He’s had countless adventures around the world, but in some ways the life of James Bond is fairly predictable. There are the glamorous women, the gadgets, the Walther PPK… not to mention a vodka Martini cocktail, shaken not stirred.
Though as you’d expect from someone with a license to kill, Ian Fleming’s super spy always has surprises up his sleeve. Quite literally in the case of a cufflink which was also a trigger mechanism!
You’ve heard of Oddjob with his lethal flying hat, or Scaramanga with that legendary third nipple. Here are some eye-opening facts you didn’t know about the world of Her Majesty’s most secret servant…
1. The Real Pussy Galore
This classic Bond Girl is best known through big screen adaptation Goldfinger from 1964. Played by former Avengers star Honor Blackman, Pussy Galore was a cool English beauty with a dangerous edge.
But whereas the movie Galore ran a Flying Circus gang of female pilots, the original Pussy in Fleming’s 1959 was rather different. On the page she was an American trapeze artist and boss of the “Cement Mixers” in Harlem.
Plus her sexuality was a hot potato. The author depicted her as a lesbian, and it wasn’t something he approved of.
A 2015 article in The Independent described a letter where he addressed Bond’s conquest of Galore, claiming somewhat shockingly that “Pussy only needed the right man to come along and perform the laying of hands to cure her psycho-pathological malady.”
2. The Face of Bond
Every so often James Bond has a habit of changing his face. While the general assumption is the name and number are assigned to different men, 2012’s Skyfall confirmed that no matter who wielded the Walther, it was all the same character.
Yet when Sean Connery bowed out and George Lazenby stepped in for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), there was a conversation over how to handle the initial transformation. One suggestion was going under the knife!
Time Magazine wrote in 2012, “it looked as if Bond would opt for plastic surgery, with the intent of throwing his enemies off his scent.”
This would have proved awkward, as Lazenby only went on one adventure and Connery returned in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). A feat of surgery not even Q could explain…
3. Brosnan and the Bond Girl
Before he donned the tuxedo as 007, Pierce Brosnan had a connection of a deeper kind to the Bond franchise. In the late Seventies he met, fell in love with and married Cassandra Harris, who went on to play Countess Lisl von Schlaf in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.
Brosnan caught the eye of producer Cubby Broccoli who earmarked him as replacement for Roger Moore.
In a 1996 piece for the magazine Goldeneye, it’s written that “Pierce and his wife Cassandra had dinner at Cubby Broccoli’s home. Pierce later recalled driving back to their lodgings in a rented beater car, jokingly saying the famous line, ‘The name is Bond, James Bond.’”
Unfortunately, his TV contract for Remington Steele (1982 – 87) got in the way before Brosnan finally got his hands on that Martini glass in 1995.
4. The Other Connery
For many moviegoers Sean Connery was the original Bond, and the best. Nobody did it better, though son Jason made an attempt at international espionage as a Bond-esque Ian Fleming in Spymaker (1990)
The family fun didn’t end there however. Italian producers looking to cash in on 007’s success shot the spoof O.K. Connery in 1967. Sean’s brother Neil was cast in this campy mirror universe as the imaginatively-named “Dr. Neil Connery.”
Website The AV Club reviewed the other Connery’s acting career in 2017, revealing roles in fare such as “the 1969 sci-fi flick The Body Stealers, a guest spot on Britcom Only When I Laugh in 1980, and then another Bond spoof in 1984’s Chinese action comedy Aces Go Places 3.”
On a practical note, the canny Connery had another job — home improvements. He gained a licence to plaster, as well as kill.
5. Crisis in Japan
Bond movies look fun to make, but are a lot of hard work. From the glare of publicity to the death-defying stunts, there’s lots of pressure involved. That manifested itself in alarming fashion during the making of You Only Live Twice (1967).
Actress Mie Hama had been cast as diver Kissy Suzuki, but found the attention she received in her new role difficult. Speaking to the New York Times, she said “Everything from my weight to the height of my heels was decided… It may have looked glamorous, but for me, it was all a huge ordeal.”
Hama’s English skills weren’t developing as expected, so a decision was made that she should be replaced. The actress’s explosive reaction to the news was described by director Lewis Gilbert in his 2010 book All My Flashbacks.
Co-star Tetsurō Tamba was charged with informing Hama. Gilbert writes “I rushed in to see him. What had happened? ‘Straight to the point,’ said Tamba, “if you insist Mie goes back, tonight she will jump out of her window at the Dorchester Hotel and commit suicide.’”
For the vulnerable star, the disgrace of a sacking would be too much to bear. The team kept her on, dubbing her role. Hama went on to happier times as a successful TV host, author and advocate for Japanese history and culture.
6. The Name’s Neeson
Ian Fleming was the famous creator of James Bond in print, but writer Kevin McClory played a key role in bringing 007 to the big screen. The two men became embroiled in a legal battle, with McClory arguing the plot of Fleming’s Thunderball novel had been snatched from a movie script he was working on with the author.
McClory won, giving him the right to remake Thunderball in 1983 as Never Say Never Again. Sean Connery returned as an ageing agent, but the spurned scribe wanted one more roll of the dice as the 20th century drew to a close.
Partnering with Sony, McClory announced a rival Bond project titled Warhead 2000 in the late Nineties. He wanted Liam Neeson to take on the mantle of 007, though Neeson reportedly turned him down.
In a 2001 article for the Irish Film & Television Network, McClory commented on what he believed was the franchise’s reliance on his original ideas, saying “I believe it was their lack of imagination which led them to repeatedly copy and distribute the original formula of Thunderball… the theft of nuclear weapons by a terrorist organisation to blackmail the Western powers – plus other infringements such as The Organisation Spectre under its chairman Ernst Stavro Blofeld.”
McClory passed away in 2006. He spent much of his life contesting his contribution to the Bond legend.
7. Dr. No Bananas
The movie Bond has had his fair share of bizarre opponents. Jaws with his metal teeth springs to mind, or comedy double act Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
If production on Dr. No (1962) had gone a certain way however, 007 would have faced his strangest adversary on only his first outing.
Writing for the Daily Mail in 2012, Cubby Broccoli gave readers an insight into what it was like getting Fleming’s hero off the page and onto the screen. It wasn’t without its bumps in the road.
“Our first problem was the character of Dr No,” he said. “Since he was going to be 007’s first and most fiendish adversary, the situation called for a character of menacing dimensions. This was the brief which our writers took away with them.
Later, as we sat reading the pages, I had a sinking feeling. They had decided to make Dr No a monkey. I repeat – a monkey.”
Broccoli and co changed course and actor Joseph Wiseman replaced the primate as the title character. If that was the original concept for the villain of the piece, it’s frightening to imagine who or what would be singing ‘Underneath The Mango Tree’ instead of Ursula Andress…!