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The James Bond script that was rejected for satirising the Catholic Church

Due to the immense popularity of the James Bond films, it is only natural that every single element of the projects are customised according to the logic of the market. As a consequence, many potentially subversive additions to the enormous legacy of the franchise have been thrown out and replaced with more palatable alternatives over the years.

The most hilarious example of this is the screenplay that pioneering filmmaker John Landis wrote for The Spy Who Loved Me. For the 1977 thriller which starred Roger Moore as Bond, producer Albert R. Broccoli had gathered a formidable team of writers which included Anthony Burgess, Landis and Cary Bates among many others.

Although The Spy Who Loved Me was eventually directed by Lewis Gilbert, many other filmmakers were touted for the project including Steven Spielberg who was busy with Jaws as well as Guy Hamilton. The producers were depending on the critical success of The Spy Who Loved Me because its predecessor The Man with the Golden Gun had been lampooned by critics.

While Burgess was drafting a script based on his novel Tremor of Intent, Landis was cooking up something different in the same office. He had actually devised a screenplay which followed Bond on an adventure which required him to foil the kidnapping of the Pope which did not fly well with Broccoli who had made sure that Landis got a nice apartment and access to a 16mm projector with all the James Bond films for his work.

According to Landis, he had written a scene which involved Bond going into a cathedral while he was being chased down by troops. “On the altar, is an enormous crucifix and on the back of it, hiding, is James Bond,” Landis recalled. “[Broccoli] went ‘NO!’ He was really against it. The thing that got [Broccoli] was I wanted to pull people out of the confessional, guns in their face.” At the time, Hamilton was attached as the director and he was so amused by this that he claimed credit for the joke.

Finally, Richard Maibaum and Christopher Wood gathered all the inputs from the extremely talented group of writers and fashioned into a more consumable script that revolved around Bond’s investigations of the hijacking of submarines equipped with nuclear warheads. While the final product was nowhere near as hilarious as the kidnapping of the Pope, the film did introduce audiences to one of the most iconic Bond villains of all time – Jaws, played by Richard Kiel.

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