30 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The James Bond Films
The world of 007 is full of fast cars, cocktails, Bond girls and villains with fluffy cats. The iconic film franchise kicked off in 1962 with Sean Connery playing the lead role in Dr No, and since then the series has experienced one success after another.
After all these years, even the biggest Bond fans probably think they know everything there is to know about the film franchise. But we’ve brought you 30 fascinating facts about the movies that will definitely 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 – so its origins come as a bit of a surprise.
Though his character has long been considered the epitome of cool, creator Ian Fleming wanted his hero’s name to sound “as mundane as possible,” thereby helping 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.
Writing the book at his home in Jamaica, Fleming happened to have a copy of the book in question to hand.
Many years later, this book would make an appearance on camera in the 2002 movie Die Another Day.
Pierce Brosnan’s 007 presents himself to Halle Berry’s Jinx as an ornithologist, giving him the excuse to say he’s in the area “for the birds.”
29. From Russia with Love was the last movie that President John F. Kennedy ever watched
- Credit: Flickr
When James Bond first arrived on cinema screens, the eyes of the world were another charismatic male leader.
That man was John F Kennedy, who became the 35th President of the United States in 1961, the year before Dr. No opened.
JFK himself was, by all accounts, a big fan of both Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, a friend of Fleming himself, and an admirer 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 in 1963.
It’s also believed that Kennedy reaf one of Fleming’s spy novels in bed the night before he was shot and killed.
28. Famed author Roald Dahl wrote the script for You Only Live Twice
- Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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 none other than Roald Dahl (above).
- Credit: Flickr
Dahl had been a friend of Fleming, and had worked alongside him in military intelligence during the Second World War.
In adapting You Only Live Twice to the screen, Dahl largely abandoned Fleming’s story in favour of an all-new narrative; the first of the films to do so.
When the film 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.
Dahl would write many more children’s classics, including The BFG and Matilda, before passing away in 1990.
27. The Man with the Golden Gun’s Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming’s cousin
It’s rare enough for a family to produce one bona fide superstar, so for two to emerge from the same gene pool is impressive indeed!
The late Sir Christopher Lee, one of the most prolific and beloved British actors of the 20th century, was Ian Fleming’s cousin.
Fleming recognised that Lee (best known from the late 50s onward for his portrayal of Dracula) would be a great choice to play Dr. No.
Unfortunately, filmmakers Eon had already settled on Joseph Wiseman for the title role in the first Bond movie, so Lee missed out.
However, Lee would eventually play one of the great Bond villains: Scaramanga, the title character in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Lee’s take on the character was decidedly different from the source material: the actor stated, “In Fleming’s novel he’s just a West Indian thug, but in the film he’s charming, elegant, amusing, lethal… I played him like the dark side of Bond.”
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 from 1973 to 1985.
The sight of Moore with his arms folded, Walther PPK in hand, has become one of the most iconic 007 images.
As such, 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 to use ‘an old Gary Cooper trick, which was to clench my eyes’. We never would have known!
25. It’s estimated that Bond has bedded 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 estimate puts it at 55.
This takes 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; for instance, it’s implied Bond had many late visits from young ladies in the allergy research clinic of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
It’s also heavily suggested, though for obvious reasons kept implicit, that 007 enjoys the company of two women at the same time in From Russia with Love.
24. The man in the iconic gun barrel sequence is not Sean Connery
Believe it or not, Sean Connery wasn’t actually the first screen actor to play James Bond.
As a matter of fact, he’s not even the first actor we see as Bond in his big screen debut, Dr. No.
Instead, stuntman Bob Simmons is the individual who features in the opening gun barrel sequence.
Connery himself only started appearing in the iconic gun barrel sequence on Thunderball, the fourth film in the franchise.
Furthermore, did you know there was actually a 1954 TV version of Casino Royale which starred Barry Nelson in the title role?
- Credit: ITV
Plus if we’re including the radio version of James Bond, Bob Holness was technically the first 007 actor back in 1956.
As Holness went on to become the affable host of beloved British TV gameshow Blockbusters, it’s bizarre indeed to think he was the first James Bond!
23. Bond’s family motto inspired one of the movie titles
By the time Timothy Dalton played Bond for the first time in 1987’s The Living Daylights, 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.
As the spy himself mentions in the movie, ‘The world is not enough’ is the Bond family motto, featured on their official crest.
This crest is first seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with the motto in Latin: ‘orbis non sufficit.’
22. Two ‘Bond films’ aren’t officially Bond films
The upcoming No Time to Die will be the 25th official film in the James Bond 007 franchise.
However, there are another two movies featuring the character of James Bond which are not counted in this number.
The first unofficial Bond movie was 1967’s Casino Royale, a parody of the Sean Connery films starring David Niven as Bond.
Bond production company Eon had not secured the rights to Ian Fleming’s original novel Casino Royale, enabling producer Charles K. Feldman to make his own plans.
There is also 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which famously saw a 53-year old Sean Connery lured back to play Bond one last time in a non-canon capacity.
Never Say Never Again is technically a remake of Thunderball, a film 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 and M, the only character to make an appearance in every Bond movie is Miss Moneypenny.
Actress Lois Maxwell originated the role of M’s secretary in the very first Bond movie, 1962’s Dr. No.
Maxwell would serve in the role alongside three 007s – Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore – before retiring alongside Moore on A View to a Kill.
Every subsequent Moneypenny has only acted alongside one 007. Caroline Bliss took the role alongside Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.
Next, the aptly-named Samantha Bond was Moneypenny to Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.
The character was briefly retired on the first two Daniel Craig movies, until Naomie Harris took the role in Skyfall (in which we learn her first name is Eve).
20. Roger Moore was older than Sean Connery
Most people assume that Sean Connery retired because he was getting ‘too old’ to play Bond.
But that’s just not the case, especially when you consider that Roger Moore is actually three years older than his Scottish counterpart.
Connery quickly fell out of love with his character after the international media began to scrutinise his private life; as an actor he also resented being identified with one single character.
Roger Moore always seemed far more at ease with his portrayal of Bond but also admitted that he was nothing like his on-screen character.
Connery first played the role aged 31; 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.
19. Q was originally known as Major Boothroyd
Another mainstay of the 007 series is Q, the man who gives Bond his gadgets.
However, originally the man we know as Q originally had a name: Major Boothroyd.
In the original Bond movie Dr. No, Major Boothroyd 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 Pierce Brosnan’s sophomore effort 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.
However, apparently there’s a fascinating reason as to why Tomorrow Never Dies has such a strange title: it was originally supposed to be Tomorrow Never Lies.
Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein explained, “As we went into production, the producers and the director (Roger Spottiswoode) couldn’t decide between Lies and Dies.”
Eventually they agreed on Tomorrow Never Lies – which made sense, as the film’s plot features a newspaper called The Tomorrow, whose reports are more than a bit liberal with the truth.
However, “they called in an assistant, dictated a fax, and she sent it off to MGM, with a single, one-letter typo: Dies instead of Lies. The rest is celluloid history.”
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; The New Avengers followed in the late 70s.
There were a number of crossovers with the James Bond series, with a few key Avengers actors taking prominent roles in the movies.
First, Honor Blackman (who played Cathy Gale on The Avengers) was cast as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.
Next, Diana Rigg (who played Emma Peel in The Avengers, and later played Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones) starred as Bond’s bride Tracy, opposite the one-and-done 007 George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Years later, Patrick MacNee, who played Steed in the TV series, popped up in A View to a Kill as a horse trainer who allies with Bond.
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 theme song.
However, the producers opted to go instead with the song written by John Barry and Don Black, and performed by Tom Jones.
Later, Alice Cooper wrote and recorded a rejected theme song for The Man With The Golden Gun.
Also, Blondie recorded a track for For Your Eyes Only; this also failed to make the cut.
Even British indie group Pulp recorded a song for the originally-titled Tomorrow Never Lies.
This too was passed over in favour of Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies; although on the end credits the film used another alternate theme, recorded by legendary Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever singer Shirley Bassey.
More recently, Radiohead composed and performed a title song for Spectre, but the producers instead used Sam Smith’s The Writing’s On the Wall.
15. Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me is nothing like the movie
The Spy Who Loved Me was the tenth Bond film, and the third in the series to star Roger Moore.
It’s also probably the most extreme example of artistic license on the part of the filmmakers, as it bears absolutely no resemblance to the book whatsoever.
This is because Fleming only allowed EON to use the title, so instead they had to make up an entirely original story.
If shot as written, it would have been a very different Bond movie, as Fleming’s novel is actually told from the perspective of a woman named Vivienne Michel.
In the book, Michel is saved from being raped by a gang of thugs when 007 bursts into the room and saves her.
It’s been noted as one of the grittiest and most sexually-explicit of Fleming’s novels – but we’ll never get to see the original plot on the big screen.
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).
If you look closely at the scenes in Q’s lab, you can see a shoe belonging to Rosa Klebb (the main antagonist in From Russia, With Love).
We also see the Thunderball jet pack, and the crocodile submarine disguise from Octopussy, amongst others.
Other Bond Easter Eggs pop up in the dialogue; probably the least subtle of these is when Toby Jones’ arch-villain Gustav Graves randomly declares that “Diamonds are for everyone.”
13. M’s real names are actually Miles and Barbara
Everybody knows that Bond’s mysterious boss is officially known as ‘M,’ and that several different people have taken that title.
In Fleming’s novel The Man With the Golden Gun, readers find out that the real name of 007’s original boss is Vice Admiral Sir Miles Messervy.
After Judi Dench became the new female M, Raymond Benson wrote an official continuation novel entitled The Facts of Death which reveals that her name is actually Barbara Mawdsley.
Introduced alongside Pierce Brosnan, Dench was the third M, following on from actors Bernard Lee and Robert Brown.
Her take on the character proved popular enough that she remained in the role alongside Daniel Craig (even though that would seem to subvert the logic of the Craig films being semi-reboots).
After being spectacularly retired in Skyfall, the new M was quickly introduced in the form of Ralph Fiennes, whose character’s real name is Gareth Mallory.
12. Quantum of Solace is the first Bond movie to feature the gun barrel scene at the end
Daniel Craig’s Bond debut, Casino Royale, was the first film in the series to not open with the iconic ‘gun barrel’ shot.
Fans were perplexed when they didn’t see the familiar sequence at the start of the movie.
Many came to the premature conclusion that the filmmakers had chosen to scrap it altogether.
However, in the end producers placed the iconic Bond moment right at the end of Craig’s second film, Quantum of Solace.
Removing the iconic opening for Craig’s introductory movies was a very deliberate creative choice on the part of the filmmakers.
It was intended to emphasise that this was a younger, less experienced Bond than we had seen before.
Putting the iconic shot at the end of the film implied that only then had the 007 of old finally taken shape. It wasn’t until Craig’s fourth movie Spectre that they finally put the shot back at the start.
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 the part of James Bond but declined.
In the early days, actors considered for the part included Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and James Brolin.
Other 007 contenders over the years included Adam West, Mel Gibson, Sam Neill, Hugh Grant and Hugh Jackman.
10. Ursula Andress never actually spoke a word on film
Dr No actress Ursula Andress is the original ‘Bond Girl,’ and still one of the most popular of all time.
Everyone remembers the first time they saw Honey Rider emerge from the ocean wearing her iconic white bikini and carrying a diving knife on her hip.
This moment is so iconic that the Bond filmmakers have recreated it at least twice, with Halle Berry emerging from the sea in Die Another Day – and, arguably, when Daniel Craig returns from a swim in Casino Royale.
However, despite her popularity, 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 we hear Honey sing in the movie; this was performed by Diana Coupland.
9. One of the 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.
Apparently the stuntman who volunteered for the gruesome scene, Bill Cummings, was paid a $450 bonus for jumping into Largo’s shark infested pool.
In fact, it’s a good job Sean Connery was being paid a decent salary because he was nearly attacked by one of the sharks himself.
The actor had already been concerned about the risk involved and had persuaded producers to install a plexiglass corridor in the pool for him to swim through.
However, part of the corridor collapsed and one of the sharks managed to get through, leaving Connery to get out of the pool as quickly as possible.
Production designer Ken Adam later recalled, “[Connery] never got out of a pool faster in his life – he was walking on water.”
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.
Bond strikes up a romantic liaison with Goldfinger’s mistress and the pair retire to his hotel suite together.
However, the spy later returns to his room, only to find Masterson lying motionless on the bed and completely covered in gold paint.
We’re told that the cause of death was skin asphyxiation, as a result of the gold body paint.
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.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the filmmakers tend to break quite a lot of expensive things whilst making your average Bond movie.
One particularly destructive instalment was Tomorrow Never Dies, in which Bond drives a flashy BMV 750 – by remote control, no less.
Some were unhappy to see 007 driving BMWs instead of his classic Aston Martins – but Bond’s treatment of the vehicle might make them feel better about it.
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 Daniel Craig’s fourth Bond movie 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.
Originally, the Bond filmmakers intended to follow 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me with For Your Eyes Only in 1979.
However, Bond studio executives wanted to capitalise on the success of the sci-fi genre, and decided to make Moonraker instead. (For Your Eyes Only was pushed back to 1981.)
They even consulted with NASA to create a believable space adventure which saw Bond orbiting into outer space after investigating the hijacking of an American space shuttle.
The visual effects pushed up production costs to $34 million but FX team ended up being nominated for an Academy Award.
It proved a huge hit, (moon-)raking in over $210.3 million worldwide; this made it the highest-grossing movie in the Bond franchise until GoldenEye came along in 1995 and broke the record.
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.
The German actor admitted after the film was released that he had been 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.
When one of these people, Mario Blumenau, confirmed to the Israeli Embassy that Fröbe had saved him and his mother, Israeli audiences were allowed to see the film.
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 Goldfinger 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.
An actor named Michael Collins was drafted in for all the voiceover work, and Gröbe retained his iconic role on-screen.
As we’ve seen from Ursula Andress, Fröbe’s situation wasn’t unprecedented in Bond history, neither were they the only actors to have their lines overdubbed.
Language problems didn’t stop Fröbe from appearing in more English language movies, including another Ian Fleming adaptation, family film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
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.
Things were a bit different in the books, however, as 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.
As for the rest of Bond’s family – if we consider 90s cartoon James Bond Jr. to be canon, the secret agent also has a nephew who followed him into the spy game.
Although largely forgotten today, James Bond Jr. ran for 65 episodes, and was produced with the full blessing of the Ian Fleming estate and Eon Productions.
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.
Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton once said before the film was released, “Buy your ticket—we’re going to take you places!”
Unfortunately for Pan Am, this didn’t necessarily pan out (no pun intended), as the airline struggled to stay in business, and ultimately folded in 1991.
1. Ian Fleming based Bond on himself
- Credit: Flickr
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.
The character of Bond’s superior ‘M’ was based on Fleming’s real-life former Naval Intelligence boss.
Fleming also shared his chain-smoking habit and his love of women with Bond – despite being married himself, the novelist often slept around and had several affairs.
Yep, Bond’s incredibly messy love life was directly based on Fleming’s own dalliances with women that weren’t his wife. He certainly managed to bring that aspect of Bond to life in vivid detail anyway!