“Bond, James Bond”: The Creation of Ian Fleming’s World Renowned Secret Agent

Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 (1964) in Scarce Dell Special Edition Magazine | Courtesy of www.museumofmomandpopculture.com

There have been many action films made in the past sixty years or so, but a specific film comes to the mind of viewers when they hear of the famous Secret Service Intelligence Office named James Bond. The movie begins with the widely-known theme song that accompanies the opening title; then the film commences with a mixture of expensive explosions, killings, spies and secrets, fast cars, top-notch weapons, tuxedos, and high-intensity action scenes. James Bond has been the face of British action movies for the past fifty-three years. Before all of the successfully made, action-packed Bond movies were made and released, there were the classic Bond novels by author Ian Fleming. In those 1950s novels, we first meet the central figure of his stories, the man with the license to kill—Bond, James Bond.

Actor Sean Connery portraying the role of the very first James Bond | Courtesy of www.amazon.com

James Bond, the prominent character of Fleming’s creation, was the central figure of his fictional writings. Bond, often referred to by his code number, 007, held the position of an intelligence officer in the British Secret Service and Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, being the protagonist of all the novels, films, comics, and video games that followed. Bond was the ultimate secret spy who was classy, loyal to his boss “M” (who was said to be a character mimicked after Fleming’s real-life boss, Admiral Godfrey), and always did his best work with the best intentions and attempts. During World War II, Fleming had frequently mentioned to his friends that he was eager to write spy novels, and finally, after marrying his girlfriend in 1952, he began his journey as a novelist while at his island vacation home.1

Bond was the main character of twelve novels, nine short stories, a plethora of video games and comic books, and twenty-six films, in which the character Bond was portrayed by seven different actors throughout the years of the franchise. Despite the content within these books and movies, there was quite a number of real-life elements taken from Fleming’s experiences and his own continuing imagination being represented in his literary work, as well as executed on-screen. Although Bond is seen as a hero in many ways, upon the creation of the character, Fleming admitted once that Bond was meant to be the opposite, saying, “I never intended my leading character, James Bond, to be a hero. I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department…But of course, he’s always referred to as my hero. I don’t see him as a hero myself.”2

The evolution of James Bond portrayed by seven actors over 60 years | Courtesy of www.flickeringmyth.com

Despite these intentions for his character, Fleming took a lot of inspiration from real-life situations in his military career as well as with the people he met along the way. Fleming gained most of the inspiration for the James Bond character from individuals he knew during his time in the Naval Intelligence Division. He once admitted that the character was, “a compound of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war,” allowing his readers and viewers to understand just how bulletproof, smart, and insanely brave the Bond character was intended to be seen as. Even the name of James Bond was taken from the name of an American ornithologist of the same name, who was a Caribbean bird expert. Fleming was himself an active bird-watcher, and owned a copy of James Bond’s books on bird-watching, and later went on to explain to his wife how he felt the name James Bond had an impact on him. The use of the name would also serve as some symbol of simplicity, as Fleming felt that a complicated or unique name would take away from the adventures Bond would endure in his novels.3

Author of Bond franchise novels, Ian Fleming with James Bond actor, Sean Connery | Courtesy of www.patrickleighfermor.org

The individual characteristics that make up who James Bond is, was a reflection of who Fleming was himself. As Fleming once described him, “James Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like between her sheets,” from the kind of tastes he obtained and the traits he acquired, to the many experiences that Bond has gone through, all were illustrations of Fleming as a high-ranking, handsome, charismatic secret agent who enjoyed the rush of fulfilling his duties in the most adventurous ways.4

  1.  Encyclopedia Britannica, September 2013, s.v. “James Bond.”
  2.  Guy Burnett, “Nobody Does It Better: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Turns Sixty,” Society 51, no.2 (2014): 175-179.
  3.  John Pearson, James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 (London, England: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1973), 1-16, 26-34.
  4.  Guy Burnett, “Nobody Does It Better: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Turns Sixty,” Society 51, no.2 (2014): 175-179.

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This Post Has 47 Comments

  1. Although I have never watched a James Bond movie, I know that they are extremely popular. I really liked how this article broke down who James Bond really was and how Fleming drew inspiration for the character. I find it crazy how these movies have had such an immense success among the public. It was very interesting to read that Fleming did not have the intentions to have James be a hero.

  2. This was a really interesting article that I enjoyed reading. I had no idea that the name came from an ornithologist along with the aspects like the skill and personality came strictly from all of the military experts that he met in his life. Its interesting how the author saw Bonds as which was like a government pawn. But society saw differently. I wonder how the author saw him as a government pawn. I want to know his thought process and logic.

  3. What was really surprising was that Fleming did not intend for Bond to be seen as a hero. This makes me curious about what was his goal. He wanted him to be seen as a weapon or tool yet the gave Bond so much personality and desirability it is hard to see him that way. He said he wanted Bond to be what every man wanted to be, yet this is not a hero according to Flemming.

  4. Of course, I have heard of James Bond but only through movies. I have never seen them or read about them. They didn’t really seem to interest me. Reading this to-the-point article made me realize just how awesome James Bond really is. It’s interesting to read about the creation of this widely known fictional character. This article also made me realize just why this fictional character is so deeply loved and appreciated. I feel as if I should start a movie marathon to catch up with the details of 007. I know my grandfather knows a lot about the spy and he’s always claimed the movies were terrific. Great read. (reposted)

  5. it was very interesting article. I’ve been a james bond fan since i was a little girl and never really thought about where the name came from. i think is great that this guy used his military expert friends to name this movie, a fun fact i could never had anticipated!
    It’s also great that the author gave more background on the 007 character because it allowed me to understand better the purpose of this character.

  6. Very cool article to read! One never thinks about the origins of iconic characters such as James Bond. He is probably one of the most recognized characters of all times. Because of him, every kid wanted to be a spy growing up. The author did a great job at giving more depth to the James Bond character by showing its background.

  7. This was a really good article. So the name comes from an ornithologist and the personality and skills of him come from all the military experts he has met. It is interesting how different the author’s perspective is from that of all of the world’s, he thought of Bond as the government’s pawn. I haven’t read the novels, I wonder how he couldn’t get the message transmitted.

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