Not Dr. No, Original Choice For First James Bond Movie Could’ve Tanked Sean Connery’s Career

Sean Connery's James Bond franchise was supposed to kick off with Thunderball.

sean connery as james bond


  • The James Bond team initially planned to launch franchise with Thunderball as first installment.
  • The movie became controversial due to the rights issues between author Ian Fleming and other collaborators.
  • Sean Connery's career took off after James Bond released Dr. No in 1962.
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Sean Connery was hailed as one of the most notable actors who ever played the iconic James Bond. His decades-long career as the famed British spy was undoubtedly the most unforgettable one, and it’s difficult to imagine had he not continued to star in the franchise.

sean connery in thunderball james bond
Sean Connery in Thunderball

This was due to the fact that the original plan for the James Bond films was to kickstart it with the controversial Thunderball. Yes, the 1965 installment almost became the first release, and had it happened, it would have posed a great danger to Connery’s career.

James Bond Was Supposed To Begin With Thunderball

Thunderball is the fourth series in the James Bond films, and it was supposed to go first if it wasn’t for the number of controversies it faced. Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, both Bond producers, worked on it in the early 1960s but had a challenging time bringing it to the big screen due to rights issues.


A dispute between author Ian Fleming and his former work partners arose and affected the progress of the film. It turned out that the collaborators accused Fleming of stealing the idea from them.

thunderball 1965
Thunderball (1965)

Since the disagreement lasted for quite some time, Thunderball was pushed to the backseat until everything was resolved. In an interview with The Battle for Bond author Robert Sellers (via Spy Command Features), he claimed that the fourth movie held so much importance to the franchise.

It turned out to be a most significant contribution, since Spectre became recurring foes in subsequent novels and the film series. However, when McClory won the film rights to Thunderball, he owned the usage of them… Till now, of course, since the Bond producers purchased all rights in them from the late Kevin McClory’s estate in 2013.”

Had they pushed through with the controversial Thunderball with Sean Connery in the lead, the movie would have faced a lot of troubles and bad publicity. The actor’s career would no longer take off, and who knows what would have happened to the James Bond franchise.


Thankfully, they started it off with Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and at last, Thunderball. By the time of the latter film’s release, the issue was resolved.

Dr. No Launched Sean Connery’s Career

sean connery in thunderball-2
Sean Connery in Thunderball

Sean Connery once explained in an interview via IndieWire why the James Bond team decided to go with Dr. No.

It was refreshing and had a certain kind of style, although it didn’t cost anything because we only had a million to make the picture. Well, I took it seriously on one level, which was one had to be menacing, one had to be strong enough to do all this stuff, or seem old enough to do it. And the humor was one element that was missing from the books of Fleming himself.”

The movie ended up a massive hit among fans, and it was the installment that officially launched the James Bond saga. Sean Connery’s 007 made history, and his career soared high.


James Bond films are available to stream via Prime Video.


Written by Ariane Cruz

Articles Published: 2041

Ariane Cruz, Senior Content Writer. She has been contributing articles for FandomWire since 2021, mostly covering stories about geek pop culture. With a degree in Communication Arts, she has an in-depth knowledge of print and broadcast journalism. Her other works can also be seen on Screen Rant and CBR.