Originally meant as the first James Bond film, Thunderball is, to date, the most financially successful movie of the series, and, adjusting for inflation, made the equivalent of $966.4 million in 2008 currency.
Broccoli’s original choice for the role of Domino Derval was Julie Christie following her performance in Billy Liar in 1963. Upon meeting her personally, however, he was disappointed that she did not have the full figure he was looking for and turned his attentions towards Raquel Welch and signed her after seeing her on the cover of the October 1964 issue of Life magazine. 20th Century Fox was not happy.
“Next thing, the studio called me on a Saturday,” she said. “Now in Hollywood, nobody calls anybody from the studio on a Saturday. I mean, the head of the studio just doesn’t go near a phone, any phone, on a Saturday. But he did. ‘We gotta picture for you – Fantastic Voyage,’ he said. ‘Well, I don’t wanna do it; I wanna do Thunderball.’ And he said: ‘Well, that’s tough, baby, because we have a deal going with those boys and we have cooled the whole issue.’
“As it turned out, they used four girls in Thunderball. I looked like three of ’em. We would have cancelled each other out. But in Fantastic Voyage, I’m the only girl… No chance of being mistaken for Stephen Boyd or Donald Pleasence!”
As she was an unknown, it was no big deal. Eon released her – “which may or may not have done her a favour,” pondered Cubby. Ironically, she had already tested for Fox’s Bond flick, Our Man Flint. And that did no one any favours. Welch, however, was hired by Richard Zanuck of 20th Century Fox to appear in the film Fantastic Voyage the same year instead. Faye Dunaway was also considered for the role and came close to signing for the part.