Never Say Never Again (1983)

35mm film, Super Panavision, Technicolor, 2.35:1
70mm 6-Track Dolby, English

An American borderline science fiction film directed by Irvin Kerschner.

Plot Summary

agents steal a pair of Tomahawk from a US air force in Britain and threaten to detonate them if the NATO powers don't give in to their demands. British Intelligence reactivate the disgraced “00” agents and send an ageing back into the field to locate the weapons and kill SPECTRE Number 1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.


* = uncredited

Director: Irvin Kerschner
Taliafilm, Woodcote, Producers Sale Organization, European Banking Company, MFI Furniture Group, Midland Montagu Leasing, First National Bank of Chicago, B.A. Turner, Manufacturer Hanover Limited, Warner Brothers
Executive Producer: Kevin McClory
Producer: Jack Schwartzman
Associate Producer: Michael Dryhurst
Script: Lorenzo Semple Jr
Additional Dialogue: Dick Clement, Ian Le Frenais
Novel: Thunderball by Ian Fleming
Story: Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, Ian Fleming
Director of Photography: Douglas Slocombe
Supervising Editor: Robert Lawrence
Editor: Ian Crafford
Music: Michel Legrand
Sound Recording: Simon Kaye, David Allen
Costume Designer: Charles Knode
Make Up: Robin Grantham
Special Visual Effects Supervisor: David Dryer
Production Designer: Philip Harrison, Stephen Grimes

Sean Connery (James Bond)
Klaus Maria Brandauer (Largo)
Max von Sydow (Ernst Stavro Blofeld)
Barbara Carrera (Fatima Blush)
Kim Basinger (Domino Petachi)
Bernie Casey (Felix Leiter)
Alec McCowen (Q/Algy)
Edward Fox (M)
Pamela Salem (Miss Moneypenny)
Rowan Atkinson (Nigel Small-Fawcett)
Valerie Leon (lady in Bahamas)
Milow Kirek (Kovacs)
Pat Roach (Lippe)
Anthony Sharpe (Lord Ambrose)
Prunella Gee (Patricia)
Gavin O'Herlihy (Jack Petachi)
Ronald Pickup (Elliott)
Robert Rietty, Guido Adorni (Italian ministers)
Vincent Marzello (Culpepper)
Christopher Reich (Number Five)

Alternative Titles

Agente 007, mai dire mai – Italy
James Bond 007 – Sag niemals Nie – Germany
Mai dire mai – Italy
Warhead – early title

Remake of
Thunderball (1965)

Extracts included in
Screen Test: 14 December 1983

Production Notes

The evolution of Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery's long-awaited return to the role that made him famous, is a complex one. It begins with Thunderball (1965), the fourth of Eon's ‘official' Bond films which Eon had made in conjunction with producer Kevin McClory. As part of his agreement with Eon to use Thunderball (the novel had been based on a screenplay that McClory had worked on with Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham), McClory had agreed not to make any independent Bond films for ten years following the release of Thunderball, after which the rights to the screenplay would revert to him.

As 1975 arrived and the ten year period expired, McClory announced that he was about to start pre-production on a film titled James Bond of the Secret Service. On 12 May 1976, he took out a full page advertisement in Variety announcing the imminent arrival of the film and boasted that Sean Connery was on board as a script advisor and that thriller writer Len Deighton was thrashing out the script. Filming was due to have begun in February 1977 with Orson Welles being hotly tipped to play Blofeld, Trevor Howard pencilled in as M and with Richard Attenborough set to direct.

Deighton's script, an adaptation of Thunderball, had SPECTRE now based in a gigantic underwater complex named Aquapolis from where Blofeld began his operation (code named Hammerhead) to stem the pollution of the oceans by assassinating the world's political leaders who he held responsible. By attacking ships and aircraft passing through the Bermuda Triangle, SPECTRE had managed to capture three nuclear warheads which Blofeld had placed inside a trio of mechanical sharks. To ensure the full co-operation of the world's governments, SPECTRE used the Statue of Liberty to co-ordinate a campaign of terror – the first shark was to be sent through the sewers to attack New York (which begs the question of why SPECTRE would have is base of operations inside the first city they planned to destroy) before the second device was detonated in the Antarctic flooding the planet.

As Albert Broccoli continued production on The Spy Who Loved Me (1975), which also featured an underwater theme, he became increasingly nervous about the new project, now retitled Warhead. United Artists chairman Arthur Krim claimed, in Variety, 20 June 1976, that:

“Danjaq and United Artists are entitled, through the rights granted by Ian Fleming and the Fleming estate, to the exclusive use in the future of the ‘James Bond – 007' character, except for Thunderball. The exception as to Thunderball is strictly limited to the use of the character in remakes of (films of) the story of Thunderball, with the right to use the name of the character in the advertising and exploitation of any films of Thunderball, without the right to use Thunderball, ‘James Bond' or ‘007' in the title, and does not extend one whit beyond this. Accordingly, except as stated above, no person, corporation or entity other than Danjaq and United Artists can use, or grant rights to use, the character ‘James Bond – 007' in any film which goes beyond Thunderball and anybody who proceeds on any other premise does so at legal peril.”

Strip away the legal jargon and what it boiled down to is that McClory simply had the rights to make a straight remake of Thunderball and nothing else. Warhead, it would appear, had crossed the line. Broccoli and United Artists joined forces with The Fleming Trust to take on McClory in the courts. McClory himself pressed on, initially asking Connery to direct the film before Paramount, the company financing Warhead, suggested that he might like to return to his most famous role. Surprising everyone, Connery agreed, apparently on the advice of his wife Micheline (who suggested it “would be fun”, according to Connery in an interview with The Sunday Express, 1980) and Paramount opened its cheque books.

But then the project floundered. Connery had come on board with the express understanding that there would be no legal issues surrounding the film. When the court battle with Eon began hotting up, Connery became nervous. In an interview with The Sunday Mirror on 17 December 1978 he commented warily: “I am now awaiting the outcome of the legal problems. Before I put my nose into anything, I want to know it's legally bona fide.” Connery, unnerved by the volatile legal situation, walked away from Warhead in 1980 leaving McClory to work out the fine details of his agreement with Eon. McClory continued to argue that he, Fleming and Jack Whittingham had worked on three separate projects – Bond in the Bahamas, James Bond of the Secret Service and Latitude 78 West. He seemed to be arguing that this involvement with Bond's creator gave him leeway to produce non-Thunderball inspired Bond projects.

In Summer 1981, McClory's attempts to get Bond on the screen came to the attention of independent producer Jack Schwartzman. He also had a background in the murky world of entertainment law and felt that maybe he could be the one to rescue the deal. He made contact with Connery to see if, in principal, he was still interested – Connery told him that he was if he could sort out the legal problems. Schwartzman approached McClory and made an offer for the rights to Thunderball – not to Warhead, which was causing all the problems, but to the one property that United Artists had already agreed was McClory's. The Thunderball script was now being developed by Taliafilm, an American company being run by Schwartzman's wife, Talia Shire Schwartzman, sister of Francis Ford Coppola and a former actress in films like The Dunwich Horror (1970), Prophecy (1979) and the Rocky films with Sylvester Stallone.

Connery was still understandably cautious. He met with Schwartzman but before he would sign on the dotted line, he laid down a few rules – he was to be indemnified against any legal actions taken against the production; he would have some say in the cast as well as script approval; and the principal crew also had to be approved by the star. With the possibility of getting Connery back on the screen as James Bond in the offing, Schwartzman was hardly likely to refuse and he offered Connery £3 million and a cut of the profits. Connery's wife Micheline suggested the title for the new film: Never Say Never Again.

With McClory installed as executive producer, Taliafilm commissioned Julien Plowden to work on the script, sticking closely to the Thunderball material that was available to them. It proved to be unsuitable and a second script was produced by Lorenzo Semple Jr, best known for his work on TV's Batman (1966-1968) and on Dino De Laurentiis' remake of Flash Gordon (1980). Semple's script was to play up the fact that Connery was now visibly older than when we last saw him as Bond. To direct the film, Schwartzman turned to Irvin Kerschner, hot off the set of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and called him in to meet with Connery. The two men had worked together before, on the comedy A Fine Madness (1966) and they hit it off straight away. Connery himself suggested that Austrian actor Klaus Maria Bandauer might make for an impressive Largo, hailing him “one of the best actors in Europe, if not the world.” 1Never Say Never Again publicity notes

He also suggested Max von Sydow, best remembered as the title character in William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973), to play SPECTRE head man Blofeld. It was up to Kershner to persuade former model Barbara Carrera to come on boards as lead Bond girl Fatima Blush, a character who had appeared in an early draft of Thunderball but had failed to make the novel. On the side of good, Micheline Connery suggested that the production seek out television actress Kim Basinger after she met the young actress at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Hidden away down the cast list (credited as “lady in Bahamas”) was former Hammer actress Valerie Leon who was now breaking Martine Beswick and Maude Adam's records for number of appearances in Bond films as different characters, all for different producers – prior to Never Say Never Again she had taken small roles in Casino Royale (1967) and The Spy Who Loved Me.

Schwartzman struck a deal with Warner Bros., securing a $34 million budget before setting off with the cast and crew for Nizza on the French Riviera on 27 September 1982. But even as shooting began, Connery was still unsure about Semple's script and he worked closely with Kershner to add new material as they were going along. Connery eventually asked British TV comedy writers Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais to come on board to help doctor the script. Due to the restrictions of the Writer's Guild of America, Clement and Le Frenais were uncredited on the final print.

Nearly two months were spent in Nice in the South of France, with occasional local trips to Monte Carlo (to shoot the casino scenes) and the Villa Rothschild at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (which was used for Largo's North African home). In mid-November 1982, the production moved on to Nassau where McClory had made his home. The crew assembled at Clifton Pier which had previously been used as a location for Thunderball, where Ricou Browning had been setting up the extensive underwater sequences. Although Connery filmed a lot of footage here in Nassau, much of his underwater material was cut from the finished film. Nassau was also the location for the title sequence in which Bond attempts to rescue a hostage from terrorists during a training exercise.

But by now, cracks were beginning to show in the production. Things were not at all well on the set and Schwartzman was beginning to alienate the rest of the crew. He and Kerschner couldn't see eye-to-eye on how the film would be progressing and Connery later claimed that he and assistant director David Tomblin virtually produced the film themselves. “The film was not a happy film,” Kershner later told Alan Barnes and Marcus Hearn for their book Kiss Kiss, Bang! Bang! “In fact it was a very unhappy film for most of the people working on it. It was disorganised – totally disorganised.”

Production finally returned to the UK for the final weeks of shooting at the Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire where the Well of Allah and temple sets had been built. Luton Hoo stood in for the Shrublands health clinic and other location work was done at Waddesdon Manor. By spring of 1983, principal photography was complete, but at a cost – the film had come in over schedule and over budget, forcing Schwartzman to dip into his own pocket to bail the film out.

Post-production brought problems of its own – Schwartzman had wanted to commission James Horner to write the film's score but had been over-ruled by the studio who wanted – and got – Michel Legrand. And even when Legrand was finished and the film was edited into a shape that was deemed ready for the public there were problems and delays – the planned summer release date came and went and the film was finally unveiled at its American premiere on 7 October 1983.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Never Say Never Again opened strongly in the US, better in fact that it's rival, Eon's Octopussy (1983). The lure of Sean Connery back in the tuxedo was proving too strong to resist. The film opened in the UK on 14 December 1983 at a royal premiere at the Warner West End attended by Prince Andrew. Connery turned up to the premiere, along with his brother Neil, and was in good company – McClory, Schwartzman and Kershner rubbed shoulders with former Beatle Ringo Starr and his wife, ex-Bond girl Barbara Bach from The Spy Who Loved Me. Although it had opened strongly in the States, Never Say Never Again soon faltered at the box office. In the ‘Battle of the Bonds', Connery may have won the hearts of loyal fans but their wallets were being opened for Octopussy which had been released six months ahead of McClory's film.

In the aftermath of Never Say Never Again, Connery took a three year rest (apparently he was exhausted after the film's arduous production) and McClory continued to announce his Warhead project, most recently resurrecting it in 1996 with a series of ads announcing the forthcoming Warhead 2000. He maintained throughout that Never Say Never Again was going to be the first in a new franchise to run alongside the official Eon series – to date, no other film has appeared. The conclusion of a protracted legal battle in favour of Eon in the late 1990s would suggest that one never will…


Films and Filming no.351 (December 1983) pp.40-41
Anticipation of this cinematic return has provided much of the fun. Seeing Connery survive as Britain's only true super star has been equally pleasurable. And there are other pleasures along the way. Some ravishing costumes, excellent photography, a sprinkling of gorgeous locations, the engaging Moneypenny and even a couple of good lines from ‘M' have all jollied the predictable, occasionally exciting action. – from an illustrated review by Brian Baxter



  • American Cinematographer vol.64 no.10 October 1983) pp.52-54, 80-88
  • Cahiers du Cinéma no.354 (December 1983) p.54
  • Cinefantastique vol.13 no.5 (June/Juli 1983) p.14
  • Cinefantastique vol.14 no.4/5 (September 1984) pp.4-5 – illustrated article
  • Cinefex no.15 (January 1984) pp.4-27 – illustrated interview with David Dryer
  • Ciné-Revue no.47 (19 November 1987) pp.27-29 – article
  • Ciné-Revue no.51 (17 December 1987) pp.18-19 – illustrated article
  • City Limits no.115/116 (16 December 1983) p.42
  • Film Directions vol.6 no.22 1984) p.17
  • Filmfaust no.38 (March/April 1984) p.11
  • Films and Filming no.351 (December 1983) pp.40-41 – illustrated credits, review (by Brian Baxter)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.278 no.46 (5 October 1983) pp.3, 17
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.314 no.43 (26 October 1990) p.9 – article (Hollywood report: Glasnost grosses)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.599 (December 1983) pp.334-335 – credits, synopsis, review (by Philip Strick)
  • Motion Picture Product Digest vol.11 no.8 (19 October 1983) pp.29, 31
  • On Location vol.7 no.9 (January 1984) pp.140-141, 198 – illustrated article
  • Photoplay January 1984 pp.29-34 – illustrated review
  • Positif no.275 (January 1984) pp.58-59
  • La Revue du Cinéma/Image et Son no.389 (December 1983) p.22
  • Screen International no.1138 (12 December 1997) p.6 – article (Bond dispute thunders on by Benedict Carver)
  • Screen International no.359 (4 September 1982) p.1
  • Screen International no.362 (25 September 1982) p.1
  • Screen International no.363 (2 October 1982) p.12 – credits
  • Screen International no.370 (20 November 1982) p.13
  • Screen International no.383 (26 February 1983) p.14
  • Screen International no.389 (9 April 1983) p.11
  • Screen International no.397 (4 June 1983) p.4
  • Screen International no.425 17 December 1983) p.11
  • Starburst no.42 (1982) pp.59-63 – interview with Sean Connery
  • Starburst no.66 (February 1984) pp.12-15 – illustrated interview with Irvin Kershner.
  • Starburst no.68 (April 1984) pp.12-16 – illustrated interview with Guy Alimo
  • Stills no.10 (February-March 1984) p.70
  • Stills no.7 (July-August 1983) p.42 – interview with Irvin Kershner
  • Télérama no.1768 30 November 1983) pp.30-31 – interview with Sean Connery, review
  • Time Out no.695 (15 December 1983) p.49 – review
  • Variety 5 October 1983 p.20 – credits, review (by Cart)


  • Daily Star 17 December 1983 p.16 – review
  • The Sun 14 December 1983 p.15 – illustrated review


  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.383
  • Encyclopedia of American Spy Films by Larry Langman & David Ebner p.261 – credits, note
  • The Espionage Filmography: United States Releases, 1898 through 1999 by Paul Mavis pp.219-220
  • The Films of the Eighties by Robert A. Nowlan and Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan p.389
  • Hoffman's Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.258 – review, credits
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.349
  • The International Spy Guide 002 by Richard Rhys Davies p.635 – illustrated credits, note
  • Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.96
  • Sean Connery by Robert Tanitch pp.150-152 – illustrated article
  • The Stop-motion Filmography by Neil Pettigrew pp.494-495