By RYAN NAKASHIMA
AP Business Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Could Blofeld be back? The archvillain from the James Bond films -- who's often seen stroking a white cat -- might be making a return to the big screen following a settlement announced Friday between studio MGM, production company Danjaq and the estate of Kevin McClory.
McClory was a co-writer of the 1965 movie "Thunderball" with Bond book writer Ian Fleming but was embroiled in a legal dispute over the movie rights for over 50 years.
On Friday, the three parties announced that Danjaq and MGM had acquired all of the rights and interests relating to James Bond from the McClory estate and family.
Terms weren't disclosed.
The McClory family's law firm said McClory created the iconic character, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the global terrorist organization he headed, SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), which were not part of the original novels.
William Kane, a lawyer who represented the McClory estate, said in a statement that the settlement "will benefit James Bond film fans throughout the world."
The legal dispute dates back to 1959, six years after the publication of Fleming's first Bond book, "Casino Royale." The estate claims that McClory then proposed to Fleming that they set a James Bond movie in the Bahamas, which later became "Thunderball." Fleming allegedly took the script and wrote the novel "Thunderball" without giving McClory credit.
Following a legal tussle, McClory was able to produce "Thunderball" in 1965 and put out the 1983 film "Never Say Never Again," which brought back Sean Connery as Agent 007.
That year, a competing film, "Octopussy," starring Roger Moore as 007, was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq, the production company now run by the family of late producer Albert R. Broccoli.
For years, "Never Say Never Again" has been left out of the Bond canon. The movie is not listed on the official James Bond 007 website, and was not included in last year's "Bond 50" box set of discs celebrating 50 years of James Bond, dubbed "The Complete 22 Film Collection." MGM lists 2012's "Skyfall" as the 23rd James Bond film.
The settlement may change that.
The 24th movie in the series, with Sam Mendes returning as director, is set for release in late 2015.