom drama began in 1961 when McClory first sued Fleming. He obtained partial copyright to the Thunderball story in a 1963 settlement. The fourth Bond movie, Thunderball came out in 1965. In the decades that followed, McClory and Bond producers and MGM, which distributes the films, went head to head in court a number of times. Working with Warner Bros, McClory used his Thunderball rights to bring back Sean Connery to play Bond again in 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Things really heated up in 1997 when Sony bought McClory’s rights for $2 million with the intent of making a Bond franchise of its own. A quick lawsuit by MGM saw Sony give up that notion in 1999 but McClory, despite a number of legal setbacks, continued the case. When McClory passed away in 2006, his estate continued the fight, remaining a thorn in MGM and Danjaq’s side over the years.
William K. Kane and Adam Skilken of the law firm of BakerHostetler’s Chicago office represented the Estate of Kevin McClory.