A number of real-life inspirations have been suggested for James Bond
, the sophisticated fictional character
spy created by Ian Fleming
. Although the Bond stories were often fantasy-driven, they did incorporate some real places, incidents and, occasionally, organisations such as SMERSH
Many Ian Fleming
biographers agree that James Bond is largely based on Fleming himself. The author was known for his glamorous and licentious lifestyle. Fleming has also been said to have been inspired by his contemporaries in British Intelligence during World War II
. During the war Fleming was the personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence
starting as a lieutenant then rising to the rank of commander, the same rank as James Bond throughout Fleming's series. He was also the instigator of special ops unit 30 Commando Assault Unit (30AU)
a unit he called his "Red Indians".
Other incidents in Fleming's books that possibly aren't derived from the author's own life are completely fictional, perhaps owing to various spy novel conventions of the period.
Every year, from the publication of Casino Royale in 1953 until his death in 1964, Ian Fleming would holiday at "Goldeneye", his Jamaican house, where he would write a James Bond novel. Fleming was a bird watcher, and owned a copy of Birds of the West Indies, by the American ornithologist James Bond. Later explaining appropriating the name for his literary character, he said the name was "brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon, and yet very masculine — just what I needed". In the film Die Another Day (2002), agent 007 (Pierce Brosnan) picks up a copy of Birds of the West Indies in Cuba, then poses as an ornithologist.
Fleming never claimed another source for the "James Bond" name, however, there was a James Bond who attended Fettes College, Edinburgh, Scotland. Fettes is the second school the fictional James Bond attended after expulsion from Eton College because of skirt chasing, parallel to Fleming's Eton career. The Fettes alumnus, James Bond, was a frogman with the Special Boat Service, much as the fictional character Bond also has a naval background. The school actually has his Who's Who entry copied and framed in one of its main corridors.
Also notable is the mid-1920s story The Rajah's Emerald, by Agatha Christie, which is centered on a proper British character named James Bond.
On Avenue Road just north of Eglinton Avenue in Toronto, Ontario from 1929 until 2005 stood St James-Bond United Church. The name was a portmanteau chosen after the union of two congregations. Fleming himself perpetuated the myth that he trained in Canada for special operations during the Second World War, leading to the suggestion that he derived the name of his hero from that of the church; actually, no record exists of his ever visiting Camp X as he claimed.
Many real-life personalities who were involved in espionage have been cited as models for the character by some news reports. Most notably was William Stephenson
, who was a Canadian
spymaster, best known by his code name
, Intrepid. Stephenson was the senior representative of British Intelligence for the entire western hemisphere during World War II
. Regarding him, Ian Fleming wrote in The Times
, October 21
- "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is... William Stephenson"
- According to the BBC's obituary, (14 October, 2003), the late Commander Patrick Dalzel-Job was said to have been another inspiration. Dalzel-Job "ran special operations in Norway in World War II... [and] later in the war he joined the future writer, Ian Fleming, as part of a top secret intelligence unit 30 Commando Assault Unit — Ian Fleming's 'Red Indians' in France, Belgium and Germany — often far in advance of Allied lines." However, Dalzel-Job himself always denied being the model for Bond.
- Sir Fitzroy Maclean, who was reputed to be a British secret agent in WWII Yugoslavia and friend (and biographer) of Tito is often cited as an inspiration. MacLean went to Eton College and like Bond had an Anglo-Scottish background. He was well known for a number of his books such as Eastern Approaches which detailed his adventures. Throughout his life he neither confirmed or denied the rumour that he was the model for James Bond. Biography — Past Forgetting: A Memoir of Heroes, Adventure, Love and Life With Fitzroy Maclean by Veronica Maclean.
- Sidney Reilly is listed as an inspiration for James Bond in Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond by Andrew Lycett. Reilly was a secret agent for Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the British Secret Service Bureau, which was founded in 1909. In 1918, Reilly was employed by Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming as an operative for "MI1(c)," an early designation for the British Secret Intelligence Service. His exploits were glorified by a 1980s mini-series, Reilly: Ace of Spies. Reilly's friend, Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, was a close acquaintance of Sir Ian Fleming for many years and recounted for Fleming many of Reilly's espionage adventures.
- Sidney Cotton was born in Australia and moved to England to serve in the Royal Naval Air Service. He was a close friend of Ian Fleming during World War 2 and is considered by some to be the model for 'James Bond' and an inspiration for some of 'Q's gadgets. His inventions included camouflage for aircraft, an upward firing gun mounting, long range bombing methods and the cottonising process which improved the Spitfire by 65 k.p.h. He devised a method for taking aerial photographs and then used it to take photos of German munitions factories, airfields, troop concentrations and anti-aircraft batteries and even Hitler's personal yacht. He would often posed as a businessman, an archaeologist or a film producer looking for locations for a movie so he could take his spy photographs.
- Conrad O'Brien Ffrench is listed as an inspiration in the Times article "Was Ian Fleming the real 007" by Ben Macintyre. O'Brien Ffrench met Fleming in Austria in the thirties while working for Claude Dansey's "Z" network.
- When asked to suggest an actor candidate to portray Agent 007 on James Bond movies, Ian Fleming mentioned Cary Grant.
- Merlin Minshall, who worked for Fleming as member of the Special Branch of British Naval Intelligence during the Second World War. He wrote about his extraordinary life in a book entitled Guilt-Edged.
- Colonel Duane Hudson was claimed by the London Sunday Times as being a model for James Bond; however, this is the only source
- Michael Mason. Fleming also knew and admired another British agent who had a certain style, Michael Mason. Mason came from a wealthy Oxfordshire family but ran away to Canada in his youth, becoming first a fur trapper and then a professional boxer. The outbreak of the Second World War found him working as an agent in Bucharest, in still-neutral Romania, where one of his coups was to kill two Germans who had been sent to assassinate him.They attempted to trap him in the lavatory of a railway carriage and shoot him there, but he outwitted them, broke both their necks and dumped their bodies out of the window. Perhaps significantly, something similar happens on a train in the Balkans in From Russia with Love. (In the case of Mason, the Romanians complained to the British that if their agents had to kill Germans in Romania, they should at least make an effort to hide the bodies.)
- Wilfred (Biffy) Dunderdale a British spy and intelligence officer. He worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) between 1921 and 1959. His work involved liaison with French intelligence (1926-1940) and Polish intelligence (1940-1945)
- Commander Alexander "Sandy" Glen, a former Arctic explorer who worked with Fleming in Naval Intelligence.
Although other names have been mentioned by the media, none have ever been confirmed by Fleming, Ian Fleming Publications or Fleming's assistant and friend, John Pearson. In the view of Andrew Lycett, Fleming's biographer, Bond probably owes something to both Mason and Dunderdale, and possibly also "Sandy" Glen. Of all the former agents who have been linked, or have claimed to be linked, with Bond, these are the "best bets," he says.
The 007 number assigned to James Bond may have been influenced by any number of sources. In the films and novels, the 00
prefix indicates Bond's discretionary 'licence to kill
', in executing his duties.
- Rudyard Kipling wrote a short story entitled ".007: The Story of an American Locomotive", in which anthropomorphized train locomotives talk about their work and problems; the story has nothing to do with espionage, but Kipling's work would have been very popular during Fleming's youth and he could well have been familiar with the title. Kipling was also the author of "Kim", a popular and influential spy novel also about an orphan spy.
- Another version of the origins of the number 007 is that it is the number of the coach service from Deal in Kent to London, passing by Higham Park, where Ian Fleming spent much time, and where he was inspired to write his children's novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- It is also said that Bond borrowed his 007 title from Dr John Dee. The 16th century English secret agent used the code for his messages to Queen Elizabeth I. The two zeros meant "for your eyes only".
- It has been alleged that there was a Soviet assassination unit known as "double zero" or "double oh".
Although the cinematic James Bond is obviously based on the literary form, they are different, and many feel, especially that of the crew of the first few films, that Terence Young
was the major inspiration for bringing the character to life on the big screen. Young was the director of Dr. No
, From Russia with Love
, and Thunderball