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Seven Surprising Facts About Bond

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CBC News' Arts reporter Eli Glasner talks to Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemmings,
co-curator of the Designing 007 exhibit, at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox.

1. The Name

Bond, James Bond. Although that classic introduction has been repeated and imitated to the point of parody, there's still something about the cadence of those syllables. James. Bond. Strong. Commanding... and all the more surprising considering its source.

Back when author Ian Fleming was casting about for the name of his secret agent, he was inspired by the author of the book he kept beside his typewriter at his Jamaican home. The book? The Birds of the West Indies written by James Bond... ornithologist. A far cry from this:


© MGM 1974

2. Bond's Canadian Connection

Besides being a bird lover, Bond's creator also spent a fair bit of time in Whitby, Ontario, at Camp X. During the second world war it was an allied spy school, where Fleming was sent as a British Intelligence Naval officer.

That's also where Fleming met William Stephenson, the head of British security in North America. In fact, many think Bond was based on the Winnipeg entrepreneur and inventor.

3. The Almost Bonds

Many (including myself) consider Sean Connery the classic incarnation of Bond. He had the looks and dash of a movie star, but there was also a sense of menace under the bow tie, true to the Fleming original. But when Connery was cast as the MI6 agent, he was actually a long shot.

David Niven was Fleming's own preference, certainly an actor comfortable in a top hat and tails, but would he have been able to hold his own against the Soviet killer in To Russia With Love? After Sean Connery left the franchise there were many other actors in the running before Roger Moore took over. At the time producers were considering two Americans: Burt Reynolds (Bond with a Movember makeover) and Adam West who was at the height of his fame thanks to the Batman TV series.

4. Bond's Bedding Prowess

Whoever is playing Bond, if one element remains consistent it's that he's a ladies' man. For 22 films - and counting - Bond has bedded a host of famous faces from Jane Seymour to Grace Jones. You might be surprised to see how that compares to the average Brit. According to one survey in the Sex Roles journal, the average British male has nine sexual partners in his lifetime. And Bond? Add up the films and the seductive agent has had nearly 50 "strong encounters".

5. Bond's Canadian Sweetheart

While we're thinking of all that wooing, spare a thought for poor Miss Moneypenny. The role of M's secretary was played by Canadian actress Lois Maxwell in 14 Bond films from Dr. No to A View To Kill. While Bond always made advances, Miss Moneypenny's own offers were often rebuffed. On CBC's Front Page Challenge in 1981 Maxwell finally revealed her theory of their flirtatious relationship: "You see, James Bond and Moneypenny - when he was a tea boy and she was in the typing pool - had a long weekend together, which was rather nice."

6. Bond's Baddies

As the longest running film franchise in cinematic history the Bond canon of villains offers a fascinating reflection of our fears. First there was the Asian menace of the almost alien Dr. No. Then came Bond's most iconic opponent, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. To kids today he just looks like Austin Powers' Dr.Evil but that only proves how iconic the bald, cat-stroking evil mastermind has become. The best version was certainly the mincing, yet dangerous, Donald Pleasance. Let's not talk about the Telly Savalas version.

Interestingly as the Cold War receded, Bond's villains shifted towards the industrial age: titans of industry (Christoper Walken in A View to a Kill with David Bowie's hair as Max Zorin) or even the evil environmentalist of Quantum of Solace.

7. Bond's Box Office and Beyond

Regardless of the opponent, when it comes to James Bond, what Hollywood really respects is his box office fire power. Taken together, the Bond films have earned a stunning five billion dollars. That's less than Harry Potter but more than Batman and Twilight combined. But as those Bond budgets grow, 007 is facing a new foe - advertising.

The budget for Skyfall includes a reported 45 million dollars in product placement. He's even trading his classic shaken-not-stirred cocktail for... a Heineken. A radical departure for a film franchise built on a comforting sense of consistency and one that's leading many fans to wonder why 007 has been given a license to shill.

- Eli Glasner is a CBC News Arts Correspondant. Designing 007 - 50 Years of Bond Style runs until January 20 at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox. The latest James Bond film, Skyfall, opens in theatres today (November 9):

Front page photo by Francois Duhamel - © Skyfall2012 Danjaq, LLC,
United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.



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