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THUNDERBALL

Thunderball (1965) is the fourth spy film in the James Bond series starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, which in turn was based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham. It was directed by Terence Young with screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins.

The film follows Bond's mission to find two NATO atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE, which holds the world ransom for £100 million in diamonds, in exchange for not destroying an unspecified major city in either England or the United States (later revealed to be Miami). The search leads Bond to the Bahamas, where he encounters Emilio Largo, the card-playing, eye-patch wearing SPECTRE Number Two. Backed by CIA agent Felix Leiter and Largo's mistress, Domino Vitali, Bond's search culminates in an underwater battle with Largo's henchmen. The film had a complex production, with four different units and about a quarter of the film consisting of underwater scenes. Thunderball was the first Bond film shot in widescreen Panavision and the first to have over a two-hour running time.

Originally meant as the first James Bond film, Thunderball was the centre of legal disputes that began in 1961 and ran until 2006. Former Ian Fleming collaborators Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham sued Fleming shortly after the 1961 publication of the Thunderball novel, claiming he based it upon the screenplay the trio had earlier written in a failed cinematic translation of James Bond. The lawsuit was settled out of court; McClory retained certain screen rights to the novel's story, plot, and characters. By then, James Bond was a box office success, and series producers Broccoli and Saltzman feared a rival McClory film beyond their control; they agreed to McClory's producer's credit of a cinematic Thunderball, with them as executive producers. The film was promoted as "Ian Fleming's Thunderball". Yet, along with the official credits to screenwriters Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, the screenplay is also identified as based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham and as based on the original story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming. The film was a success, earning a total of $141.2 million worldwide, exceeding the earnings of the three previous Bond films. In 1966, John Stears won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and production designer Ken Adam was also nominated for a BAFTA award. In 1983, Warner Bros. released a second film adaptation of the novel under the title Never Say Never Again, with McClory as executive producer and featuring Sean Connery as James Bond.

Broccoli's original choice for the role of Domino Derval was Julie Christie after he saw her performance in Billy Liar in 1963. Upon meeting her personally, however, he was disappointed and turned his attentions towards Raquel Welch after seeing her on the cover of the October 1964 issue of Life magazine.

Welch, however, was hired by Richard Zanuck of 20th Century Fox to appear in the film Fantastic Voyage the same year instead. Faye Dunaway was also considered for the role and came close to signing for the part. Saltzman and Broccoli auditioned an extensive list of relatively unknown European actresses and models including former Miss Italy Maria Grazia Buccella, Yvonne Monlaur of the Hammer horror films and Gloria Paul. Eventually former Miss France Claudine Auger was cast, and the script was rewritten to make her character French rather than Italian, although her voice was dubbed. Nevertheless, director Young would cast her once again in his next film, Triple Cross (1966). One of the actresses that tried for Domino, Luciana Paluzzi, later accepted the role as the redheaded femme fatale assassin Fiona Kelly who originally was intended by Maibaum to be Irish. The surname was changed to Volpe in coordination with Paluzzi's nationality.

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The thrills never let up as James Bond dives into this riveting adventure filled with explosive confrontations and amazing underwater action sequences! Sean Connery brings his characteristic style, humor and magnetism to Agent 007 as he travels to Nassau to track down villainous criminal Emilio Largo, who's threatening to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust. From Bond's thrilling jetpack flight to his heart-stopping clash with Largo's killer sharks, Thunderball is a stupendous mixture of action, romance and edge-of-your-seat suspense!
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Guy Hamilton was invited to direct, but considered himself worn out and "creatively drained" after the production of Goldfinger. Terence Young, director of the first two Bond films, returned to the series. Coincidentally, when Saltzman invited him to direct Dr. No, Young expressed interest in directing adaptations of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball. Years later, Young said Thunderball was filmed "at the right time", considering that if it was the first film in the series, the short budget — Dr. No cost only $1 million – wouldn't have good results. Thunderball was the final James Bond film directed by Young.

Filming commenced on February 16th 1965, with principal photography of the opening scene in Paris. Filming then moved to the Château d'Anet, near Dreux, France for the fight in the pre-credit sequence (above). In this opening sequence Bond attends a funeral, and later meets the grieving widow in a large, regal sitting room. Is 007 about to charm the recent widow? No, he punches her in the face. The audience is surprised, but soon learns Bond has tagged his opponent (played by legendary Bond stuntman Bob Simmons) as Colonel Jacques Bouvar of SPECTRE. Bond and the fake widow battle it out destroying the expensive furnishings in the room in the process. In the end, Bond’s nemesis ends face first in a fireplace, and then Bond chokes him to death with a poker that Bouvar had previously yielded as a weapon.

Much of the film was shot in the Bahamas; Thunderball is widely known for its extensive underwater action scenes which are played out through much of the latter half of the film. The rest of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, Silverstone racing circuit for the chase involving Count Lippe, Fiona Volpe and James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 before moving to Nassau, and Paradise Island in The Bahamas (where most of the footage was shot), and Miami. Huntington Hartford gave permission to shoot footage on his Paradise Island and is thanked at the end of the movie.

On arriving in Nassau McClory searched for possible locations to shoot many of the key sequences of the film and used the home of a local millionaire couple, the Sullivans, for Largo's estate. Part of the SPECTRE underwater assault was also shot on the coastal grounds of another millionaire's home on the island. The most difficult sequences to film were the underwater action scenes; the first to be shot underwater was at a depth of 50 feet to shoot the scene where SPECTRE divers remove the atomic bombs from the sunken Vulcan bomber. Peter Lamont had previously visited a Royal Air Force bomber station carrying a concealed camera which he used to get close-up shots of secret missiles (those appearing in the film were not actually present). Most of the underwater scenes had to be done at lower tides due to the sharks in the Bahamian sea.

Connery's life was in danger in the sequence with the sharks in Largo's pool, which he had been in fear of when he read the script. He insisted that Ken Adam build a special Plexiglas partition inside the pool, but, despite this, it was not a fixed structure and one of the sharks managed to pass through it. Connery had to abandon the pool immediately, seconds away from attack. Another dangerous situation occurred when special effects coordinator John Stears brought in a supposed dead shark carcass to be towed around the pool. The shark, however, was not dead and revived at one point. Due to the dangers on the set, stuntman Bill Cummings demanded an extra fee (£250) to double for Largo's sidekick Quist as he was dropped into the pool of sharks.

The climactic underwater battle was shot at Clifton Pier and was choreographed by Hollywood expert Ricou Browning, who had worked on many films previously such as Creature From the Black Lagoon in 1954. He was responsible for the staging of the cave sequence and the battle scenes beneath the Disco Volante and called in his specialist team of divers who posed as those engaged in the onslaught. Voit provided much of the underwater gear in exchange for product placement and film tie-in merchandise. Lamar Boren, an underwater photographer, was brought in to shoot all of the sequences. United States Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Russhon, who had already helped alliance Eon productions with the local authorities in Turkey for From Russia With Love (1963) and at Fort Knox for Goldfinger (1964), stood by and was able to supply the experimental rocket fuel used to destroy the Disco Volante. Russhon, using his position, was also able to gain access to the United States Navy's Fulton surface-to-air recovery system, used to lift Bond and Domino from the water at the end of the film. Filming ceased in May 1965 and the final scene shot was the physical fight on the bridge of the Disco Volante.

While in Nassau, during the final shooting days, special effects supervisor John Stears used that experimental rocket fuel in the effect that would explode Largo's yacht, the Disco Volante. Ignoring the true power of the volatile liquid, Stears doused the entire yacht with it, took cover, and then detonated the boat. The resultant massive explosion shattered windows along Bay Street in Nassau roughly 30 miles away. Stears went on to win an Academy Award for his work on Thunderball.

As the filming neared its conclusion, Connery had become increasingly agitated with press intrusion and was distracted with difficulties in his marriage of 32 months to actress Diane Cilento. Connery refused to speak to journalists and photographers who followed him in Nassau stating his frustration with the harassment that came with the role; "I find that fame tends to turn one from an actor and a human being into a piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well, I don't intend to undergo that metamorphosis." In the end he gave only a single interview, to Playboy, as filming was wrapped up, and even turned down a substantial fee to appear in a promotional TV special made by Wolper Productions for NBC The Incredible World of James Bond. According to editor Peter R. Hunt, Thunderball's release was delayed for three months, from September until December 1965, after he met Arnold Picker of United Artists, and convinced him it would be impossible to edit the film to a high enough standard without the extra time.

Thanks to special-effects man John Stears Thunderball's pre-title teaser, the Aston Martin DB5 (introduced in Goldfinger), reappears armed with rear-firing water cannon, seeming noticeably weathered – just dust and dirt, raised moments earlier by Bond's landing with the Bell Rocket Belt (developed by Bell Aircraft Corporation). The rocket belt Bond uses to escape the château actually worked, and was used many times, before and after, for entertainment, most notably at Super Bowl I and at scheduled performances at the 1964–1965 New York World's Fair.

Bond receives a spear gun-armed underwater jet pack scuba (allowing the frogman to manoeuvre faster than other frogmen). Designed by Jordan Klein, green dye was meant to be used by Bond as a smoke screen to escape pursuers. Instead Ricou Browning, the film's underwater director, used it to make Bond's arrival more dramatic.

The sky hook, used to rescue Bond at the end of the film, was a rescue system used by the United States military at the time. At Thunderball's release, there was confusion as to whether a rebreather such as the one that appears in the film existed; most Bond gadgets, while implausible, often are based upon real technology. In the real world, a rebreather could not be so small, as it has no room for the breathing bag, while the alternative open-circuit scuba releases exhalation bubbles, which the film device does not. It was made with two CO2 bottles glued together and painted, with a small mouthpiece attached. For this reason, when the Royal Corps of Engineers asked Peter Lamont how long a man could use the device underwater, the answer was "As long as you can hold your breath."

Maurice Binder was hired to design the title sequence, and was involved in a dispute with Eon Production to have his name credited in the film. As Thunderball was the first James Bond film shot in Panavision, Binder had to reshoot the iconic gun barrel scene which permitted him to not only incorporate pinhole photographic techniques to shoot inside a genuine gun barrel, but also made Connery appearing in the sequence for the first time a reality, as stunt man Bob Simmons had doubled for him in the three previous films. Binder gained access to the tank at Pinewood which he used to film the silhouetted title girls who appeared naked in the opening sequence, which was the first time actual nudity (although concealed) had ever been seen in a Bond film.

Parts of the climactic sequence on board the Disco Volante (Italian for Flying Saucer) were sped up to make the boat look as if it was going faster than it was. Additionally, some shots were repeated. During the hand-to-hand combat, one shot of the boat (sped up) is of Bond and Domino about to jump overboard, but cuts back to the fight. This same shot appears again at normal speed when Bond and Domino jump overboard.

On June 26th 2013 Christies auction house sold the Breitling SA Top Time watch given to Bond by Q, which in the plot was also a geiger counter, which Sean Connery had worn for over 100,000 pounds.

Thunderball was the third James Bond score composed by Barry, after From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. The original title song was entitled "Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", taken from an Italian journalist who in 1962 dubbed agent 007 as Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. The title theme was written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse; the song was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey, and later rerecorded by Dionne Warwick, whose version was not released until the 1990s. The song was removed from the title credits after producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that a theme song to a James Bond film would not work well if the song did not have the title of the film in its lyrics. Barry then teamed up with lyricist Don Black and wrote "Thunderball", which was sung by Tom Jones who, according to Bond production legend, fainted in the recording booth when singing the song's final note. Jones said of it, "I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning." The song, Maurice Binder's titles, and the lengthy holding of the final note were parodied by Weird Al Yankovic's title sequence for Spy Hard with instrumental backing by Jimmie Haskell. Country musician Johnny Cash also submitted a song to Eon productions titled "Thunderball", but it went unused.

The film premiered on December 9th 1965 in Tokyo and opened on December 29th 1965 in the UK. It was a major success at the box office with record-breaking earnings. The second highest money maker of 1966 was Doctor Zhivago and in third place was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Thunderball won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects awarded to John Stears in 1966. Ken Adam the production director was also nominated for a Best Production Design BAFTA award. The film won the Golden Screen award for Best Film in Germany and won the Golden Laurel Action Drama award at the 1966 Laurel Awards. The film was also nominated for an Edgar Best Foreign Film award at the Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

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