1 of 6 | The late Sean Connery was the first James Bond actor in movies. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The new season of Icons Unearthed explores how the James Bond movie franchise has lasted since 1962 and details the behind-the-scenes drama through the years.
The season premiere of the series, which streams Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Vice TV, goes into author Ian Fleming's creation of James Bond.
At first, Fleming turned down producer Irving Allen for the movie rights around 1954. By the early '60s, Fleming was ready to sell to Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and their EON Productions.
Fleming wanted to lock up the movie rights because Kevin McClory, a writing partner for a screenplay to Thunderball, was claiming rights. McClory would still sue EON Productions and win rights to some specific elements of Thunderball, but Fleming was able to sell movie options on all but Casino Royale to EON.
Fleming had already sold Casino Royale to television and EON would not obtain the rights until the 2006 Daniel Craig film.
Still, Volk-Weiss said the producers had not anticipated developing adaptations of every book Fleming wrote.
"James Bond really is the first cinematic universe," Icons creator Brian Volk-Weiss told UPI. "Every franchise that we have been covering in Icons largely was based on what was good and what was bad about how James Bond was managed."
Subsequent episodes of the series will explore conflicts between Connery and Broccoli and Saltzman's companies, EON and Danjaq. Since the original contract did not anticipate annual sequels, despite Eon owning most of the books, Connery could renegotiate several times.
"Could people truthfully say they wanted to make three? Yes," Volk-Weiss said. "Do I think they would have made more than one if Dr. No had bombed? No way in hell."
Volk-Weiss said the early years of the franchise were wrought with contract disputes between EON Productions and its stars.
"They had a traumatizing relationship with Sean Connery," Volk-Weiss said in a recent phone interview. "It got even worse with Lazenby."
Connery was the first actor to play British secret agent James Bond in a theatrical film. George Lazenby, who speaks to Volk-Weiss in Icons, appeared in only one film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Volk-Weiss said the ramifications of the Bond franchise contract disputes are still felt today. He said, for example, that Marvel now signs all its lead actors for multiple films just in case more are planned.
After On Her Majesty's, Lazenby balked at a seven-film contract, believing the franchise was over. Now, speaking with Volk-Weiss, Lazenby still doesn't hold his tongue.
"I asked him what I thought were a couple pretty softball questions and the answers that I received are quite fascinating," Volk-Weiss said. "The good news is, within reason, we can put it all in the show."
By the time EON signed Roger Moore for three films, Volk-Weiss said, executives figured out the contracts for talent. Moore would still sign on for four additional films after the contract was up with The Spy Who Loved Me.
Moore's successor, Timothy Dalton, had lower grossing entries, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. Legal disputes between Danjaq and MGM-Pathe held up the franchise, so there was no new film between 1989 and 1995.
Volk-Weiss said the success of 1995's Goldeneye, introducing Pierce Brosnan for a four-film run, was a precarious moment after "two bombs in a row with Dalton."
"If they had gotten it wrong with Brosnan, there wouldn't have been a second Brosnan movie," Volk-Weiss said.
Volk-Weiss said the Icons episode on Dalton's films also had a lot of behind-the-scenes drama. Cubby Broccoli's health was declining and his daughter, Barbara Broccoli, was learning the ropes as associate producer.
"By the way, Barbara was completely against Dalton," Volk-Weiss revealed.
Cubby died before Tomorrow Never Dies was finished. By then, Barbara took over EON.
Over 60 years and 25 films, Volk-Weiss said, the Bond franchise also evolved with the times. Bond's treatment of women improved, and the casts of more recent films have been far more diverse than the films of Connery and Lazenby.
"You can see our society changing movie by movie," Volk-Weiss said.
Though Volk-Weiss has no connection to EON, his study of the franchise for this season of Icons led him to predict Craig's replacement. Volk-Weiss suspects it will be an unknown actor, and most likely a person of color.
"They will find somebody that seems a lot like a younger version and a very similar version to Idris Elba," Volk-Weiss said. "I just think they're going to have an Idris Elba vibe."
Vice renewed Icons for six more seasons, including the James Bond edition. Volk-Weiss said he knows the next five subjects but has not announced them.