Hef introduces the James Bond classic.
Tonight: Sean Connery as James Bond-Secret Agent 007-in Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, the fourth Connery-Bond film to be shot in widescreen Panavision.
One hundred million people had seen the first three Bond films-Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.
Miss France, Claudine Auger, was cast as the female lead, but her voice was dubbed by Nikki van Der Zyl, who had previously dubbed Ursula Andress’s voice in Dr. No.
Contenders for Auger’s role included Faye Dunaway and Julie Christie. The part was actually given to Raquel Welch. But soon after Richard Zanuck asked the producers, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, to release Welch as a professional favor so that she could appear in his Fantastic Voyage.
Thunderball was shot in France, England and Miami, but primarily in the Bahamas. Production dates ran from February 16 through July 9, 1965. The film premiered in Tokyo on December 9, 1965. The New York opening was December 21.
The film reportedly cost $9 million. Thunderball grossed $63.6 million domestically and $77.6 million overseas. It was the top moneymaker of 1966 and outperformed all of the first three films.
Coinciding with the film’s release by United Artists, PLAYBOY carried an interview in which Connery said, “With his clothing and his cars and his wine and his women, Bond is a kind of present day survival kit. Men would like to imitate him—or at least his success—and women are excited by him.”
But Connery knew he was only an actor playing Bond, stating, “I’ve never been a womanizer, as Fleming called Bond. . . . The Bond image is a problem in a way, and a bit of a bore. . . . We have to be careful where we go next, because I think, with Thunderball, we have reached the limit, as far as size and gimmicks are concerned. All the gimmicks now have been done. . . . I am fed up to here with the whole Bond bit.”
Connery may have been bored with Bond, but no one else was. The franchise continues on today—with other actors playing the role—in 17 more films.
The Playboy interview was the only one that Connery gave to promote Thunderball.
Playboy and James Bond were both created in 1953. In a 1959 letter to the magazine, Ian Fleming wrote, “If he were an actual person, Bond would be a registered reader of Playboy.”
Thunderball is a military term used by U.S. soldiers to describe the mushroom cloud seen during the testing of atomic bombs. In the film, SPECTRE intended to detonate stolen atom bombs.
Thunderball was also the nickname that Ian Fleming was given by his wife.
The first car seen in Thunderball is a Thunderbird, which was a favorite of Fleming’s.
Director Terence Young said, in an interview, that scenes showing Bond frightened at the approach of a shark were real. Connery showed genuine terror as a shark approached because he realized the shark could easily swim over the 3-foot high plastic shield intended to protect him.
Variety declared, “Director Terence Young takes advantage of every situation in his direction to maintain action at fever pitch. Connery is up to his usual, stylish self, as he lives up to past rep, in which mayhem is a casual affair. . . . Screenplay is studded with inventive play and mechanical gimmicks. It’s posh all the way.”
The New York Times announced: “In this latest and most handsome screen rendering of an Ian Fleming novel, Bond, not only has power over women, miraculous physical reserves, skill in perilous maneuvers and knowledge of all things great and small, but he also has a much better sense of humor than he has shown in previous films. . . . The scenery in the Bahamas is an irresistible lure. Even the violence is funny. That’s the best I can say for a Bond film. Thunderball is the best of the lot.”
An Oscar was awarded for the special effects. The British Academy, BAFTA, nominated Thunderball for the Art Direction.
Thunderball was reissued on a double bill with From Russia With Love in 1968, and with You Only Live Twice in 1970.
The film was remade 18 years later, with Sean Connery, as Never Say Never Again.
So now—from 1965—Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball.