Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Inspirations for James Bond
A number of real life inspirations have been suggested for James Bond, the sophisticated fictional character and British spy, created by Ian Fleming. Although the Bond stories were often fantasy driven, they did incorporate real places, some incidents and occasionally organisations such as SMERSH.
Firstly, and most obviously perhaps, many of the incidents in Fleming's books are derived from the author's own life, or are completely fictional, perhaps owing to various spy novel conventions of the period.
However, there are persistent stories, with wildly varying plausibility, of who the other real life inspiration(s) might be.
The name James Bond was taken by Fleming from the American ornithologist James Bond, who wrote Birds of the West Indies. Fleming is said to have chosen this name because it was 'non-descript'. Fleming was also a keen bird watcher, with a home in Jamaica. The film Die Another Day, pays homage to the "late ornithologist" during a scene in Cuba where secret agent James Bond is seen browsing the manual in a conversation.
While Fleming has never claimed there was any other source for the name of Bond besides the ornithologist, there was another real life James Bond who coincidentally attended Fettes College in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the fictional James Bond is credited with attending. The alumnis, James Bond, was a frogman with the Special Boat Service, which is again coincidental 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 that is centered on a proper British character named James Bond.
Many real life personalities who were involved in espionage have been cited as models for the character:
- 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, a notorious adventurer and spy, originally from Russia, who had a brief association with British military intelligence following World War I, and whose exploits were glorified by a 1980s mini-series, Reilly: Ace of Spies.
- According to the National Enquirer and some experts, Ian Fleming patterned James Bond after Serb Dusko Popov (Душко Попов), a Yugoslav double agent nicknamed Tricycle by XX Committee (due to his penchant for menage a trois) and Ivan by Abwehr.
- 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 reconnaissance team (Commando 30 Assault Unit) in France, Belgium and Germany - often far in advance of Allied lines." However, Dalzel-Job himself always denied being the model for Bond.
- 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.
- Fleming also hinted that James Bond was the Canadian spymaster Sir William Stephenson, best know by his code name, Intrepid, who was senior representative of British intelligence for the entire western hemisphere during World War II. Stephenson is best-known by his wartime intelligence codename of 'Intrepid'. Regarding him, Ian Fleming wrote in The Times, October 21, 1962:
- "James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is... William Stephenson"
Common features of alleged James Bond inspirations
The real life inspirations usually have two or more of the following backgrounds in common... it is not impossible of course that the character could have been a composite of more than one person.
- An English or Scottish background. James Bond himself, although a quintessential Englishman, actually has a Swiss mother and a Scottish father.
- Some kind of naval background. In the Fleming books, Bond lied about his age to get into the navy.
- Usually of upper or upper middle class background, having attended a private school, especially Eton College, where Bond went (and was expelled from!). Bond was always considered "well educated".
- Known personally to Ian Fleming.
- An "active", sometimes wild lifestyle, often with womanising. Fleming's Bond was always portrayed as being heterosexual too, e.g. Merlin Minshall who took part in frequent dangerous car races.
The 007 number assigned to James Bond may have been influenced by any number of sources. In the films and novels, the 00 prefex indicates Bond's discretionary 'licence to kill', in executing his duties.
- One story about the inspiration for James Bond's agent number comes from Rudyard Kipling's railroad stories, which centre on train number 007.
- Another version of the origins of the number 007 is that it was the number of the coach service from Dover to London, in Kent, England, 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".
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