While Roger Moore’s James Bond had some wacky adventures, none of them were as controversial as John Landis’s draft of The Spy Who Loved Me.
While James Bond has gone on some wild adventures, none of them are quite as ludicrous—or potentially controversial—as director John Landis’ rejected pitch for The Spy Who Loved Me. Every James Bond actor brings a new, unique tone to his 007 movies. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond adventures were so campy and over-the-top that Britney Spears auditioned for a 007 movie shortly after the actor departed the role, while his replacement Daniel Craig’s movies were so comparatively dour and self-serious that this cameo would have been unthinkable by 2006.
However, it is Roger Moore’s cartoonish version of Bond who took the character’s goofy side into places that teetered on outright self-parody. Moore’s James Bond remains the goofiest and funniest take on 007, a winking, walking meta-joke who has more in common with Austin Powers than Craig’s taciturn take on the super-spy. Even this absurd James Bond, however, wasn’t able to get away with anything too outré. Director John Landis’s rejected treatment of The Spy Who Loved Me, which would have seen 007 save the Pope from kidnappers, proves that the franchise’s era of goofy, far-fetched plot and outrageous imagery came with a limit.
John Landis’s Version of The Spy Who Loved Me
While Roger Moore’s James Bond did change the tone of the franchise after the more reserved Connery movies, this didn’t happen overnight. Moore’s movies started a little silly and gradually grew more and more high concept until Moonraker infamously took James Bond to space in an attempt to cash in on Star Wars. During this time of great upheaval behind the scenes of the franchise, Bond’s producers tapped a lot of high-profile talent and sought pitches and treatments from directors who were emerging as Hollywood hit makers. In the mid-70s, one of these directors was comedy cinema legend John Landis.
According to the director’s recollections in Ajay Chowdhury and Matthew Field’s book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films, Landis presented the producers with a divisive take on Bond. Like No Time To Die’s shocking original ending, Landis’s The Spy Who Loved Me would never see the light of day. The script centered around Moore’s 007 saving the Pope from an assassination attempt, but this was not the only time that its story satirized the Catholic Church. Per Landis’s recollection, there was a scene where assassins followed Bond into a Catholic Church and the spy hid behind a crucifix by imitating Christ’s dying pose.
Why This 007 Script Was Never Filmed
As if this provocative imagery wasn’t enough, Landis went on to recall that what really upset producer Albert R Broccoli was another sequence the director proposed. This one would have seen gunmen drag Catholics out of confessional boxes and put guns to their faces. The pitch was too much for Broccoli even during the heyday of Moore’s sillier, more comedic Bond, and Landis’s script never received a green light. While some of James Bond’s unmade adventures could have been genius, this divisive nature of Landis’s religious satire means it is likely a good thing that this version of The Spy Who Loved Me never happened.