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12 Things You Didn’t Know About James Bond5

By Dan Berry

12 Things You Didn’t Know About James Bond

My father, in his infinite wisdom, once remarked, “Leave it to the Brits to make their greatest super-spy a chain-smoking alcoholic who plays with toys.” While I am in full agreement with my dad, it can’t be denied that James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, crafted a character that for over six decades has been the icon of spy.

Since the emergence of Bond, there have been many incarnations of the professional killer – including female versions like assassin Natalie Cross from the action thriller Pink. But what is it that cemented James Bond’s immortal popularity? Is it that he was the first “good guy” to dress in black and have no apparent moral code when it came to killing? Is that he always had the coolest gadgets guaranteed to save his life at the absolute very last second? Or is that James Bond always got the girl – the good one and the bad one? Regardless of why people love him, we can all agree that James Bond is the embodiment of the ultimate badass with the impeccable style of a jet-setting playboy. He’s cool, calm, collected and dressed to kill, which is incredibly convenient considering he has a license to do just that.

After 22 films, you think you know everything about our favorite member of MI6?

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1. Dr. No was not James Bond’s first appearance on the screen

James Bond burst onto the big screen in 1962, in the film Dr. No. However, the spy’s screen debut actually came 8 years earlier in a live broadcast of Casino Royale on CBS television in the U.S. on October 21, 1954, as part of the “Climax Mystery Theater.” The program starred Barring Nelson as Jimmy Bond, Linda Christian as the Bond girl, the legendary Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre, with Michael Pate as Clarence Leiter. In an interesting and absurd nationality twist, “Jimmy Bond” is a CIA agent, and “Clarence Leiter” is Bond’s British ally.

2. Sean Connery was not the first, second or even third choice to play James Bond

We’ve all engaged in a discussion over which actor made the best Bond. The general consensus is that Sean Connery holds the crown. But many, including myself, are in disagreement on this point. Personally, I believe the best James Bond never even played James Bond.

In 1962, the first of the Bond films, Dr. No, hit the screen with Sean Connery in the leading role as 007. And in terms of film history as we know it, Connery brought a real sense of magic to the role. However, not many people were initially convinced he was capable of pulling it off.

Albert Broccoli’s first choice was Cary Grant, the producer’s friend and even best man at his wedding. Still, he declined the role of James Bond in “Dr. No,” leaving moviegoers only to wonder about the performance the legendary actor would have turned in.

Like Broccoli, creator Ian Fleming wasn’t sold on Connery either, at first, stating he “wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” Fleming’s first choice for the role was David Niven, who was much more highbrow than Connery. But Niven said no, going so far as to call the character “an amoral thug.” Still, in 1967, Niven apparently changed his mind and got his chance to play Bond in Casino Royale. But the “unofficial” Bond film, which also starred the god-like Peter Sellers, was a comedy, and it would be unfair to judge him on the role. Regardless, the key thing here is that Connery shouldn’t be thought of as the primordial secret agent by any means.

Which brings me to Patrick McGoohan: He was not only offered the role of 007 (which he turned down), but he was also offered the role of another iconic British spy ultimately played by a future Bond, The Saint (which he also turned down). However, in spite of never being 007, it can be said that McGoohan’s work on Danger Man and later on the groundbreaking The Prisoner (he’s probably best remembered today as ruthless King Longshanks in Braveheart) put him in a class above anyone who has played a secret agent on the small or large screen for all time.

The first thing that puts McGoohan a cut above the rest is that he started his career as a stage actor — so he’s able to bring a bit more dimension and ambiguity to playing a secret agent. When you’re watching McGoohan on the screen, he’s never a flat cartoon character but instead a complex character with a past. Connery has the sex appeal and brute strength, but McGoohan is more than a pretty boy or a jock.

3. Clint Eastwood was offered the role of James Bond

The legendary actor and director recently revealed he was offered “pretty good money” to take over for Sean Connery after the Scottish actor stepped aside from the role of James Bond in the late 1960’s. When Eastwood turned down the part, Australian model George Lazenby stepped in for a single (yet exceptional) outing in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Connery returned for a then record deal in excess of $1 million in Diamonds Are Forever, before Roger Moore took over in To Live and Let Die.

Said Eastwood: “I was offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role. This was after Sean Connery left. My lawyer represented Cubby Broccoli [who produced the Bond franchise] and he came and said, ‘They would love to have you.’ But to me, well, that was somebody else’s gig. That’s Sean’s deal. It didn’t feel right for me to be doing it.”

I don’t think it would have felt right for anyone, Clint. So, thank you. Thank you for saving a franchise simply by saying no.

4. Producers didn’t want Roger Moore to play Bond

Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth spy film in the James Bond series, and the first to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Although the producers had wanted Sean Connery to return after his role in the previous Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, he declined, sparking a search for a new actor to play James Bond.

Among the actors to test for the part of Bond were Julian Glover, John Gavin, Jeremy Brett, Simon Oates, John Ronane, and William Gaunt. The main frontrunner for the role was Michael Billington.

United Artists wanted an American to play Bond. Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were all considered. Producer Albert R. Broccoli, however, insisted that the part should be played by a British actor and put forward Roger Moore. After Moore was chosen, Billington remained on the top of the list in the event that Moore would decline to come back for the next film. Billington ultimately played a brief villainous role in the pre-credit sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

Moore, who had been considered by the producers before both Dr. No and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was ultimately cast. He tried not to imitate either Sean Connery or his performance as Simon Templar in The Saint, and Mankiewicz fitted the screenplay into Moore’s persona by giving more comedy scenes and a light-hearted approach to Bond.

5. Steven Spielberg was twice denied the opportunity to direct a Bond film

Movie mogul Steven Spielberg created action man Indiana Jones after twice being snubbed as a James Bond film director by super producer Cubby Broccoli. The director reveals he had two meetings with Broccoli about taking charge of the 007 franchise – but the producer insisted Spielberg was too inexperienced.

Spielberg once recalled, “I had two meetings with Cubby. One before Jaws… and he said, ‘You’re not experienced enough to make one of my pictures.’ Then, after the success of Jaws, I met again with Cubby – this time over the telephone – and I said, ‘I’m ready to do a Bond picture. He said, ‘Well, you’re still not experienced enough to make one of these.’”

Spielberg felt sure he’d landed his dream job when Broccoli contacted him a third time, but he was just after the director’s alien tones. Spielberg explains, “I remember that he called me one day after Close Encounters (Of The Third Kind) came out, and he said, ‘I’d like to use the five notes in Moonraker, but I need your permission, they tell me, to get the five notes released. We’re gonna do a little homage to Close Encounters when Roger Moore uses the buttons to get into this room.’ I immediately gave him permission.”

6. James Bond was not the only character created by Ian Fleming to find success on screen

When you think Ian Fleming, you think action, adventure and intrigue. But then you’d be forgetting his other enormous contribution to popular culture—a crazy car.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a 1968 musical film with a script by Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes, and songs by the Sherman Brothers, loosely based on Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car. It starred Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts and Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious. The film was directed by Ken Hughes and produced by Albert R. Broccoli—that’s right—the very same co-producer of the James Bond series of films, also based on Fleming’s novels.

The film went significantly over budget but was a box office hit. Time magazine began its review saying the film is a “picture for the ages—the ages between five and twelve” and ends noting that, “At a time when violence and sex are the dual sellers at the box office, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang looks better than it is simply because it’s not not all all bad bad…”

7. Roger Moore was the oldest actor to play James Bond

Moore, who had already found success as super-spy Simon Templar on legendary Brit TV series, The Saint, was older than any other actor to play James Bond when he portrayed him aged 57 in A View To A Kill (1985). Still, even at his advanced age, Moore maintained the necessary swagger, saying, “I was pretty – so pretty that actresses didn’t want to work with me.” Sean Connery was the second oldest at 52 when he last played Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983).

8. Dr. No is the only Bond film to feature three opening theme songs

The music used in the opening sequences for all 22 official Bond movies is almost as famous as the films themselves. Almost every movie showcases a bona fide mega star (think Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Duran Duran, Madonna and Jack White, to name just a few) belting out a surefire chart crasher. But only one Bond film has more than one opening theme song, and that would be the very first.

The James Bond Theme is the main theme for Dr No and has featured in all the official James Bond Films in different versions. The original theme was written by Monty Norman and performed by John Barry and his orchestra in 1962. In the opening credits of Dr No, two other pieces were played: an untitled bongo interlude and a Calypso-flavored rendition of “Three Blind Mice” titled “Kingston Calypso.” Due to this, Dr. No is the only film to have more than one opening theme. The “James Bond Theme” debuted at #47 in the UK Singles Chart and latter reached a peak of #13. It was in the chart for 13 weeks.

9. Roger Moore was not a “sissy,” as many critics and producers claimed

Ironically, though critics and some producers often accused him of not looking tough enough to play James Bond, Roger Moore once beat up tough guy Lee Marvin while they were filming Shout at the Devil (1976). Marvin, the tough-as-nails star of such badass films as The Wild One (1953), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and (yes, I’m going to say it), Delta Force (1986), recalled of the brawl, “The guy is built like granite. Nobody will ever underestimate him again.”

10. Roger Moore was scared of guns and ran like a girl

He might have been a tough guy, but when it came to guns, Roger Moore was (and is) a fraidy-cat. That’s right; Roger Moore suffers from hoplophobia, a fear of firearms and hated doing scenes that involved him shooting firearms. This fact caused him to ruin countless 007 takes. Furthermore, every scene in which Roger Moore’s Bond is running was performed by doubles. Roger Moore felt that he looked awkward running. I guess he’s never seen Steven Segal sprinting down a street.

11. Q has a real name

The character Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn, appeared in more Bond films (18) than any other actor. Like his boss, M, the creator of 007’s countless gizmos and gadgets is known solely by a single letter, but he does have a title and a last name. In his first appearance in From Russia With Love, Q is referred to as Major Boothroyd. I can see why they changed it. Q is way cooler than Boothroyd.

12. Sean Connery’s final official appearance as James Bond was not in Never Say Never Again

Never Say Never Again, released in 1983 by Warner Bros., is an adaptation of the James Bond novel Thunderball, which was previously filmed in 1965 as Thunderball. Unlike the majority of other Bond films, it was not produced by EON Productions. Because of this, it is referred to as an ‘unofficial’ James Bond film by EON fans. The film, like the original, stars Sean Connery as British Secret Service agent James Bond 007. Connery had been the first actor to portray Bond in a motion picture in 1962′s Dr No, but after his participation in a string of commercially successful films (interrupted by George Lazenby’s brief portrayal of Bond), Connery left the franchise in 1971, intending for Diamonds Are Forever to be his last Bond film. Eleven years later, in Never Say Never Again he would portray Bond for his seventh and final time on the screen.

Although the film was not part of EON’s Bond film franchise, subsequent mergers and dealings mean that it is currently owned, like the rest of the series, by United Artists’ parent, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: It was released only four months after the EON Bond film Octopussy, starring Roger Moore. MGM acquired the distribution rights in 1997 after its acquisition of Orion Pictures. The film also marks the culmination of a long legal battle between United Artists and Kevin McClory that goes back to his working on the original story with Fleming and Jack Whittingham.

The title is based on a conversation between Sean Connery and his second wife, Micheline Roquebrune. After initially retiring from the role following Diamonds Are Forever (1971), he told the press he would “never again” play James Bond. Her response was that he should never say “never” again. She is credited at the end of the film for her contribution. As a result, it was the first Bond movie to use a non-Ian Fleming originated title. The film opened in the autumn of 1983 and was a commercial success, grossing $160 million at the box office.

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Dan Berry began writing and performing stand-up comedy while skipping class and drinking heavily at New York University. An inexplicably instant success, he has since appeared in clubs and on college campuses nationwide and is frequently featured on radio and television. Aside from creating the humor site “Jotter of a Rotter” and the internationally acclaimed website “The Prison Kite,” Dan has also lent his warped writing skills to a pair of failed pilots for FX and NBC, as well as to several current network shows that are somehow proving successful in spite of his crazed contributions.

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