Most James Bond fans accept that the long-running film franchise has indulged in a hefty measure of creative license over the years. Still, many are surprised to discover that the suave, lusty and jovial version of 007 found in films like Octopussy (1983) The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) and Moonraker (1979) is pretty far removed from Ian Fleming’s version of the assassin. For those who have found themselves wondering what James Bond would have looked like with the original writer at the helm, you’re in luck, because a previously un-published script for Moonraker written by Fleming himself has just been unearthed.
The beauty of Roger Moore’s James Bond films is their sheer outlandish nature. In Moonraker James Bond commits to all manner of insane escape attempts, including one notable moment in which he fires himself out of a speedboat on a hang-glider, saving himself from a watery grave at the foot of a gigantic waterfall. This brand of rambunctious storytelling is a far cry from Ian Fleming’s original vision for Moonraker, which in his hands becomes as stark and unforgiving as the novel, which was published the year before.
In the 150-page film treatment, Fleming’s bond is portrayed as a ruthless and highly skilled killer. In this sense, Daniel Craig’s portrayal of 007 can be seen to argued to be one of the most authentic depictions of Bond on screen. But Fleming made other changes: there’s no M for starters. At least, not as we know them. In Fleming’s script, the head of the British Intelligence Service is an amicable city gentleman and not the stern figure we have come to accept. Meanwhile, Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary, is absent altogether.
While Fleming’s version is much darker in tone, it still holds the same fundamental shape of a classic Bond caper: Bond is called in to help take down a power-crazed villain threatening to destroy Britain. It was Fleming’s first and only attempt at writing a film version of one of his Bond books. The fact that the script was hidden deep in the archives for so many decades indicates that Moonraker’s producers weren’t entirely impressed with his efforts. Indeed, Fleming would have to wait until 1962, just two years before his death, to see one of his novels adapted for the big screen.
Harry Saltzman and Albert Brocolli decided to adapt Fleming’s Dr. No shortly after it was published in 1962. Fleming originally wrote the plot for a proposed television series he was working on with film producerHenry Morgenthau III to promote the Jamaican tourism industry. But after the project fell through, Fleming transformed it into a novel. The film version of Dr. No became one of the most successful and beloved films in the franchise. Fleming’s undeveloped screenplay for Moonraker is part of a major collection of Bond-related material gathered by Peter Harrington and Adrian Harrington Rare Books, two of London’s leading antiquarian bookshops.