10 Things You Didn’t Know About James Bond
It’s hard to imagine what the movies would be like without James Bond. Ian Fleming’s debonaire and daring secret agent has become the modern definition of a man’s man, despite the fact that he’s not a real person.In fact, Bond, James Bond has become the yard stick by which all over action movie heroes are measured. It’s not hard to understand why: he embodies everything that men want to be and almost everything women want their men to be. He’s strong, suave and smooth in situations that could reduce mere ordinary mortals to their knees. And best of all, he always gets a hot girl in the end. So with his 50th anniversary just around the corner and his 23rd film ‘Skyfall’ on the way, let’s take a look back at the man who made stirring martinis an alcoholic faux pas.
1. Bond’s name came from a book about birds
Ian Fleming, the author who created the super secret agent, wanted a boring, short and catchy name for his master of espionage and Cold War spy-dom. It had to be something that people could easily remember but also carry an air of British suaveness without being too stuffy or aristocratic. He found the perfect name from a reference book titled ‘Birds of the West Indies’ written by American ornithologist James Bond. Bond, James Bond: suave super spy and bird geek?
2. The first actor to play James Bond was American, not British
Bond may have traditionally been a British spy but the first person to ever portray the secret agent actually hailed from the States. The first adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, ‘Casino Royale,’ found actor Barry Nelson starring in a one-hour TV movie of the same name in 1954 alongside future famous names such as Red Buttons and ‘Superman’s’ George Reeves. The character itself was “Americanized” for an American audience. The first non-American to play the character was actor and game show host Bob Holness in a radio adaptation of Fleming’s ‘Moonraker’ for the BBC before Sean Connery famously took on the role in ‘Dr. No.’
3. Cary Grant got the first offer to play James Bond on the big screen
Fleming used a lot of real people as a model for his most famous literary character and Bond fans have Cary Grant to thank for helping to bring the spy to life. In fact, longtime Bond movie producer Albert Broccoli offered the role to the silver screen legend in the pre-production for ‘Dr. No.’ According to Broccoli’s biography, he actually met with Grant to offer him the role. Grant said he liked the script and admitted he was a big Bond fan himself but he turned it down because “he didn’t feel he could lock himself into the Bond character.”
4. Bond movie producer Harry Saltzman was a real spy
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Fleming worked for British Intelligence before making his name as the world’s most famous spy novelist. However, he wasn’t the only person connected to the Bond movies who did a little spying in his time. According to an article in Vanity Fair, Harry Saltzman, the man who produced several of the early Bond films along with Broccoli, worked for the US State Department during World War II as a high-ranking intelligence officer who had to keep his actions a secret for as long as he lived.
The truth came to life just a few years ago when his daughter tried to obtain his citizenship records which had to be personally declassified by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Some of the Office of War Information letters she received revealed that he worked in an undercover capacity as a movie distributor throughout the 1940s in North Africa where he helped craft movie and radio propaganda against the enemy as part of a secret “psy-ops program.” We smell a new movie vehicle for Daniel Craig…
5. Bond is based on a real British super spy
Another source for Fleming’s famous spy came from one of Britain’s best secret agents. Commander Forest Yeo-Thomas went by the code name “White Rabbit” for Great Britain during World War II and a declassified document revealed that Fleming actually filed several briefs on Yeo-Thomas’ exploits. This providing a solid link between the writer and the famed spy whose dangerous missions offer striking similarities to Bond’s adventures. For instance, records showed that Yeo-Thomas was tortured by the Gestapo in a similar fashion to the chair scene from the book ‘Casino Royale’ in which Bond is stripped naked and beaten in the testicles with a heavy carpet-beater.
6. ‘Goldfinger’ was banned in Israel because the man who played the title character was a Nazi
One of Bond’s most infamous villains became something of a villain in his own right in Israel, thanks to a sensationalized story in the British press. German born Gert Frobe played the evil Auric Goldfinger in one of the most famous Bond films, but audiences in Israel couldn’t see it in theaters upon its initial release because of a national ban.
Shortly before its release, news reports surfaced that Frobe was a member of the Nazi party during World War II, something Frobe admitted to in an interview. The news outraged the nation of Israel and lead to the ban, but the outlandish reports failed to mention that Frobe was not supportive of the party and he made several efforts to undermine their hideous actions. Soon after the reports surfaced, a Jewish Holocaust survivor came forward to tell Israeli officials and later the press that Frobe hid him and his mother from the Nazis during World War II. Israel Embassy officials apologized and later lifted the ban on the film.
7. Roger Moore has a fear of guns
It’s hard to picture Bond being afraid of anything given all the dangerous assignments he’s been on for all these years. And yet, the series’ most prolific performer has a phobia for something that has become a staple of all Bond movies: guns.
Moore’s hoplophobia developed in his younger days when he was part of the British military. A gun exploded in his hands during a training session that left him deaf for more than a few days. His hearing recovered but his fear of weapons never went away, even when he won the role of Bond from Connery. To get past it, Moore had to use an old trick that film star Gary Cooper would use when he had to fire a gun on the set — clinching his eyes before every shot. See if you notice Moore doing it the next time you’re watching ‘A View to a Kill.’
8. President Kennedy convinced the studio to make ‘From Russia With Love’
‘Dr. No’ became a surprise hit and some of the film’s chief producers actually considered moving on to a different type of film now that they had a bigger studio budget, but President Kennedy convinced them otherwise. A feature on JFK in Life Magazine listed the President’s 10 favorite books of all time, the ninth of which was Fleming’s ‘From Russia With Love.’ The book choice helped drive its sales back to the top of the charts and Saltzman and Broccoli decided to revisit Bond one more time with a bigger budget of $2 million. They also held a special screening of ‘From Russia With Love’ at the White House for President Kennedy upon its completion in 1963. Unfortunately, it would be the last film Kennedy would ever see since he flew to Dallas, Texas the following morning where he was struck down by an assassin’s bullet.
9. The literary Bond is far less suave than the screen version
Bond on the big screen might seem like the ultimate ladies’ man who always has a kind word and convenient match for a pretty woman looking to light a cigarette but the Bond on the page paints a much different portrait. A recent Vanity Fair profile of the character described Fleming’s depiction of 007 as a “vain, self-assured brand-name dropper” with a snobbish attitude towards others he believes are beneath him. He easily expresses a great deal of fear and panic in tight or deadly situations. Like the movie Bond, he enjoys his cocktails, but often drinks to excess and (most shocking of all) actually suffers from hangovers the following morning.
10. Queen Elizabeth wanted Bond to escort her to the Olympics in the opening ceremony
The literary Bond may be more than a bit uncooth but the screen legend of the character is the one that sticks in most people’s minds. Not even Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is immune to Bond’s charm and sophistication. According to one of the writers who worked on the highly acclaimed opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the Queen asked if she could appear in footage of the opening ceremonies when she heard that they were thinking of including actor Daniel Craig as the infamous Bond. The writer even said the Queen was an ideal candidate because she nailed her lines and stage directions in a single take, except, of course, when she parachutes out of the helicopter and into the Olympic Stadium. That was a stunt double.