30 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The James Bond Films
The world of 007 is full of fast cars, cocktails, sexually available women and villains with fluffy cats. Since kicking off in 1962 with Dr No, the series has gone from strength to strength with six different actors over 25 films (so far).
After all these years, even the biggest Bond fans probably think they know everything there is to know about the film franchise, but these 30 fascinating 007 facts may surprise you!
30. Ian Fleming took the name ‘James Bond’ from the author of a birdwatching book
The name ‘James Bond’ has long been synonymous with glamour and masculinity. Ironically, series creator Ian Fleming wanted his hero’s name to sound “as mundane as possible,” as that would help him maintain the anonymity a spy needs in the real world.
To this end, Fleming borrowed the name James Bond from a British ornithologist, who wrote a book entitled Birds of the West Indies. Many years later, this book would make an appearance on camera in the 2002 movie Die Another Day, in which Pierce Brosnan’s 007 poses as an ornithologist.
29. From Russia with Love was the last movie that President John F. Kennedy ever watched
When James Bond first arrived on cinema screens in 1962, the eyes of the world were another charismatic male leader: John F Kennedy, who was elected US President a year earlier. JFK himself was a big fan of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, and of Sean Connery’s portrayal of the character.
The President listed From Russia with Love as one of his ten favourite novels – so naturally, he was keen to see the 1963 film adaptation. However, it turned out that From Russia with Love would be the last movie that JFK would see before his assassination that November.
28. Famed author Roald Dahl wrote the script for You Only Live Twice
Ian Fleming was the father of James Bond 007, but some other noted writers have also worked on the movies. Most famously, the screenplay for You Only Live Twice was written by Roald Dahl, who had been a friend of Fleming, and worked with him in military intelligence during World War 2.
When You Only Live Twice was released, Dahl had already written three of his best-loved children’s books: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Magic Finger. Today, he is remembered as one of the best children’s authors in history.
27. The Man with the Golden Gun’s Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming’s cousin
Christopher Lee, the British actor best known in the 60s for his recurring role as Count Dracula, had a familial link to the Bond franchise: Ian Fleming was his cousin. Fleming recognised that Lee would be a great choice to play Dr. No, the title villain of the first Bond movie in 1962.
Unfortunately, by the time Fleming suggested this to the film’s producers, they had already picked Joseph Wiseman. Lee would have to wait twelve years before he got to play a Bond villain, appearing as master assassin Scaramanga alongside Roger Moore in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun.
26. In real life, Roger Moore was severely afraid of guns
Roger Moore is to date the most prolific Bond actor, appearing in a whopping seven films between 1973 and 1985. Given the nature of the character, Moore had to spend a great deal of that time handling prop guns, so it’s surprising to learn that in reality Moore suffered from hoplophobia – a fear of firearms.
This was of course a significant problem in playing Bond, and it very nearly cost Moore the part. Fortunately, the actor managed to work out a way of keeping his phobia under control. Moore revealed that he used ‘an old Gary Cooper trick, which was to clench my eyes’.
25. It’s estimated that Bond has been to bed with 55 women
You only have to watch one or two Bond movies to realise that our hero has slept with more than his share of women. Exactly how many ladies he has been intimate with is of course open to speculation – but one carefully calculated estimate puts the number of 007’s bedmates at 55, taking into account every sexual encounter we know of in the Bond movies made to date.
In your average Bond movie, our hero has his wicked way with two or three women. Perhaps alarmingly, the most active 007 is in the 57-year-old Roger Moore’s swansong A View to a Kill, in which he beds four women. Of course, this doesn’t preclude the possibility of other encounters we don’t see on camera.
24. The man in the original gun barrel sequence is not Sean Connery
Sean Connery wasn’t actually the first screen actor to play James Bond, as the character first appeared in a TV version of Casino Royale, played by American actor Barry Nelson. However, believe it or not Connery isn’t even the first actor we see as Bond in his big screen debut, Dr. No.
In what quickly became a series motif, we see Bond at the bottom of a gun barrel before he turns and shoots at the camera. However, in the original Dr. No, the man playing 007 in silhouette wasn’t Sean Connery but stuntman Bob Simmons. Connery himself first appeared in the gun barrel on 1965’s Thunderball.
23. Bond’s family motto inspired one of the movie titles
By the time Pierce Brosnan was cast as Bond, the filmmakers were running low on usable titles from Ian Fleming’s body of work. Because of this, some of the later Bond movies draw on other aspects of Fleming’s heritage, and the character history of Bond.
For instance, Pierce Brosnan’s 007 debut GoldenEye takes its name from the estate which Fleming himself called home in Jamaica. Brosnan’s third, The World is Not Enough, takes its title from an interesting tidbit of Bond lore: it’s the Bond family motto, first seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service written in Latin: ‘orbis non sufficit.’
22. Two ‘Bond films’ aren’t officially Bond films
There are another two movies featuring the character of James Bond which are considered unofficial as they were not produced by Bond film company Eon Productions. The first unofficial Bond movie was 1967’s spoof Casino Royale, which was able to get made as Eon’s initial contract with Ian Fleming did not include his first 007 novel.
There is also 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which saw a 53-year old Sean Connery lured back to play Bond one last time. The film is technically a remake of Thunderball, whose complicated history saw independent producer Kevin McClory obtain partial rights to the property and a number of associated characters.
21. There have been four different Moneypenny actresses over the years
Along with 007 himself, the only character to make an appearance in every Bond movie is Miss Moneypenny. The longest-serving actress in this role is Lois Maxwell, who was in every Bond movie from 1962’s Dr. No to 1985’s A View to a Kill, appearing alongside Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore.
Every subsequent Moneypenny has only acted alongside one 007 each: Caroline Bliss (alongside Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill), Samantha Bond (in Pierce Brosnan’s GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day) and Naomie Harris (Daniel Craig’s Skyfall, Spectre and No Time to Die).
20. Roger Moore was older than Sean Connery
Most people assume that Sean Connery retired because he was getting ‘too old’ to play Bond. However, you might not have realised his successor Roger Moore was actually the elder of the two actors by three years. Connery first played the role aged 31 and retired at 40; Moore, meanwhile, took over on Live and Let Die aged 45, and stood down aged 57 after A View to a Kill.
The youngest 007 actor to date is George Lazenby, who was only 29 when he made his one Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As for the other three, Timothy Dalton played Bond from 41 to 43, Pierce Brosnan from 42 to 49, and Daniel Craig (the longest-serving Bond) from 38 to 53.
19. Q was originally known as Major Boothroyd
Another mainstay of the 007 series is Q, the man who gives Bond his gadgets. Originally the character was called Major Boothroyd, and was played by actor Peter Burton. Follow-up film From Russia with Love saw Desmond Llewellyn take over as Boothroyd – and, from Goldfinger onwards, he would be known as Q.
Llewellyn proved to be the longest-serving Bond actor, retiring with 1999’s The World is Not Enough – his 17th appearance in the series. Sadly, the actor died in a car accident not long thereafter. John Cleese (introduced as Q’s apprentice in The World is Not Enough) briefly took over the role in 2002’s Die Another Day, and a decade later Skyfall introduced Ben Whishaw as the youngest Q yet.
18. The title Tomorrow Never Dies is the result of a typo
Bond movie titles rarely have much logical meaning, but 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies really takes the biscuit. You don’t have to think too hard about it to conclude that the title is completely nonsensical, and doesn’t have that much to do with the film’s plot.
Here’s why Tomorrow Never Dies has such a strange title: it was originally supposed to be Tomorrow Never Lies. However, when the title was typed up for an official memo it was accidentally misspelt, and in the end the filmmakers decided to leave the mistake uncorrected.
17. There were a few crossovers with TV series The Avengers
While Bond was the most popular British spy on the big screen, The Avengers was similarly beloved on television. Not to be confused with the Marvel Comics team, the British spy adventure series ran in its initial incarnation from 1961 to 1969. Three key Avengers actors went on to take prominent roles in the movies.
First, Honor Blackman (who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers) was Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Next, Diana Rigg (who played Emma Peel) was Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Years later, John Steed actor Patrick MacNee had a supporting role in A View to a Kill.
16. Johnny Cash recorded an unused Bond theme
Just as there are a number of big name actors who missed out on playing Bond, so too have some big name musicians missed out on writing and performing a Bond theme song. For 1965’s Thunderball, legendary country singer Johnny Cash decided to try his hand at a title track, which was rejected.
Nor was Cash the only artist to write and record a James Bond theme which was ultimately declined: others include Alice Cooper (The Man With The Golden Gun), Blondie (For Your Eyes Only), Pulp (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Radiohead (Spectre).
15. Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me is nothing like the movie
Many of the Bond movies deviate wildly from the novels they are officially based on. The most extreme example of this is 1976’s The Spy Who Loved Me, as beyond the title it bears absolutely no resemblance to the book whatsoever. Perhaps surprisingly, this was demanded by author Ian Fleming himself.
The original 1962 book The Spy Who Loved Me shocked readers at the time with its dark tone and explicit sexual content. Fleming ultimately came to regret writing the novel, so when he sold the film rights to Eon Productions he insisted they create an all-new story.
14. Die Another Day features references to all of the previous Bond films
Die Another Day, the 20th Bond movie, has widely been panned as the worst of the whole series – but it does have one special claim to fame. In order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the James Bond series in 2002, the producers decided to fit in references to all of the 19 previous Bond films which had come before it.
Many of the references come in the form of props, and feature in the scene in Q’s lab (John Cleese’s one appearance as the fully-fledged Q). We see From Russia, With Love’s lethal shoe, Thunderball’s jet pack, and the crocodile submarine disguise from Octopussy, amongst others.
13. M’s real names are actually Miles and Barbara
Everybody knows that Bond’s boss is officially known as ‘M,’ and that several different people have taken that title. On film, we learn the real names of two out of four M’s: Robert Brown’s Admiral Hargreaves, and Ralph Fiennes’ Gareth Mallory.
Original M Bernard Lee is never addressed by name on film, but in the novel The Man with the Golden Gun he is revealed to be Vice Admiral Sir Miles Messervy. As for the third (and perhaps best-loved) M played by Judi Dench, Raymond Benson’s official Bond novel The Facts of Death reveals that her name is Barbara Mawdsley.
12. Quantum of Solace is the first Bond movie to feature the gun barrel scene at the end
When Daniel Craig was cast as Bond, the series was effectively rebooted, introducing Craig just as he is promoted to 007. For this reason the film removes certain Bond traditions: notably, it’s the first film in the series to not open with the gun barrel shot.
Craig’s second movie Quantum of Solace brought the iconic shot back, but broke with series convention by instead placing the shot at the end of the movie. It wasn’t until Craig’s fourth movie, Spectre, that they finally put the shot back at the start: later, No Time to Die created a similar shot in the film itself.
11. Liam Neeson turned down the role of Bond
Back in the 90s, after Timothy Dalton stood down from the role of 007, one of his potential replacements was Liam Neeson. The Irish actor had not long since found fame in Schindler’s List, and reportedly turned down Bond because he didn’t want to make action films.
This seems ironic today, as since appearing in 2008’s Taken (as a former spy, no less), action roles have been Neeson’s bread and butter. Still, Neeson is in good company among actors who were offered Bond but declined: others include Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and James Brolin.
10. Ursula Andress never actually spoke a word on film
Ursula Andress co-stars in Dr. No as the white bikini-clad Honey Ryder, the original ‘Bond Girl’ and still one of the most popular of all time. However, despite her fame fans of the series might not realise that Andress didn’t actually speak a word on film during her performance in Dr. No.
The actress’s Swiss accent was deemed to be too heavy for Western audiences to understand and instead all of her speech was dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl. Nor is it really Andress singing the calypso song Underneath the Mango Tree; this was performed by Diana Coupland.
9. One of the Thunderball stuntmen received a bonus for jumping into Largo’s shark pool
Emilio Largo, the villain of 1965’s Thunderball, famously owns a luxurious mansion complete with a shark-infested pool, resulting in a nasty death for one of his henchman. As real sharks were used, even the hardened Bond stunt team were naturally wary to get in the water.
Apparently the stuntman who volunteered for the gruesome scene, Bill Cummings, was paid a $450 bonus for jumping into Largo’s shark infested pool. Bond actor Sean Connery was also understandably nervous around the sharks, and narrowly escaped attack himself during one scene.
8. You can’t really die from being painted gold, like in Goldfinger
In Goldfinger, actress Shirley Eaton co-starred as Jill Masterson, who famously dies midway through the film. After she betrays Goldfinger, Bond finds her lying motionless on the bed and completely covered in gold paint. We’re told that the cause of death was skin asphyxiation.
In reality, such a bizarre and exotic method of murder probably wouldn’t have proved lethal. However, the film makers didn’t want to take any chances and insisted on leaving a bare patch of actress Shirley Eaton’s skin clear on her stomach.
7. 15 BMWs were destroyed during the filming of Tomorrow Never Dies
Wherever James Bond 007 goes, there’s likely to be a fair bit of destruction left in his wake. One particularly destructive instalment was 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, in which Bond drives a flashy BMV 750 – by remote control, no less.
During the course of production, no less than fifteen of these expensive automobiles were destroyed. This is of course far from the only bit of vehicular mayhem to occur while the cameras rolled on Bond; on 2015’s Spectre, the cost of the cars destroyed in the course of filming amounted to a reported £24 million!
6. Moonraker was rushed into production to cash in on Star Wars
Star Wars exploded onto the big screen in 1977, and changed the face of blockbuster cinema forever. The impact of George Lucas’ massively successful space opera was even felt by 007 himself, who tried to cash in on the new sci-fi mania with 1979’s Moonraker.
This was a change of plan, as originally the Bond filmmakers intended to follow 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me with For Your Eyes Only, but this film would be delayed until 1981. Moonraker proved a huge hit, earning over $210.3 million worldwide, which made it the highest-grossing movie in the Bond franchise until GoldenEye came along in 1995.
5. The actor who played Goldfinger had been a Nazi in real life
One of the most iconic Bond villains of them all is Goldfinger, title character of the 1964 movie. However, it turns out that Goldfinger actor Gert Fröbe had some experience of true villainy in real life, as the German actor admitted to being a member of the Nazi party during Hitler’s reign.
Public outrage over this resulted in Goldfinger being banned from cinema release in Israel. However, this ban was eventually lifted when it came to light that Fröbe had actually helped save two Jewish people from the Nazis.
4. Goldfinger actor Gert Fröbe couldn’t actually speak English
Gert Fröbe’s Nazi past wasn’t the only controversy surrounding his casting in Goldfinger. The actor got himself into even more trouble on the set of the third James Bond movie after his agent had lied about the actor being able to speak English.
Director Guy Hamilton immediately wanted Fröbe to play the Bond villian after seeing him in a German language film. However, once it became clear that the actor couldn’t speak a word of English, Hamilton had to get another actor to dub all of Fröbe’s lines.
3. In the books, James Bond fathers a son
As an orphan with a devil-may-care bachelor lifestyle, Bond isn’t what you’d call a family man. In the movies he is married only once, and made a widower almost immediately, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; and as far as children go, we never learn of any (until No Time to Die, that is). Things were a bit different in the books, however.
Ian Fleming wrote of Bond fathering a child with Kissy Suzuki, his love interest from You Only Live Twice. Later, Bond author Raymond Benson expanded on this in 1997 story Blast from the Past, in which Bond’s son is named as James Suzuki; but, as is so often the case with those near and dear to Bond, James Jr. tragically winds up being killed.
2. The early Bond films contain some not-so-subtle advertising for Pan Am
Most major motion pictures feature some form of paid product placement, and the Bond movies are no exception. Back in the early days of 007, the first films in the series were in many respects glorified commercials for airline Pan Am. This was a logical piece of product placement, as Bond’s globe-trotting lifestyle is a huge part of the character’s appeal.
The films helped popularise the idea of taking holidays abroad, at a time when air travel was not necessarily that commonplace. Unfortunately for Pan Am, this product placement didn’t help them stay in business, and the airline ultimately folded in 1991.
1. Ian Fleming based Bond on himself
Author, Ian Fleming lived very interesting life before becoming a spy novelist, and drew on this in creating James Bond 007. Fleming used to be a Naval Intelligence Officer and later became personal assistant to the director of British Naval Intelligence.
While Bond’s life was undoubtedly a bit more eventful than Fleming’s, the author incorporated a lot of his own personality into the role including his chain-smoking habit, his taste for fine dining and alcohol, and his love of women; despite being married, Fleming often slept around and had several affairs.