11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James BondS

You don't know all the secrets of James Bond. The swashbuckling, cocktail-sipping superspy has spent over 50 years as a cultural phenomenon, defeating plans for world destruction and riding on insane vehicles — and along the way, he's had more than his fair share of weird stories and strange interludes. Now that he's back in the public imagination, it's time to explore the secret history of 007.

Here are 11 things you probably didn't know about James Bond.

1. Ian Fleming first sold the rights to adapt James Bond for just $1,000

In 1954 Ian Fleming sold the television rights to Casino Royale to CBS for $1,000. The television production done that same year was the first screen adaptation of James Bond and starred Barry Nelson as part of the anthology series Climax Mystery Theater. CBS adapted the story to appeal to American audiences, making Bond an American, often referred to as "Jimmy." Watch the whole thing at left.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James BondS

2. James Bond benefited from Ian Fleming's failed TV pilots

Producer Henry Morganthau III from NBC approached Fleming in 1955 with the idea for a half-hour adventure series filmed in Jamaica called Commander Jamaica, or James Gunn: Secret Agent. Fleming wrote the 28 page pilot for the show and not surprisingly the main character greatly resembled Bond. After production for the television fell through, Fleming used the script as the basis for his next book Dr. No. In 1958 Fleming outlined six episodes for a potential television series for CBS. This television project also fell apart, but the resourceful Fleming used three of the plots for his Bond short story anthology For Your Eyes Only. Also, Fleming was briefly involved with helping to develop the TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and is credited with coming up with that name.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James BondS

3. John F. Kennedy asked Ian Fleming how to defeat Fidel Castro

The James Bond novels, while popular in England, had a rather lukewarm reception in the United States — until new president John F. Kennedy listed From Russia with Love as one of his ten favorite books in an interview with Life Magazine in 1961. Kennedy had met Fleming at a dinner party in 1960 and asked him about overthrowing Fidel Castro. Fleming gave Kennedy a bizarre plot that involved convincing Castro his beard attracted radiation, causing Castro to shave off his beard and thus totally destroy his mojo.
Source: "The Kennedys, Fleming, and Cuba: Bond's Foreign Policy" in Ian Fleming & James Bond: The Cultural Politics Of 007.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James Bond

4. M was Ian Fleming's nickname for his own mother

The character M was most likely a composite of people Fleming knew. Superficially the character resembles Rear Admiral J.H. Godfrey, Fleming's commander in the intelligence division during WWII. Godfrey complained after Fleming's death about being made into an unsavory character. However it seems psychologically M was based more on Fleming's own mother, whom he did refer to as M. Fleming's biographer says, "While Fleming was young, his mother was certainly one of the few people he was frightened of, and her sternness toward him, her unexplained demands, and her remorseless insistence on success find a curious and constant echo in the way M handles that hard-ridden, hard-killing agent, 007." Something to consider if you've ever questioned the casting of Dame Judi Dench in the role of M, or the possible implications of a maternal relationship between M and Bond because of it.
Source: The Life of Ian Fleming, by John Pearson.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James BondS

5. George Lazenby was known for his diva behavior

The second actor to play James Bond refused to sign up for a seven-film deal, because his friend/manager Ronan O'Rahilly told him he should just make one Bond film and then "get out." And once Lazenby was a movie star, he decided to act like one — sending away the car the studio sent for him in the mornings if he didn't like the color, demanding a car to drive him the 50 yards from his dressing room to the Pinewood restaurant, and eating garlic before he was supposed to film a love scene. Later, the producers offered him $1 million to play Bond again, and he demanded double that amount. Part of the problem, says Lazenby, was that he was trying to be Bond off-screen as well as on. By the time On Her Majesty's Secret Service had come out, Lazenby had gotten more into the counterculture, rejecting the establishment nature of James Bond — and he showed up for the premiere of the film dressed as a hippie, with a shaggy beard and long hair. Later, Lazenby starred in a series of hilarious Australian and Hong Kong action films in the 1970s, largely playing either himself or a thinly veiled version of James Bond.
Sources: Bond on Bond by Roger Moore, Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown.

6. The creator of "Little Nellie" was still trying to break speed records two years ago

Remember "Little Nellie," the flying machine that Q brings to James Bond in some suitcases in You Only Live Twice? That's a Wallis Autogyro, or WA-116 to be precise. Wing Commander Ken Wallis built three military-type autogyros in 1962, and for a long time they held most of the world records for speed, climbing time, altitude and range. Bond movie designer Ken Adam was shaving one morning, when he heard Wallis on the radio, saying he'd like to pit one of his autogyros against some helicopters — and Adam decided that would be a great set piece for the next Bond film. During the main "Little Nellie" flying scenes, that's Wallis himself piloting the autogyro — except that the special effects crew had attached "ruddy big rockets" to the back of it, with a live shotgun cartridge and black powder in them, to make smoke. Wallis hadn't anticipated how heavy the fake rockets would make his autogyro, causing some serious problems. As recently as June 2010, the now-95-year-old Wallis was still trying to break speed records with his autogyro.
Source: Albert J. Luxford, the Gimmick Man: Memoir of a Special Effects Maestro by Albert J. Luxford and Gareth Owen

7. Goldfinger was a neighbor of Ian Fleming's

At least, Ian Fleming's neighbor was Erno Goldfinger, the famous architect. Erno Goldfinger was known for creating his "brutal" high-rise buildings and for loving concrete the same way Auric Goldfinger loves gold. The real-life Goldfinger threatened to sue to stop the publication of Fleming's novel, but finally changed his mind — sparing us from Fleming's fall-back plan, which was to call the villain "Goldprick." (A suggestion from the critic Cyril Connolly.) Just imagine Shirley Bassey singing about "Goldprick" for a moment.
Source: The Rough Guide to James Bond, edited by Paul Simpson.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James Bond

8. There's a long tradition of product placement in James Bond

If you are feeling iffy about the Heineken product placement in Skyfall, let it go. Product placements has always been a part of the franchise. Originally in the novels, Bond was only a Times newspaper reader, Fleming worked as a gossip columnist for the Sunday Times. Then his second book was picked up for serialization by the Daily Express,a rival paper, and suddenly Bond became an Express reader as well. Also, in the second James Bond movie, From Russia With Love, a large billboard advertising the Bob Hope movie Call Me Bwana, which happen to have the same producers as the Bond films, is prominently displayed.
RICHLER, MORDECAI, James Bond Unmasked, Commentary, 46:1 (1968:July) p.74

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James Bond

9. Ian Fleming was worried the Cold War would be over by 1961

Remember how James Bond's adversaries suddenly changed from the Russian spy agency S.M.E.R.S.H. to the unaligned spy organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E.? That was because Ian Fleming was worried the Cold War was going to end too quickly. In 1959, Ian Fleming was working on a screenplay for a new Bond film, which later became his novel Thunderball and finally spawned two movies. (It's a long story.) But Fleming was worried it would take two years to produce Thunderball, and by 1961 a story about the Cold War might seem outdated, or worse. So instead, Fleming came up with this new organization, made up of 21 members of the world's most ruthless organizations, including S.M.E.R.S.H., the Corsican Mafia, President Tito's secret police, and Turkish drug smugglers. Also, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. mastermind Blofeld could have been a hunchback — when Donald Pleasence took the role in You Only Live Twice, he wanted to play the character with humps, a sinister beard, and a "lame hand" — possibly not all at once — but was talked into just having a menacing scar instead.
Source: Bond on Bond by Sir Roger Moore.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James BondS

10. Ian Fleming had literary aspirations for the Bond novels

He referred to his books not as literature, but as "thrillers designed to be read as literature." In a 1957 letter to CBS, Fleming explained: "In hard covers, my books are written for and appeal primarily to an "A" readership but they have all been reprinted in paperbacks in both England and America and it appears that the "B" and "C" classes find them equally readable, although one might have thought that the sophistication of the background and detail would be outside their experience and in part incomprehensible." Much later, Fleming was vindicated, when the critic Umberto Eco embarked on a rigorous study of the Bond books using the then-trendy field of Structural Analysis.
Sources: The James Bond Phenomenon: A Critical Reader, Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films.

11 Things You Probably Didn't Know About James BondS

11. Sean Connery really was in danger of getting burned in the crotch during the "Goldfinger's laser" scene

When they filmed that famous scene where James Bond is spread-eagle on a table and Goldfinger's laser beam is cutting the table, moving closer to his crotch, Connery's look of panic is real. Special effects man Albert J. Luxford was under the table with an acetylene torch, cutting through the table from beneath to make it look like the laser was cutting it from above. Says Luxford:

The center of the table, through which I was cutting, was lead and I just worked my way along it, on my back, once I was given the word. However, as I couldn't really see how far up the table I was, I had to be told when to stop. As I got nearer and nearer to his crotch, Sean was sweating a bit. I hate the thought of ever injuring an actor, but 'there' would have been awful!

I followed my cues exactly and was listening to Gert and Sean's dialogue carefully, too, as I knew it would end, and laser switch off, after Sean mentioned 'Operation Grandslam.' I was about three inches from his crotch when I stopped.

Poor Connery also had his wrist broken doing martial-arts training for Never Say Never Again — and the man who broke his wrist was Steven Seagal.
Source: Albert J. Luxford, the Gimmick Man: Memoir of a Special Effects Maestro by Albert J. Luxford and Gareth Owen