Ian Fleming’s Lost James Bond Script Reveals a Very Different 007 | Ian Fleming

In the action-packed movie moonraker, James Bond escapes from the metal-toothed villain Jaws on a hang glider that ejects from a speedboat as it crosses the precipice of a waterfall. It’s one of the many outlandish scenes in the movie that Ian Fleming never wrote into his original 007 novel. And it couldn’t be more different from the author’s own version of the film, based on a never-before-seen script.

In 1956, a year after the moonraker novel was published, Fleming penned his own 150-page cinematic treatment with a plot as serious as the 1979 film is light, despite Roger Moore’s charm as a fictional spy.

Just like in the novel, Bond is portrayed as a cold-hearted assassin, but Fleming makes some changes. The head of Britain’s secret intelligence service isn’t called “M” and looks more like an affable 1950s townsman than the gruff character of novels and movies.

M’s flirtatious secretary, Miss Moneypenny, is conspicuous by her absence.

A Cockney card called Tosh – a special branch officer working undercover – is part of a new cast of characters who take on the villainous Hugo Drax.

Jon Gilbert, an expert on Flemish literature, told the Observer: “This is the very first screenplay written by Fleming imagining Bond for the big screen. It is his only attempt at a film script, so it is extremely important. It is a very Bondian script – a megalomaniac who wants to see the fall of Britain.

But the Rank Organisation, at the time the largest film company in the UK, failed to see its potential. The typescript, still in his Rank file, lay forgotten decades after Fleming submitted it.

The novelist had to wait until 1962, two years before his death, to see one of his novels adapted for the cinema: Albert (“Cubby”) Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adapted his 1958 novel Doctor No for the now classic film starring Sean Connery, which led to one of cinema’s most successful franchises. All 12 Bond novels, including From Russia with lovebecame popular films, although many strayed from Fleming’s original storylines.

The undeveloped screenplay was revealed as part of a large collection of Bond documents amassed by two major London antiquarian bookshops, Peter Harrington and Adrian Harrington Rare Books, where Gilbert is Fleming’s resident expert.

Ian Fleming’s only film script was for Moonraker but it was never used. Photography: Journals Express/Getty Images

In the script, 007 and a policewoman go swimming off Kent. Gilbert said: “Bond wears light blue swim shorts – as blue as his eyes – which would become a defining image of Bond, along with the black tuxedo, portrayed by Connery and revived by Daniel Craig. It would appear to be from Fleming here, rather than a later screenwriter. It is quite significant. It’s conceivable that Fleming later expanded on this when discussing subsequent films with Broccoli and Saltzman.

Fleming had been a serving officer in British Naval Intelligence during World War II and was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist. Gilbert said his screenplay was fascinating, but “far too descriptive”. A real screenwriter would have focused on the dialogues, with minimal indications: “That’s why it’s 150 pages. Bond movie scripts… are usually 100 pages. But it reads very well.

Title page of Moonraker screenplay by Ian Fleming.
Title page of Moonraker screenplay by Ian Fleming.

He added that the script is “much more serious” than the 1979 film, which reflects the time it was created: “You have the threat of the Cold War and serious nuclear threats. In the 1970s, the films reflected a climate that was not life threatening.

The script had remained under the radar until it surfaced at a Bonhams auction in 2015, from where it was acquired by a private collector.

Andrew Lycett, author of the biography Ian Fleming: The man who created James Bondsay it Observer“Finding this scenario is very exciting. Fleming was obsessed with having his books filmed. He tried to appeal to producers in the UK and the US.

“In 1954 he corresponded with producer Alexander Korda, who had read a proof of his second novel, Live and Let Die, and rented it. Fleming wrote to him about his third novel – yet to be written – which would be moonraker. He said it was “an extension of a movie story I had in mind since the war”. It was “a pure thriller with a particularly English but also general appeal, allowing for wonderful film settings.” He then went to Jamaica to write the book, which came out the following spring. The fact is that Fleming always designed moonraker as “a film story”. So finding his script is particularly interesting.