James Bond Film Rights Contract (1961)


To celebrate James Bond’s diamond jubilee as the quintessential big screen secret agent, Vanity Fair posted a great article with a slideshow, which includes an interesting tidbit of film history: a letter that started the $5 billion dollar franchise. Harry Saltzman, in partnership with Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, paid Ian Fleming $50,000 for the movie rights in 1961; United Artists agreed to a budget of $1 million dollars for "Dr. No," the first Bond film. They paid £500 for the first screenplay to Wolf Mankowitz (a vulgar GB£7,000 or US$11,000 in today's currency, roughly) who subsequently pulled his name off the credits because he thought the story was beneath him. Do you think this contract would be approved by entertainment lawyers today?

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Dear Cubby,
            This sets forth the arrangements between us for our joint venture, namely:-
1.         (a) I am negotiating to acquire all the motion picture and television rights, or options thereon, of all the James Bond stories by Ian Fleming, (except Casino Royale) including future stories and also the exclusive right to use the James Bond character either in connection with motion pictures based on the Ian Fleming stories or on other stories which I may have written for motion picture purposes (all of the said rights are hereinafter sometimes called “the James Bond subjects”).
(b) I have written an outline of a story entitled “Streets of Gold” and own the copyright therein, and we have commissioned Wolf Mankowitz to write an expanded Screenplay thereof for £500 (Five Hundred Pounds).
2.         You and I have mutually agreed that we shall equally share all the above rights and subjects and we shall equally share the cost of acquiring the James Bond subjects and the said payment to Wolf Mankowitz and also any pre-production expenses and any profits from the exploitation of the rights and subjects and any motion pictures based thereon PROVIDED:-
(i) that if by the 1st of September next we have not been able to make arrangements for the production of a motion picture of “Streets of Gold” you may thereafter advise me that you are no longer interested in this particular subject and thereupon I shall return to you any advances you may have made in respect of this subject (which at this date I anticipate will only be £250, being half of the payment to be made to Wolf Mankowitz) and upon such refund to you your interest in this subject will cease
(ii) with regard to the James Bond subjects, you may at any time prior to our having made a commitment to produce a motion picture based on any of them, give me notice that you are no longer interested in these subjects and I shall within sixty days thereafter repay to you the amount you may have expanded towards the purchase of the rights and any other expenditures in connection with the promotion or production of motion pictures based thereon, and upon such repayment being made all your rights in the James Bond subjects shall cease
3.         It is possible that the rights in the James Bond subjects may be acquired by a company nominated by me, in which event in order to give effect to the foregoing arrangements between us, I shall procure that 50% of the shares of that company shall be transferred to you or as you may direct and you will have equal representation with me on the Board. Similar arrangements may be made in respect of “Streets of Gold”.
4.         Will you please confirm your agreement to the foregoing by signing the carbon copy of this letter at the foot thereof under the words “I agree with the above” and returning it to me.

Yours sincerely,
Harry Saltzman

I agree the above
(Signature)
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Albert R. Broccoli


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