Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

(May 4, 1931–April 20, 2019): American film producer and studio executive who helped engineer the deal that brought the James Bond series to United Artists in 1961. Working as a production executive at UA in the early 1960s, he’d actually tried to obtain the 007 film rights directly from Ian Fleming, only to be told that they were unavailable.

Several months later, having been promoted to head of production, he took a meeting with producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who wanted to talk to him about “something important,” he recalled in a 2005 guest column in Variety. “After the usual pleasantries I was leaning back in my chair when they announced they owned the rights to Bond. . . . My chair hit the floor and I said in no uncertain terms that we would make a deal and that the key to the films would be spending enough money to maintain Fleming’s tone in the sensuality, style, action and wit of the books.”[1] The producers were impressed with Picker’s 007 knowledge, and after a courtesy call to Columbia Pictures, to whom Broccoli had previously pitched the project, the parties quickly reached a deal: $1.1 million upon script approval, a fifty-fifty split of the profits, and an agreement to hire an unknown to play Bond.

In his Variety column, Picker marveled that Columbia had been unwilling to offer Broccoli and Saltzman more than $400,000 for the Bond film rights, then later went all in on the star-studded 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, an infamous failure. “The Hollywood ending is that Columbia could have had Bond for $1 million in 1962.”

[1] David Picker, “How UA Bonded with Bond,” Variety, May 4, 2005.


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