This summer marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond, the cinema’s all-time action star. To celebrate the series we’re taking a closer look at all things Bond. Recently, we selected the five best James Bond movies and now we’re finishing our tribute with a collection of the most amazing Bond trivia we could find.
Nobody wanted him—neither the character’s creator nor film producers. But Scottish actor Sean Connery went on to leave an unforgettable impression as the first Agent 007.
1. The Birth of “Bond…James Bond.” Created by English author Ian Fleming in 1953, Bond made his first appearance in the novel “Casino Royale.” Before his days as an author, Fleming served in Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division. One day he told a friend: “I am going to write the spy story to end all spy stories.” Fleming eventually penned 14 James Bond books, all of which were written at Fleming’s Jamaican estate—named “GoldenEye.”
2. There are 24 “James Bond” Films. “Dr. No” (1962); “From Russia With Love” (1963); “Goldfinger” (1964); “Thunderball” (1965); “You Only Live Twice” (1967); “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969); “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971); “Live and Let Die” (1973); “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974); “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977); “Moonraker” (1979); “For Your Eyes Only” (1981); “Octopussy” (1983); “Never Say Never Again” (1983); “A View to a Kill” (1985); “The Living Daylights” (1987); “License to Kill” (1989); “GoldenEye” (1995); “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997); “The World is Not Enough” (1999); “Die Another Day” (2002); “Casino Royale” (2006); “Quantum of Solace” (2008); and “Skyfall” (2012).
3. How he Got his Name. The name “James Bond” belonged to a real person—an American ornithologist and author named James Bond who was a published expert on the subject of birds found in the Caribbean. Fleming wanted a plain, simple name for the agent, who he envisioned as “an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.” The character was based on different intelligence agents Fleming had known during WWII, when he himself was an intelligence agent.
4. The Longest and Shortest James Bond Film. The average length of a Bond movie is approximately 125 minutes, 25 seconds. The shortest film in the series: 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” (106 minutes). The longest James Bond movie: 2006’s “Casino Royale” (144 minutes).
5. The Very First James Bond. Sean Connery was not the first actor to play the secret agent. American actor Barry Nelson portrayed 007 in a television adaptation of “Casino Royale,” back in 1954. Connery was also not the first choice of Bond creator Ian Fleming – who originally envisioned dapper and witty English actor David Niven playing 007. (Fleming said that Bond might have looked like Hoagy Carmichael, a popular American singer.) Connery was not even the first choice of film producers, who originally wanted actor Peter Anthony. When Connery was allowed to meet with producers, he showed up looking unshaven and acting as if he couldn’t care less if he got the role. The attitude he displayed won him the part of a lifetime.
6. The Men Who Would be Bond, Pt. 1. Some of the actors originally considered for the part of James Bond included front-runner Cary Grant, James Mason, Patrick McGoohan and Rex Harrison.
Who’s this guy? Wearing a suit that would make Austin Powers proud, George Lazenby stunned film producers when he announced he would leave the Bond series after only one film…the movie he was still shooting (1969′s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”).
7. Most Successful Bond Film: 1965’s “Thunderball.” When adjusting its revenues for inflation, “Thunderball” has earned slightly more than a billion dollars ($1.04 billion), making it the series box-office champ.
8. Who Played 007? In the James Bond film series, the character has been played by: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
9. The Theme. Written by English composer Monty Norman and arranged by film composer John Barry, the twangy “James Bond Theme” is one of the most universally known pieces of music ever recorded. The signature electric guitar part, laden with echo, was played by studio ace Vic Flick. (His instrument was a Clifford Essex Paragon Cello-Bodied electric guitar, fitted with a DeAmond volume pedal and played through a 15-watt Vox amplifier. That guitar is now on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.)
10. An Evil Monkey Could Have Been Bond’s Nemesis. An early draft of the “Dr. No” script was rejected because the title villain had been written as a monkey (presumably an evil monkey with a scheme to take over the world).
11. Bond Makes Bank. In today’s dollars, the Bond series of films has grossed more than $12 billion worldwide, which makes it the second-highest-grossing film series of all time, right behind the “Harry Potter” series. It has been estimated that a full quarter of the world’s population has seen at least one James Bond film.
12. Most Appearances as James Bond. Roger Moore stayed on the job longer than any other Bond actor—twelve years to be exact. Moore is also tied for the most performances as James Bond. Both he and Sean Connery have each appeared seven times as Agent 007.
The Aston Martin DB5 featured in “Goldfinger” became a celebrity itself. The Corgi miniature model of it became the best-selling toy of 1964.
13. Most Memorable Movie Line. Bond’s signature phrase, “Bond…James Bond” has been praised as one of the greatest catch phrases in all of movies. The American Film Institute named it the 22nd greatest quotation in film history and in 2001, British movie fans voted it the best-loved one-liner in cinema history.
14. Biggest Opening for Bond. When “Quantum of Solace” opened in the United Kingdom in 2008, it set the opening-weekend record. It also scored the highest-grossing opening weekend Bond film in the U.S., raking in $67.5 million for the weekend.
15. Rejected Title Song. Country music giant Johnny Cash submitted a potential “Thunderball” theme song to the film’s producers, but it was rejected by the film’s producers.
16. Bond’s Most Famous Ride. Bond’s most famous vehicle was a slate gray Aston Martin DB5 first introduced in “Goldfinger.” The car’s famous accessories included hidden machine guns, a metal plate for deflecting gunfire, revolving license plates (good in all countries), and the piece de resistance, a passenger ejector seat that fired undesirable henchmen out the top of the vehicle.
17. Age of the Actors. The youngest actor to portray James Bond was George Lazenby (age 30), who starred in only one Bond movie, 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The oldest actor to star as Bond was Roger Moore, who was a ripe old 57 during shooting of 1985’s “A View to a Kill.”
18. Bond’s Favorite Casino Game is called Chemin de Fer, a French version of the card game Baccarat. Agent 007 plays the classy game in “Dr. No,” “Thunderball,” the 1967 version of “Casino Royale,” “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” “For Your Eyes Only” and “GoldenEye.”
Suave Roger Moore kept the Bond role for a record twelve years. His Bond was as quick with witty banter as he was with a gun.
19. Fleming’s Thoughts on the Big Screen Bond. When Bond author Ian Fleming saw the preview screening for the first Bond film, “Dr. No,” his initial response was “Dreadful. Simply dreadful.”
20. Weapons of Choice. The Walther PPN is Bond’s current sidearm. For years, however, he carried the Walther PPK, although he used a Beretta 418 during the first five novels. When Fleming heard from a Bond fan and gun enthusiast, who called the Beretta “a lady’s gun” and that “Bond should instead use a Walther PPK 7.65mm.” At various times Bond has used other weapons, including rifles and other handguns. The most unique gun he ever carried may have been the tricked-out attaché case from “From Russia with Love,” which contained an assault rifle built right into the briefcase…which could also shoot daggers and emit teargas.
21. Casino Royale(s). The film with the greatest number of actors portraying James Bond was (undoubtedly) 1967’s “Casino Royale,” which differs significantly from the 2006 movie with Daniel Craig. The first “Casino Royale” was a broad spy spoof which featured six actors each portraying James Bond, including Woody Allen as “Jimmy Bond.”
22. Balding Bond. Connery was already starting to go bald when he won the part of James Bond. In each of his films as Agent 007, he sported a toupee.
23. The Only Actor Asked Back. British actor Timothy Dalton was originally approached to possibly play James Bond in 1969. Dalton tested for the role, but took himself out of the running, saying he felt he was too young to play the part. George Lazenby would step into the role instead, although Dalton would get his chance again years later in 1987 when he played Bond in “The Living Daylights.”
24. Biggest Bond Explosion. The ending of “Thunderball” shows villain Emilio Largo’s souped-up power yacht (named “The Disco Volante,” or flying saucer) running aground on a Bahamas island and exploding in a gi-normous fireball. To produce a sufficiently powerful explosion, the effects coordinator used an experimental rocket fuel. However, not knowing how much of the fuel to use, he doused the entire yacht with the stuff. The massive resulting explosion actually blew out windows in Nassau—more than 30 miles away.
Timothy Dalton (seen here in “License to Kill”) was first approached to play Bond in 1969. He turned down the role then, but didn’t make the same mistake in 1987.
25. Bond Breaks Character. There has only been one time during the entire history of the James Bond film franchise when the actor portraying the Bond character makes a reference to existing within a film series. This occurs during “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” when George Lazenby quips “This never happened to the other fellow,” making a reference to the freshly departed Sean Connery. The incident has not happened since.
26. Oscar Winning Bond. The first Bond film to win an Academy Award was 1964’s “Goldfinger,” it captured the Oscars for Best Effects and Sound Effects.
27. SPECTRE Defined. While the U.S. was engaged in a Cold War with Russia, Bond doggedly fought against the forces of evil organization SPECTRE. Here’s what SPECTRE stands for: SPecial Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.
28. Before They Were Famous. The Russian-trained assassin Bond faces in 1963’s “From Russia With Love” was played by Robert Shaw—who played Quint, the salty fisherman in 1974’s mega-hit “Jaws.”
29. An English Record Holder. “Live and Let Die” drew the biggest British television audience for a film broadcast on TV. The 1973 adventure was seen by 23.5 million viewers, a record that still stands.
30. Best Bond Babe? The first “Bond girl” was Ursula Andress, who played Honey Rider in “Dr. No.” “Entertainment Weekly” ranked her tops among “Bond Babes.” Her iconic white bikini—which helped popularize the swimsuit—sold at a 2001 auction for $61,000. (Halle Berry’s outfit in “Die Another Day” was based on Ursula’s iconic outfit.)
Ian Fleming wrote 14 James Bond novels and created one of the biggest film franchises of all time. Like his most famous character, Fleming enjoyed the finer things while having a definite taste for danger.
31. AFI Hero. In 2005, the American Film Institute hailed James Bond as the third-greatest film hero of all time. “Premiere” magazine listed Bond as the fifth-greatest movie character.
32. First Bond Movie. The films’ producers wanted “Thunderball” to be the first film, but due to a legal wrangle involving the screenplay, “Dr. No” became the first James Bond movie.
33. The Bond Theme Song. The most successful songs from James Bond movies were also big hits on the pop charts. The most popular have been “Goldfinger” (sung by Shirley Bassey), “Live and Let Die” (Paul McCartney & Wings), “Nobody Does it Better” (Carly Simon), “Thunderball” (Tom Jones) and “For Your Eyes Only” (Sheena Easton).
34. The Last Movie President Kennedy Ever Saw. President John F. Kennedy was a big fan of the Bond spy novels, and the movies made from them. In a “Look” magazine interview he included “From Russia With Love” in his list of ten favorite books, and held a private White House screening of “Dr. No.” In fact, Kennedy showed “From Russia With Love” at the White House on November 20, 1963…just days before his assassination in Dallas—making it the last motion picture he ever saw.
35. Bond Sets Records. At one time, “The Guinness Book of World Records” listed “Goldfinger” as the fastest-grossing film of all time. To meet the insane demand for the film, New York City theaters started running the movie around the clock.
36. Saint Roger Moore. During casting for “Dr. No,” Roger Moore had been considered for the part but rejected, partly because he was in the process of signing to star in a new TV detective show. Roger Moore’s “The Saint,” which made him an international star, premiered exactly one day before “Dr. No” opened in theaters.
James Bond No. 5, smooth Pierce Brosnan, came to the role after playing the title role of TV detective “Remington Steele.”
37. Worst Bond Film? Perhaps the least successful film of the series was 1974’s “The Man With the Golden Gun,” a film that failed with audiences and critics alike.
38. Breathtaking Performance. Singer Tom Jones belted out the title song to “Thunderball” with such leather-lunged gusto that he literally fainted while singing the tune’s ending. “I closed my eyes,” Jones later recalled, “And I held the note for so long that when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.”
39. License to Fail. The Bond picture with the weakest box office performance was 1989’s “License to Kill.”
40. Never Say Never. Perhaps the oddest Bond flick is 1983’s “Never Say Never Again,” in which hard-charging Sean Connery returned to the role he made famous in the early sixties. It was strange enough that one year would produce both a Roger Moore Bond film (“Octopussy”) as well as a Sean Connery Bond film, as if the two were competing. There was also the fact that “Never” is almost an exact duplicate of “Thunderball.” The plot is the same and many of the other details are lifted exactly from the earlier classic. To see Connery eighteen years older hustling through the same plot is like a weird funhouse trick.
41. Bring in the Helicopters. Bond movies must have helicopters, as they have done since the second Bond flick, “From Russia With Love.” The only movie of the series that lacked a helicopter sequence was “The Man With the Golden Gun,” which fizzled at the box office.
42. Bond’s Connection to Willie Wonka and Austin Powers. “You Only Live Twice” featured a screenplay by noted writer Roald Dahl, who would be better known for writing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and creating the character of Willy Wonka. (In the film, villainous mastermind Ernst Blofeld wears the same type of Nehru jacket that Mike Meyers would sport as Dr. Evil in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”)
Daniel Craig returns to movie screens as James Bond in “Skyfall.”
43. Evil Genius. Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane,” “Touch of Evil”) was considered for the title role of “Goldfinger,” but he reportedly wanted too much gold for his performance.
44. Bond Pays for Protection. During the 1972 shooting of “Live and Let Die,” portions of the story had to be filmed in New York’s notoriously dangerous Harlem area. Producers paid protection money to a local gang. As legend tells it, when the cash had been spent, the film crew was “encouraged” to leave the area immediately.
45. Bond Babies. The James Bond series spawned an endless number of imitators. For the coolest TV version, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” the show’s producers sought and received guidance from Ian Fleming himself. The Bond creator even named one of the show’s characters, dreaming up one of the all-time great spy names: Napoleon Solo.
46. James Bond’s Favorite Bond. Although somewhat ignored over the years, “From Russia With Love” is seeing its reputation grow among critics and fans. And this is reportedly the favorite Bond movie among Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig.
47. The Men Who Would Be Bond, Pt. 2. Actors later considered as candidates to play Bond included Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The role was actually offered to Clint Eastwood, who respectfully declined, saying he thought the part should be played by a British actor.
48. Bond Almost Dies. Sean Connery narrowly avoided disaster during “Thunderball” when he agreed to enter a swimming pool filled with Golden Grotto sharks. Although he was given a clear plexiglass shield of sorts, the device malfunctioned, leaving Connery face to face with sharks. Connery, an expert swimmer beat a hasty retreat away from the sharks.
49. Big Bald Blofeld. The character of SPECTRE overlord Blofeld was first played by actor Donald Pleasance, who would later be identified with another successful film franchise, as the psychiatrist in the “Halloween” series of slasher movies. In “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Blofeld was played by Telly Savalas, better known as TV’s favorite bald detective, “Kojack.”
50. Coming Attractions. It has been confirmed that a 24th James Bond film will be made. There is some speculation that it could be helmed by “Dark Knight” and “Inception” director Christopher Nolan.
His Name Means Excitement
James Bond endures as a movie mainstay because he always delivers screen excitement. For anyone interested in learning movie making and special effects, Bond movies are text-book examples of how big action movies were meant to be made. Coming up later this summer: James Bond returns in “Skyfall.”
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