In 2006, the Broccoli family responsible for producing the James Bond franchise since “Dr. No” in 1962, was celebrating the critical and box office success of the first entry starring Daniel Craig, “Casino Royale.” The Broccoli family not only hoped to reboot their franchise but also sought to eradicate from memory the debacle of the 1967 version of the literary legend, Ian Fleming’s book, “Casino Royale.” Peter Sellers was cast as the main star of a movie where James Bond was to be played by six different actors in a classic farce.
However, six writers are known to have worked on the script for the movie, and others are rumored to have had a hand in the writing and directing one of the greatest train wrecks in the history of Hollywood. Revisionist history has not been kind to the 1967 version of the movie or to the role Sellers played in the implosion of a star-studded film which has grown to have a cult following.
Peter Sellers had already built something of a reputation as an actor difficult to work with, but he was now saddled with the tag of being almost impossible to work with. The comedy icon worked alongside Woody Allen to create comedy so broad and tacky to make the graphics on some of today’s leading mobile online slots games seem understated. One of the most amazing scenes in “Casino Royale” features Sellers and was re-created almost shot for shot by Mike Myers for his “Austin Powers” series as the classic live rotating bed scene.
Whether Peter Sellers damaged his cultural reputation with his work on “Casino Royale” is a difficult matter to gauge but it is true his career would take a long time to recover following the release of a series of critically-mauled movies. After the release of “Casino Royale,” Peter Sellers would enter what is often referred to as his period of indifference, regulated with average movies and performances by the comedy icon.
Peter Sellers had seemed destined to become one of the great actors of his generation after beginning a movie career following the success of the radio production, “The Goon Show” alongside Spike Milligan, Sir Harry Secombe, and Michael Bentine. Sellars had worked on some classic movies such as “The Ladykillers” and “I’m Alright, Jack” to start his career but always longed for a reputation similar to that of Sir Alec Guinness and to be a matinee idol.
After working on the film adaptations of the classic books “Lolita” and “Dr. Strangelove” with iconic director Stanley Kubrick, Sellers found himself paired with Hollywood and literature legend, Orson Welles. The pair took an instant dislike to each other made worse by Sellers friend, Princess Margaret ignoring the English actor in favor of the American when visiting the set. Neither Welles nor Sellers would appear together on film despite having several scenes together integral to the plot. After leaving the set for three weeks, Sellers would eventually leave “Casino Royale” early requiring the inclusion of David Niven as James Bond to tie together the various scenes of the movie as Sellers found his gaming made him damaged goods to the majority of Hollywood producers and directors.
It is difficult to know just how severely damaged the reputation and life of Peter Sellers was by his childish behavior when filming “Casino Royale” as the director Billy Wilder had been unhappy with his choices even after Sellers had suffered heart attacks in 1964. His marriage to actress Britt Eckland was a difficult one, which would come to an end in 1968 which many feels was partly to blame for the erratic behavior of the actor when leaving the unhappy set of “Casino Royale” early.