When one thinks of James Bond, they usually think about exotic locales, beautiful women, crazed enemies and pulse-pounding theme songs that set the proper mood. Since the publication of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in 1953, the character of James Bond has spawned more than 20 movies, a cartoon television program, countless novels and imitators.
Below are five rare facts about the world of James Bond 007 that readers may not know. The 23rd Bond film, "Skyfall," starring Daniel Craig as James Bond hits theatres Nov. 8 worldwide.
- Who was the first actor to play James Bond? The answer may surprise you, as it’s not Sean Connery, George Lazenby or Roger Moore for that matter. The answer: American actor Barry Nelson. Who? Perhaps you remember him as the guy that hired Jack Nicholson to run The Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic horror film, The Shining. In 1954, Nelson appeared as James “Card Sense Jimmy” Bond in an adaption of the first Bond book, Casino Royale on the CBS anthology series Climax. “At that time, no one had ever heard of James Bond … I was scratching my head wondering how to play it. I hadn’t read the book or anything like that because it wasn’t well known,” Nelson said in a 2004 interview with Cinema Retro. The Tele-film aired live and featured Casablanca actor Peter Lorre as the antagonist, Le Chiffre. Available on DVD and VHS.
- John Gavin as 007? Can you imagine being paid a great sum of money not to play the world’s greatest spy? That is what exactly happened in the case of Psycho actor John Gavin, who was signed by EON Productions to replace George Lazenby, whose services were no longer needed after 1969s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Gavin, who later became an ambassador to Mexico during the Ronald Reagan administration, stepped down in favor of the return of Sean Connery, who was offered $1.2 million by United Artists, a sum unheard of for a movie actor in 1970. One can only speculate what Gavin would have brought to the role of Bond in Diamonds are Forever had Connery not agreed to return. It has been reported in Roger Moore’s James Bond Diary that Gavin was slated to take on the role of Bond in then next film, Live and Let Die, but was told by Bond producer Harry Saltzman that role should be filled by an Englishman; in the case of Roger Moore, he became Bond and stayed with the role for 12 years. It should be noted that Gavin played 0SS 117, a French equivalent of 007 in the 1968 spy caper film: Pas de Roses Pour OSS117 aka No Roses for OSS 117.
- Actors Who Screen Tested for the Role: Like Gavin before him, American actor James Brolin was actually signed to play agent 007 for 1983’s Octopussy opposite Maude Adams as the film’s title character. According to James Bond historian/author Richard Ashton, Brolin was actually looking for a house in London during the early 1980s in the hopes that he would play the classic role. The author commented that Bond producer Cubby Broccoli was hoping that audiences would overlook Brolin’s American accent and focus on his physical presence. Although Moore returned to the role as Bond for the film, one can view Brolin as Bond in a screen test section on special versions of the Octopussy DVD or on the Internet. Other actors who screen tested for the role were: Sam Neil, Ian Ogilvy, Michael Billington, Julian Glover, David Warbeck, Sean Bean and Patrick McGoohan. It’s interesting to note that Glover (For Your Eyes Only), Bean (GoldenEye), and Billington (The Spy Who Loved Me) ended up playing parts opposite James Bond in the above mentioned entries of the series. In the case of McGoohan, Sam Neil and Lewis Collin- all three men appeared in leading spy roles during various phases of their careers. Ian Ogilvy, played Simon Templer in The Return of the Saint television show, a role that landed Roger Moore the part of 007 a decade earlier. Ironic, huh?
- Roger Moore as Bond in the 1960s? Most people believe that Moore succeeded Connery as Bond in 1973's Live and Let Die, but what they don’t realize is that Moore appeared as 007 on an episode of the BBC comedy sketch series Mainly Millicent in 1964. According to www.007james.com, “In the seven-minute sketch, James Bond is on holiday and goes for lunch to meet Russian Spy Sonai Sekova. Sonia is also on holiday, and the two spies suspect that the other is spying on them, resulting in some comical situations.” Sketch available on www.youtube.com.
- Agatha Christie a James Bond creation? A character by the name of James Bond appeared in a 1934 short story, Rajah’s Emerald, which was published in the Agatha Christie anthology, The Listerdale Mystery. The Bond character from this short story is not a spy or action hero, but he does deal with an adventure that has to do with a stolen emerald, hence the title, and pines for the heart of a young woman named Grace. Was 007 creator Ian Fleming humoring readers when he named his classic protagonist, James Bond? According to the www.007magaizne.co.uk: “Ian Fleming’s wry sense of humor has been well-documented over the years, making it highly possible that he may very well have hoaxed everyone and have also been influenced by Agatha Christie’s writings, as her books were bestsellers during his formative years.”
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