In the early 1960s, American producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Canadian producer Harry Saltzman teamed up on a dream venture: The chance to adapt author Ian Fleming‘s gentleman spy hero James Bond for the big screen. The pair formed Eon Productions and got to work, but little did they know that they would produce not only a successful film with Dr. No, but a cinematic icon for the ages.
Six decades, 25 films, six actors, and billions of dollars in box office later, we’re still talking about Agent 007, his literary legacy, and his big screen adventures. As No Time to Die arrives to end yet another era of Bond cinematic excellence, let’s look back on one of the greatest film franchises of all time with 45 facts about Bond. James Bond.
1. The James Bond character grew out of wedding anxiety.
James Bond, the legendary spy character that would launch a bestselling book series and a billion-dollar film franchise, actually began with a fair bit of anxiety. According to Bond author Ian Fleming, his journey to writing the character started in 1952, when, after living his entire life as a bachelor, he was preparing to marry for the first time. Faced with that major life change, Fleming sought “some activity to take [his] mind off it.” He decided to write a book inspired, in part, by his service in Naval Intelligence during World War II. The result was the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, published in 1953.
2. James Bond owes his name to an ornithologist.
When he began writing his spy thrillers, Fleming sought out a masculine yet not-too-flashy name for his hero, but he didn’t just pluck “James Bond” out of thin air. He lifted it from the cover of one of his birdwatching “bibles” at home in Jamaica: Birds of the West Indies by James Bond. When the real Bond later discovered this, Fleming apologized, and offered to allow the ornithologist to name a nasty species of bird after him one day.
3. James Bond’s first on-screen appearance was on network television.
Almost from the beginning, Fleming saw his creation as a character who could thrive in the film world, but quickly grew frustrated as he found that many producers didn’t initially agree. Despairing of Hollywood, Fleming gave the adaptation rights for his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, to CBS Television, which adapted the book as part of the anthology series Climax! in 1954. The adaptation, featuring an American gambler named “Jimmy Bond” (played by Barry Nelson), was almost immediately forgotten.
4. Thunderball was almost the first James Bond movie.
In the late 1950s, before Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli came calling, Ian Fleming set out to try and make a Bond film of his own, with the help of producer Kevin McClory and writer Jack Whittingham. Together, the three men hammered out a treatment about a nuclear weapons heist that they named Thunderball. When the film project fell through, Fleming went back home to Jamaica and decided the idea would do just fine as the plot for the next Bond novel. He wrote Thunderball without giving any credit to McClory or Whittingham, and published it in 1961. McClory’s legal claim to the story would haunt Bond’s eventual film producers for decades.
5. Albert “Cubby” Broccoli blew his first shot to make a Bond movie.
Today, producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli’s name is synonymous with the James Bond film series, and it’s hard to imagine a world in which his family isn’t involved with the franchise. But Broccoli actually, through no fault of his own, blew his shot at getting the rights to 007 the first time around. In the late 1950s, while caring for his sick wife Nedra Clark, Broccoli sent then-producing partner Irving Allen to London to meet with Fleming about securing the movie rights to his novels. Broccoli was a huge fan of the Bond books. Allen … not so much.
Allen told Fleming that not only were the Bond novels not good enough for films, but that they might not even make good television. Fleming was, of course, offended, and ended up selling the rights to producer Harry Saltzman instead. Fortunately for Broccoli, he ultimately partnered with Saltzman to make the films, launching one of cinema’s most profitable collaborations in the process.
6. JFK had a hand in helping to get the Bond movies made.
These days, the Bond films have a lot of famous fans, but that wasn’t necessarily the case back in the days before the films. One key early Bond fan? President John F. Kennedy, who named From Russia With Love one of his favorite books in a 1961 Life magazine article. The endorsement sent paperback sales of Fleming’s novels into high gear just as Saltzman and Broccoli set out to make deals to finance their first Bond film. So one of Bond’s famous fans also caused a ripple effect that helped the movies get made.
7. James Bond owes his famous gun to a firearms expert.
In Fleming’s early novels, Bond carries a 0.25 caliber Beretta pistol, a very portable gun that drew objections from firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd, who took it upon himself to write to Fleming and dismiss the Beretta as “a lady’s gun.” Fleming took Boothroyd’s suggestion and gave Bond a Walther PPK, now the character’s signature gun, instead. There’s an homage to this change in Dr. No, when an MI6 armorer named “Boothroyd” (played by Peter Burton), trades Bond’s Beretta for the PPK.
8. Ian Fleming didn’t want Sean Connery as Bond.
When it came time to cast the first big-screen Bond, Broccoli and Saltzman looked at hundreds of actors for the role, and ended up backing little-known Scottish actor Sean Connery for the part. Fleming, who had very clear ideas about his personal vision for Bond, wasn’t sold, thinking Connery seemed too rough and was more stuntman than charismatic gentleman spy. Eventually Fleming came around, not least because female friends of his were all too ready to tell him just how attractive the new star was.
9. Roger Moore almost played James Bond much earlier.
A number of big and small names were considered to play Bond for the first film, Dr. No. Among them: Future Bond Roger Moore, who was unavailable due to his commitments on TV series like The Alaskans and Maverick. By 1962, the year Dr. No was released, Moore would have a spy franchise of his own thanks to his role as Simon Templar in the TV adaptation of The Saint. His time as Bond would come a little more than a decade later.
10. Lois Maxwell hand-picked her role as Miss Moneypenny.
Lois Maxwell co-starred in 14 James Bond films over a period of more than 20 years as Miss Moneypenny, M’s trusted secretary who flirted her way through three different Bond stars. The role that would make Maxwell famous was actually one she chose herself. During casting for Dr. No, Maxwell was offered one of two roles: Miss Moneypenny, or Bond’s love interest early in the film, Sylvia Trench. Seeing that she’d have to act in nothing but a pajama top if she played Trench, Maxwell chose Moneypenny instead, landing the role of a lifetime in the process. The role of Sylvia Trench went to Eunice Gayson instead.
11. Noel Coward could have been Dr. No.
Casting the very first Bond villain turned out to be a momentous task for producers, as it set the tone for the films to come. Joseph Wiseman eventually became Bond’s first Big Bad, Dr. Julius No, but Fleming originally had a different idea. Fleming wanted his friend and neighbor in Jamaica, playwright Noel Coward, to play the title role. Coward quickly declined Fleming’s invitation, but it’s interesting to think about what might have been.
12. That’s not Sean Connery in the original James Bond opening.
These days it’s a sight as iconic as anything in cinema history: James Bond walking horizontally across the screen as we track him through a gun barrel until 007 turns and fires, dropping his would-be assassin. But back during production of Dr. No, the famed “gun barrel sequence” was just…
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