The star was a no-show Tuesday when the long-running litigation between MGM and Kevin McClory over the right to make James Bond films returned to court after a year-long hiatus.
McClory, who is in his 70s, notified the court that he was at his home on the Isle of Man because of a death in the family, but he would attempt to be in Los Angeles by Thursday. MGM’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell requested that U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie dismiss the case, but Tom Girardi, McClory’s attorney, was ordered to proceed without him.
The current trial is the tail end of the litigation, begun in 1997, between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures Entertainment, which started after Sony attempted to launch a competing Bond franchise based on McClory’s rights. That case settled in March 1999 on terms that put Sony out of the Bond business, but McClory has pressed on. He claims that he is the co-author, with Ian Fleming, of the cinematic Bond and is entitled to a share of profits from all Bond films in distribution.
McClory faces a decidedly uphill battle, given that Rafeedie expressed skepticism about his claim when he enjoined Sony early in the litigation from moving forward with Bond.
On Tuesday, Rafeedie bifurcated the case and heard evidence on the issue of “laches” – a legal term for whether McClory delayed too long before bringing his claim.
McClory is expected to testify on Thursday. On Friday, Rafeedie is to rule on the “laches” issue. If MGM prevails, the case will end. Otherwise, the parties will return to court next Tuesday to pick a jury and proceed with the copyright case.
The entire MGM-Sony litigation is a mere drop in the bucket in the tangled history of Bond. McClory first sued in 1961 and won the film rights to “Thunderball,” and there have been at least two other major litigations involving the McClory rights.