Former United Artists head of production David Picker has revealed an ill-timed lunch date landed him the James Bond franchise in 1961.

Movie mogul Cubby Broccoli had scored the film rights to author Ian Fleming's spy novels and was looking for a studio to work with on the project and after Columbia executives turned him down, he agreed to meet with Picker.

Promoting his new book, titled Musts, Maybes and Nevers, the former movie boss tells, "My cousin was married to a Wall Street broker who asked me if I ever read any of the Ian Fleming paperbacks. He said, 'It would make a great movie'. When you're in the movie business people make suggestions to you all the time, but I took his advice and read them.

"It turned out that Ian Fleming had not wanted to sell them to anybody as he wasn't a movie fan - until he needed some money and acquiesced to Cubby Broccoli, who was friends with his lawyer in London. Cubby was partners with Harry Saltzman... and they went to Columbia, where Cubby had a relationship, and Columbia turned him down.

"They came to our London office for United Artists... and we went into the office of the president, Arthur Krim, and Cubby said, 'We have the rights to James Bond!' I said, 'Alright let's make a deal!'"

But Broccoli felt he should let his friend at Columbia know they were offering Ua the deal before signing on.

Picker adds, "Cubby said, 'I have to make one phonecall', and I said to myself, 'A-ha! Columbia. How could he not have made this deal at Columbia? How could they not have recognised the potential?'

"Subsequently he called his friend at Columbia to give them the final option (but he) happened to be out to lunch! His boss, who was there said, 'Well, if we turned him down in the past, let's turn him down (again),' which they did, and we made the deal that afternoon. And the rest, as they say, is James Bond history."