LONDON — Producer Kevin McClory said he is in talks with Australian and German film companies to co-produce alternative James Bond 007 features, beginning with a reworking of “Thunderball,” to be shot largely in Australia.

McClory told Daily Variety that the two unnamed companies with which he is dealing are currently investigating the legalities of making Bond pics — just as Sony did before it announced it would start its own series of Bond films.

Sony decided not to proceed with its Bond plans and agreed to a settlement with MGM, which has rights to the lucrative franchise. McClory refused to be party to the Sony/MGM deal (Daily Variety, March 30). McClory is reasserting his claim to 007 with the $65 million project, tentatively titled “Warhead 2001.”

McClory collaborated with Bond creator Ian Fleming and scribe Jack Whittingham on 10 “Thunderball” scripts in 1960; he secured rights to the scripts in a 1963 court case. United Artists released “Thunderball” in 1965 and it was remade 18 years later as “Never Say Never Again.”

In fall 1997, McClory licensed his rights to Sony in a deal intended to be the foundation of a Sony 007 franchise to rival that of MGM and Bond producer Danjaq.

McClory described “Warhead 2001” as “not competing with the shoot-’em-ups which I believe the other Bonds have become.” He said he will use the proceeds from the deal to finance two low-budget pics he has written and wants to direct.

McClory in Bond pic talks

McClory added that he is weighing options over whether to continue to pursue MGM in the courts for a share of the $2.75 billion that the 37-year-old Bond franchise has earned to date. He has been given until Aug. 1 to proceed.

— Erich Boehm

De Niro cruising ‘Parents’ hood

Following the surprise success of “Analyze This,” Robert De Niro is in talks to star in another comedy, Universal’s “Meet the Parents,” to which Jay Roach is attached to helm.

“Parents” is based on Greg Glienna’s 75-minute indie about a young man who’s en route to meet his future in-laws, but is warned by a stranger not to do it. Not heeding the advice, he finds himself in a tragicomic nightmare with his fiancee’s parents.

De Niro also is attached to Fox 2000’s “Navy Diver,” which has been forced to recast the other lead following Cuba Gooding Jr.’s exit late last week. “Navy Diver,” which would mark the sophomore outing for “Soul Food” director George Tillman and producer Bob Teitel, is expected to go before the cameras Aug. 9 in Portland, Ore. According to sources, De Niro’s deal for “Navy Diver” is “almost closed” and the filmmakers have begun interviewing for Gooding’s replacement.

— Chris Petrikin