Kevin McClory, Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham collaborated in 1959 on an original story and screenplay for what would have been the very first 007 film, entitled "James Bond, Secret Agent". McClory reportedly wanted Richard Burton to play James Bond. But reportedly, after an unrelated film by Kevin McClory bombed, Ian Fleming changed his mind and backed out of the partnership with McClory. Fleming had previously cannibalized plots prepared for two other abandoned Bond spin-off projects, a newspaper comic strip and a television series, for 007 novels, and similarly turned this one into his novel "Thunderball". However, in this case his right to do so was not so clear. When Harry Saltzman bought the film rights to the Bond novels from Fleming and went into partnership with Albert R. Broccoli, McClory initiated legal action, resulting in Dr. No rather than Thunderball becoming the first Bond film. Although this production is a fairly faithful adaptation of the published novel, McClory's suit resulted in only the earlier screenplay being credited as source material. McClory's producer credit is probably just another term of the settlement. The case was settled out of court from 19 November 1963 to 29 November 1963, giving McClory the film rights to this movie and £50,000 damages.
Thunderbeatle was the nickname for James Bond creator Ian Fleming given to him by his wife Ann Fleming. The type of car that Largo is seen driving in Paris at the start of the movie was a 1965 Thunderbird which was a make of car that was adored by Ian Fleming.
Largo's two-section yacht the Disco Volante was adapted from a hydrofoil vessel called The Flying Fish. It cost $500,000 to acquire from Puerto Rico and transfer to Miami for refitting and refurbishment. It was given a cocoon shell which was fifty feet long and could be separated from the main boat as seen in the movie's finale.
The dictionary definition of the word "thunderball" is that it was a military term used by US soldiers to describe the mushroom cloud seen during the testing of atomic bombs. Hence its use as a title because this would be result of SPECTRE detonating the stolen atomic bombs.
The Fiona Volpe character was originally Irish and called Fiona Kelly in earlier drafts of the script. But the surname was changed to suit the Italian nationality of Luciana Paluzzi who was cast in the role of Fiona after being rejected for the role of Domino. The character does not appear at all in the novel.
The opening sequence in earlier versions of the script was set in Hong Kong at a fan-tan parlor strip joint. The man in drag story element though was still the same though he was dressed in a peacock outfit and sat in a gold cage.
This was the first James Bond movie to provide two key elements for the series' success. It was the first of Maurice Binder's opening titles sequences created in the form that they would become most famous for. It was also the first to have movie posters which had panoramic adventure-scene artwork. These would become a tradition for the series until Licence to Kill. From GoldenEye onwards, photo montages have become the staple for James Bond movie posters.
While there really is an area known as the "Golden Grotto" in the Bahamas (now rechristened to "Thunderball Reef"), the Golden Grotto sharks that Largo keeps in his swimming pool and describes as "the most dangerous, the most savage" shark species of them all, are entirely fictional. The Bull/Zambezi shark is regarded as the most dangerous to man in all tropical waters.
A Special 25th Anniversary Screening of the film was held at the National Film Theatre in London in 1990 and was attended by director Terence Young and Molly Peters amongst other people associated with the production and EON's James Bond movies. It was organized by the James Bond Fan Club. A Special 40th Anniversary screening of the movie was held on 20 November 2005.
A GI Joe doll was popular in the toy market at the time of Thunderball's production so when the film was released, the first ever James Bond action figure was manufactured as part of the film's merchandising. The film's massive collectible merchandising continued the boom which had started with Goldfinger.
Vehicles featured included the return of the silver birch Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger; Fiona Volpe's gold BSA 650cc A65L Lightning motorcycle and 1965 white top Ford Mustang light sky blue convertible; the Disco Volante hydrofoil yacht; Triumph Herald Cabriolet; a white 1965 Ford Thunderbird driven by Emilio Largo in Paris; Count Lippe's black 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner with retractable hardtop roof; Bell Aerosystems Rocketbelt jet-pack; 007 drives a 1965 Lincoln Continental convertible in the Bahamas; a Sikorsky S-62; a Boeing B-17 plane; a hijacked Avro Vulcan B.1 bomber aircraft; a Bell 47J helicopter; a 1965 Ford station wagon; speedboats and underwater sledges such as frogmen driven underwater motorized tow sleds and an underwater motorized bomb sled for carrying two atomic weapons.
The rocket-propulsion Jet Pack seen in the film was originally designed and invented for military use. It is also known as the Small Rocket Lift Device (SRLD). The original intention as conceived during the 1950s was for soldiers to be able to improve their agility, depth of field and ability to commandeer terrain by being able to jump over impeding landmarks and waterways. The Bell Aerosystems Rocketbelt model was used for this movie. Its flight goes for twenty one seconds, and provides 1000 brake horsepower.
It took almost thirty years for the expanded soundtrack for the film to be released. This was because composer John Barry was still scoring the second half of the picture when the music for the recording of the soundtrack was required. Practically no music from the second half of the movie appeared in the original score's release. Whilst the 80 minute CD is largely complete, it is still missing about 25 minutes of extra music.
Some release prints did not show 'James Bond will be back On Her Majesty's Secret Service' at the end of the film's credits. This was because a late change meant filming of that movie due to difficulties in scheduling shooting during winter meant that film was postponed. You Only Live Twice became the next James Bond film. The solution put forward by editor Peter R. Hunt was simply to remove the name of the title from the final credits.
The only Bond film in which Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman are not credited for their work done as producers. They are instead only credited as executive producers. This is the only EON Productions James Bond film to have Kevin McClory credited as a producer.
The only individual James Bond movie to win a Visual or Special Effects Oscar (Academy Award). It was for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects and awarded to John Stears in 1966. Moonraker was nominated for Best Effects, Visual Effects in 1979 but did not win. Albert R. Broccoli received the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy for producing the group of James Bond movies in 1982. Goldfinger won the first Bond Oscar for Sound Effects.
During the recording of the title song "Thunderball", Tom Jones asked the song's writer what the "strikes like thunderball" line meant. The song's composer allegedly replied that he didn't know. Jones reportedly fainted after recording the high note at the end of recording the song.
In the underwater scenes where Bond encounters sharks, Sean Connery was supposed to be protected by clear plastic panels shielding him from sharks in close-ups. However, the panels only extended about three feet in height and sharks could swim over them; as a result in some scenes (notably during the pool fight at Largo's mansion) Connery got much closer to real sharks than he wanted - director Terence Young said in an interview that scenes used in the film where Bond reacts in fright at the approach of a shark were miscues in which Connery was reacting with genuine terror as a shark approached unobstructed by plastic shielding.
In the scene where Bond and Domino meet underwater and disappear behind a rock, the scene was originally supposed to show Domino's bikini float out from behind the rock. Producer Albert R. Broccoli vetoed this because he felt it was too suggestive.
Principal photography at Château d'Anet, Anet, Eure-et-Loir, France coincided with the French Premiere of the previous James Bond movie, Goldfinger. As such, members of the production attended the French launch.
Stuntman Bob Simmons appeared to have made a very narrow escape from the car explosion stunt during filming at Silverstone Racetrack, Northamptonshire, England. Director Terence Young raced to the scene whereupon Simmons surprised him from the side road as a gag. People watching the stunt generally didn't see Simmons exit the vehicle before the explosion, probably due to his exit-point being in a blind-spot to the point-of-view of those overseeing the stunt.
As overseen by John Stears, the special effects explosion of the Disco Volante was so powerful it shattered and blew out windows about twenty to thirty miles away in Nassau's Bay Street where the film's Junkanoo Mardi-Gras sequence was filmed. Reportedly, he had not known how potent and strong a mix the experimental rocket fuel was in order to create the explosion.
The movie had two major re-releases with two other James Bond films: The first was with From Russia with Love in 1968 and the other was with You Only Live Twice from 1970 until 1972. The latter pairing was billed as "the two biggest Bonds of all."
Ford produced a promotional film A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car as a promotional film to tie-in with the release of the movie. The seventeen minute gently humorous short film was about a boy's visit with his godfather Uncle Denis to one of the movie's filming locations at Silverstone Racetrack, Northamptonshire, England. The end credits state "Made for the Film Library of FORD OF BRITAIN". It is available on the Thunderball DVD Ultimate Edition.
A special charity premiere was held on the 10th of February 1966 in Ireland at the Savoy Theatre in Dublin. Production personnel attending included Albert R. Broccoli, Kevin McClory, Luciana Paluzzi and Molly Peters. Frogmen wearing harpoons and underwater wet-suits adorned the screening whilst an after party was held at the Gresham Hotel.
The literal translations of some of the movie's foreign language titles include Fireball (Germany & Finland); Operation Thundersky (Norway); Calm Down, Mr Bond (Netherlands); The Thunderball (Sweden); Atomic Ball (Portugal); Agent 007 Into The fire (Denmark); The Ball of Thunder (Israel) ; 007 Averts SPECTRE / 007 Averted The Spectre (China) ; Thunderball Fighting (Japan); Operation Thunder (Belgium & France); and Operation Thunderball (Italy, Japan, Spain & Poland)
A timely reference to the recent British Train Robbery was inserted into the script at the last minute. This can be heard during the SPECTRE meeting after the opening credits. In the film's story, Agent No. #5 reported that SPECTRE was paid £250,000 consultancy fee for the British Train Robbery.
Martine Beswick had played one of the gypsy girls in From Russia with Love, and Paula Caplan in this movie. She is well-tanned in the film, but before shooting she was pale white due to years of stage work in England. So before filming in Nassau she was required to spend some two weeks sunning herself to get the proper tan of a native girl.
According to "Bond-Gadget-Designer" Ken Adam, the jet pack that Bond uses to escape his enemies was no nice special effect but a real jet pack provided by the US Air Force. Initially Sean Connery was to fly the jet pack without a helmet (and some publicity photos of him with the jet pack were made with him without a helmet). This was because he would have looked more debonair. It was later decided he wear a helmet in the scene. This was for risk / safety reasons as the pilot refused not to wear a crash helmet and the scenes had to match.
It's rumored that a Royal Navy engineer approached the producers after the film's release to ask them how they designed the mini-rebreather. Apparently he had been working on something similar but could not figure it out. He was devastated when the producers told them their secret - the actors were holding their breaths. The amount of time one had to breathe underwater in the movie utilizing the Rebreather mini-aqualung was four minutes.
The only Bond film where we get a glimpse of all 00 agents in one shot. They are summoned to M's briefing and 007 is the last to join in. He sits down in the only available chair - the seventh from the left. Only one of the other 00's faces are revealed, however, as they are filmed from behind or their faces are hidden, and Bond is seen in close-up.
Coinciding with the release of the film, Milton Bradley marketed a "Thunderball" board game, having marketed a "James Bond" board game the previous year. These were just two of numerous 007 tie-ins introduced on the market at the height of the early Bond boom.
The character of Count Lippe is a reference to Ian Fleming's old friend from his days as an intelligence officer, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Bernhard was born as Bernhard von Lippe Biesterfeld. Prince Bernhard was very pleased by the reference.
The production staff screened The Silent Enemy several times to glean tips on underwater warfare for the film. "Silent Enemy" dealt with British VS Italian Frogmen in the Mediterranean during the second world war.
In early outlines / treatments for this movie, the Domino Derval (aka Dominique Derval) character was known as Domino Smith. She is known as Domino Petachi in this movie's remake, Never Say Never Again. The Paula Caplan character was called Paula Roberts at first.
In early outlines / treatments for this movie, the Emilio Largo character was known as Henrico Largo. He is known as Maximilian Largo in this movie's remake, Never Say Never Again. Emilio Largo's eye-patch was worn over his left eye whilst the Maximilian Largo character was not given an eye patch.
A character called Fatima Blush was originally created by Ian Fleming as a double agent and existed in early treatments / outlines of this movie. She does not appear in either the book or movie Thunderball but does in its remake, Never Say Never Again.
The first outline for this movie was written by Ernest Cuneo on 27th May 1959. Cuneo was also used as the name of a character in Ian Fleming's novel 'Diamonds Are Forever,' but not in its subsequent film adaptation Diamonds Are Forever.
Two early Avro Vulcan B1As from the Waddington Wing were used in the filming. In the ground sequences XA913 was used and for in flight use, XH506. Both aircraft were withdrawn from service by 1968 and scrapped the same year.
Members of the cast and crew were interviewed several times about the film while it was being shot due to the immense popularity of the Bond series. Sean Connery, however, consented to just one interview and it was with "Playboy" magazine.
Peter R. Hunt claims that the scene with a dog urinating in the shot during the Junkanoo (at around 87 mins) was at first left on the cutting room floor, feeling that the footage wasn't that great. However the producers, who noticed the take as they checked the dailies, enjoyed the shot so much that they demanded it remain in the film. Also, in the parade behind the dog, a group who arrived for filming as part of the parade dressed up wearing "007" on their hats. Filmmakers attempted to edit around the group, but the dog's impromptu nature call kept the "007" group in the film.
Product placements, brand integrations and promotional tie-ins for this movie include the Aston Martin DB5; Smirnoff Vodka; Rolex Watches, James Bond wears a Rolex Submariner; Cinzano Vermouth; Breitling "Top Time" watches; the Bell Textron Jetpack; Johnnie Walker Scotch whiskey; Corgi Toys; and Dom Perignon Champagne, particularly a Dom Perignon '55.
The film's World Premiere was held on 9th December 1965 at the Hibiya Cinema, Tokyo, Japan. The film's US Premiere was on 21 December 1965 in New York and this is sometimes mistaken as being the movie's World Premiere. United Artists arranged one of the Bell Jet-Pack pilots to fly off the marquee of the Paramount Theater at 1501 Broadway, Manhattan as a promotion at the launch. A number of United Artists publicity personnel and the pilot were arrested as no one had sought permission from the authorities. The UK launch held dual premieres in London on 29th December 1965 at the Rialto Theatre and Pavillion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus. The after-party was held at the Royal Garden Hotel and proceeds from the night went to benefit the Newspaper Press Fund.
The film's title song is sung by Tom Jones. A song called "Thunderball" sung by Johnny Cash was submitted to the filmmakers but was rejected. A cover version of the title song sung by Martin Fry can be heard on the David Arnold Bond song compilation album, "Shaken and Stirred: the David Arnold James Bond Project". Another cover of the theme song was apparently recorded by Mr. Bungle but it has never been released.
According to the film's CD Soundtrack sleeve notes, the title song debuted in the US Charts on 11 December 1965 and peaked at the No. #25 spot. In the UK Charts, it entered on 13 January 1966 where it peaked at No. #35.
The title song was originally to be "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" sung by Dionne Warwick, but was changed at the last minute to "Thunderball" sung by Tom Jones. The producers were concerned about a main title song that did not include the film's title as the song title. Four different versions of the "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" song were recorded, including a version sung by Shirley Bassey and two different instrumental versions; the two instrumental versions were eventually released on disc, while Warwick's version was used in the opening credit sequence of an unreleased version of the film. This version can be heard on Audio Commentary Track Two on the DVD during the opening titles and on the James Bond 30th Anniversary double CD.
The Boeing B-17G-95-DL, 44-85531, registered N809Z, flown in the film with the Fulton Skyhook recovery system (later used on U.S. Air Force HC-130 Hercules rescue service aircraft), was owned by Intermountain Aviation, a secretive company based at Marana Air Park, Arizona, which was revealed in the 1970s to have actually been a CIA proprietary company, wholly owned by the agency, set up to cloak discrete operations, as reported by author and B-17 historian Scott A. Thompson. This aircraft is now known as "Shady Lady", registered N207EV, with the Evergreen Aviation Museum, Portland, Oregon, where Howard Hughes' HK-1 Hercules, aka the "Spruce Goose", is also displayed.
(27 October 2010) The Aston Martin DB5 used in this movie (and Goldfinger) was sold - fully "loaded" - to American classic car collector, Harry Yeaggy, for a reported $4.6 million by London's RM Auctions. The car had only one previous private owner, an American radio station owner named Jerry Lee, who purchased the car directly from the Aston Martin factory in 1969 for $12,000. Lee had kept the car at his Pennsylvania home for over forty years.
The line where Fiona derides Bond's ability to turn women to the side of right and virtue was taken from an actual critique of Goldfinger, where the critic derided Bond's ability to turn Pussy Galore away from Goldfinger.
At the preflight briefing an officer says, "You'll be flying a Vulcan armed with two atomic bombs, MOS type." MOS stands for the Ministry of Supply which in 1946 took on increased responsibilities for atomic weapons, including the H-bomb development program. The Ministry of Supply was abolished in 1959 and its responsibilities were devolved to three single-service ministries. Later, these ministries were to merge to form the Ministry of Defence. However, in the year of this film, 1965, some H-bomb types were still referred to as "MOS type."
Adolfo Celi's voice was dubbed by Robert Rietty who previously dubbed the voice of John Strangways in Dr. No and later dubbed Wheelchair Man in For Your Eyes Only. The reason for this was because Celi's thick Sicilian accent made his voice difficult to follow even when speaking English.
Adjusted for inflation, "Thunderball" is by far the most successful Bond film with a US gross of $585,684,000 according to Box Office Mojo, making it, as of 2012, the 27th biggest grossing film of all time.
Bond enters Miss Moneypenny's and hangs up his hat then enters the meeting with M. When he exits M's meeting, after his chitchat with Moneypenny he goes to the hat rack to find his hat is gone Bond states "I thought I wore a hat when I came in.." This was the final appearance of James Bond wearing a hat as a fashion statement.
The underwater bomb sled used in the film where the atomic bombs are deployed later ended up in the possession of screenwriter Kevin McClory after the real-life prop was used on promotional tours after the film's release. McClory stored the prop on his villa in the Bahamas where it decayed until he sold the property in the early 1990s - the prop was subsequently destroyed when the villa was redeveloped into a hotel resort.
Bond's underwater camera is a Nikonos Calypso I. It is an evolution of the Calypso-Phot, originally built for Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In closeups, the Nikonos logo under the lens is covered with black tape.
The series regular stuntman in an uncredited part as Colonel Bouvard, the man in drag whom James Bond fights in the pre-title sequence. Before "she" gets punched, the part is played by Rose Alba, explaining why "his" legs look so good in a dress. Up until this film Simmons had appeared as James Bond in the gun-barrel sequence in the first three movies in the series. In this movie, however, Sean Connery performs that moment for the first time.
Henry Ford II:
The grandson of Henry Ford appeared as an extra. Ford were associated with the picture providing a number of vehicles such as a light sky blue Ford Mustang convertible, Ford Bell 47J and 1965 Ford station wagon.
The military adviser and technical consultant for most of the early movies in the series appears as an Air Force Officer. He appears camera right of M during the conference with all the double-O agents. For this film, he also liaised with the US Coast Guard and US Air Force Aqua-para team to organize their participation in the film. For the production, he also organized the Skyhook rescue equipment and a sizable amount underwater diving gear valued at $US 92,000.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The wife of millionaire Huntington Hartford in an uncredited walk on role as a Girl at the Kiss Kiss Club. She had three lines with Sean Connery whom she was dancing with when the evil redhead Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) cuts into their dance and then gets shot in the back. Husband Huntington gets credited at end of the movie for the use of his privately owned Paradise Island.
When Bond and Domino are rescued by winch at the end of the movie, it was actually by a then-real sea rescue method known as sky-hooking. It is an out of date practice today, as more advanced helicopter rescue methods are used, such as those seen in the movie The Guardian.
The first line of the "Thunderball" James Bond novel read: "It was one of those days when it seemed to James Bond that all life, as someone put it, was nothing but a heap of six to four against." The last line of the "Thunderball" James Bond novel read: "Then she gave a small sigh, pulled the pillow to the edge of the bed so that it was just above him, laid her head down so that she could see him whenever she wanted to, and closed her eyes."