James Bond: Details of Gerry Anderson's unmade Moonraker movie revealed

Both Bond and Anderson were at the height of their popularity when they came together in the 1960s

Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds were at the height of their popularity when James Bond came calling. (Getty/Alamy)
Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds were at the height of their popularity when James Bond came calling. (Getty/Alamy)

Roger Moore's 1979 James Bond movie Moonraker — as it stands — is one of the most divisive 007 adventures yet.

Currently rated at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, the Bond movie’s goonish gags (the double-take pigeon!) and sci-fi trappings (“​​Bond does it in space” was one of the movie’s oo-er taglines), mean that it’s all too easily dismissed as a campy, Star Wars-inspired retread of The Spy Who Loved Me, and not one of the franchise’s finest moments.

But in an alternate 007 universe, there’s another version of Moonraker, made in the late 1960s, with either Sean Connery or George Lazenby as James Bond, and with a very different take on Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel.

In the mid-1960s, Thunderbirds/Captain Scarlet/Stingray supremo Gerry Anderson was approached by James Bond producer Harry Saltzman to pitch a movie version of Fleming’s third 007 novel.

Bond and Anderson's Thunderbirds were at the heights of their popularities by this stage. Thunderball was the biggest movie of 1965, while ITV's Thunderbirds (which aired 1965-1966) proved Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were bona-fide TV hitmakers, so this union was a match made in heaven for pop culture fans.

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Up to now though, information about Anderson's iteration of Moonraker has always been sketchy. All we knew was that Anderson’s treatment was never used, but that elements of it had – allegedly – fed into the big screen version of The Spy Who Loved Me around a decade later, a light pilfering for which Anderson received a modest out-of-court settlement from EON, the production company behind the Bond movies.

Now, Anderson’s son Jamie has shed more light on one of the most fascinating what ifs in Bond history.

The Television Society Silver medal awarded to
Sylvia and Gerry Anderson with a Lady Penelope Thunderbirds puppet in the 1960s. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Talking to the SpyHards podcast, he’s revealed some hitherto unknown information regarding the plot of his father’s Moonraker (which he co-penned with regular collaborator Tony Barwick) and also lifted the veil on what exactly happened between Anderson and EON all those decades ago.

It was assumed that all copies of Anderson and Barwick’s treatment had been destroyed (as Jamie tells it, that was part of the agreement between EON and his father), only Anderson Jr discovered what’s likely the last remaining copy while excavating his late father’s filing cabinets sometime after Gerry’s death in 2012.

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“In there,” Jamie divulges, “was this lovely, very 1960s black card bound treatment.”

Jamie reveals that the document is 84 pages long and is a very different beast to the 1979 Moonraker. That Moonraker took little from Fleming’s book, which is one of James Bond’s most geographically parochial adventures, taking place mostly in the exotic climes of… Dover.

Anderson and Barwick’s treatment, it seems, remained closer to the source novel, though it would have taken Bond outside of the UK, with both Brazil and the Caribbean (but not outer space, it seems) being referenced as locations.

Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, bei den Dreharbeiten zum
Lois Chiles and Roger Moore in 1979's Moonraker. (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)

“In this version, Drax is a wheelchair-bound villain with long red hair, enormous mutton chops with a big moustache,” Anderson tells SpyHards, “and he’s developing Moonraker for the UK government.”

Anderson goes on to reveal that this Moonraker (in the book, it’s an upgraded V-2 rocket) is intended to be blasted into orbit around the moon and has been designed to obliterate the planet, should any nation decide to launch nuclear weapons.

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“So the whole idea is, it's mutually assured destruction for real but independently controlled,” he says. “So once it's launched, it's got its own detection systems, nobody can influence it.”

According to Jamie, Anderson delivered his and Barwick’s treatment to Harry Saltzman early one evening and by 11pm were being told by the producer that “it's fantastic. This is absolutely the best! I'm going to give it to Cubby [Broccoli, co-producer], and we're going to see if we can get this moving!”

Left to right: British author and creator of James Bond Ian Fleming (1908-1964) with co-producers Harry Saltzman (1915 - 1994) and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli  (1909 - 1996) on the set of 'Goldfinger', directed by Guy Hamilton, 1964. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ian Fleming (left) with Harry Saltzman and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli in 1964 on the set of Goldfinger. (Pictorial Parade/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Except nothing happened. Moonraker didn’t end up as James Bond’s seventh big screen adventure (that would be 1971's Diamonds Are Forever with a returning Sean Connery) and Anderson and Barwick never heard back from Saltzman or Broccoli.

“Dad had been so enthused by this,” says Jamie. “He really did think, I've made it, we've cracked it, we're going to do this!”

One element fans will recognise from Anderson’s Moonraker treatment is that Hugo Drax has his base in a ginormous supertanker, one very similar to The Liparus, the supership owned by the nefarious shipping magnate Karl Stromberg in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Director Michael Lonsdale on the set of
Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax in 1979's Moonraker. (Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

“Dad got pretty peeved,” Jamie says, “so there was a bit of a bust up with Cubby [Harry Saltzman had left the franchise after 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun].

"As far as I know, they came to an agreement: ‘Let's not have a big punch up over this that's going to cost us all lots of money. Gerry, we appreciate the work you did, here's a little bit of cash for your trouble. In return you must forget this, walk away and destroy all copies of your treatment.’

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"So money changed hands, but apparently he didn't destroy all copies. Whether that was on purpose or not, I couldn't possibly say.”

“I think there's a lot of really fun stuff in there,” Jamie continues. “There are some bits which are a bit naff, but there's a lot of really amazing visuals and descriptions, like when Bond escapes initially from this huge supertanker, he gets up onto the main deck and because it's so big, to get around, the guards use motorbikes.

Inside the supertanker Liparus - Stromberg's floating lair - in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. (Alamy)

"So there's a great motorbike chase around the deck of this supertanker. There's some great action pieces and great bits of tech, a lot of really good stuff. I mean, the closing lines of the story, they're definitely a bit 1960s awkward Bond girl moment, but you know, it is what it is, it’s a 1960s treatment.”

In the book, that Bond girl is Gala Brand, a Special Branch officer working undercover as Drax's personal assistant, but Anderson says she was rechristened for his father’s version.

“‘So Bond sips the cool bubbling liquid and smiles into the dark blue eyes of… Gala Bond,’ it says here,” Jamie says, reading from the treatment. “I don’t know if that’s suggesting they got married or there was a typo…

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"‘He puts down his glass by the bed and kisses her. Gala smiles and asks, “Have you got a licence for this?” “Yes. And for this too,” replies Bond. They clinch, and the gleaming white ship speeds towards the sun.’ End titles.”

Gerry Anderson was clearly hoping that Moonraker would be the project that catapulted him into the feature film world. Though he’d lensed one micro-budget B-movie in 1960 and penned two big screen Thunderbirds spinoffs in 1966 and 1968 it wouldn’t be until 1969 that he would get to write and produce his first real, grown-up feature, the sci-fi drama Doppelgänger.

Ian Hendry and Roy Thinnes sit in the cockpit of their ship in a scene from the film 'Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun', 1969. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
Ian Hendry and Roy Thinnes sit in the cockpit of their ship in Gerry Anderson's 1969 film Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun. (Universal/Getty Images)

The film, released internationally as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, coincidentally featured many actors, from Ed Bishop to Vladek Sheybal to Peter Burton, with Bond credits to their name, while its director was Robert Parrish, who had been one of the five filmmakers behind 1967’s James Bond spoof, Casino Royale).

And indeed it had been Gerry Anderson who had popularised the special effects work of Derek Meddings, years before he became one of the Bond franchise’s most loyal henchmen.

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Whether Gerry Anderson and Tony Barwick’s Moonraker would have been a better Bond film than Diamonds Are Forever or the eventual Moonraker over a decade later is a moot point. Though through his work with Big Finish Jamie Anderson has exhumed many of his father’s lost projects, there aren’t yet any plans to turn Gerry Anderson’s Moonraker into an audio drama.

Gerry Anderson with a Stingray model. (PA Images via Getty Images)

“Barbara [Broccoli] said it’s fine that it exists, we don't really want to do anything with it, [and] if you want to talk to the Fleming Estate then fine. That's kind of where it's ended.

"There's definitely potential that some day it could get out there in some form, but that would be in partnership with the Fleming Estate and that's not currently on the cards. But who knows?

"It's a nice bit of strange parallel universe film history, isn't it?”

SpyHards Podcast is available on all podcast platforms including Apple and Spotify with new episodes every Tuesday.

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