The never-ending discussion of who will be the next James Bond in the long-running spy film franchise will inevitably lead to fan infighting, just like the initial casting announcement for Daniel Craig caused back in the day. Now that Craig has retired as the character, with his swan song No Time to Die cementing him as one of the all-time greats who has played the character, let’s take a look back even further into the history of Ian Fleming’s creation. Who inspired James Bond to begin with?
Like many works of fiction, James Bond is not necessarily based on a single individual, but an amalgamation of different people whom Fleming came across in his life. Fleming served in World War II as a British Naval Intelligence commander. Through the course of his military career, he came to know a number of colleagues or knew of others from a distance who ended up serving as inspiration for his characters, including Bond himself. However, it may surprise you to know that some of the people in Fleming’s orbit even shared 007’s namesake in some cases, proving that truth is stranger than fiction.
The “real” James Bond and other sources of inspiration
Though Fleming’s military comrades we alluded to earlier most likely influenced the creation of James Bond, the character’s namesake may have been taken after someone completely disconnected from the world of soldiering. You see, Fleming was a fan of bird watching, and one of his favorite books — Birds of the West Indies — happened to be authored by none other than James Bond himself, an American ornithologist. Fleming once explained why he honed in on the seemingly random source of inspiration as the name for his fiction spy series protagonist (via Esquire):
“I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, ‘James Bond’ was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers.’ Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure – an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”
Though the bird-watching book was a favorite of Fleming’s as a child, he would later host the author at his famous Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, the location where Fleming penned many of his spy books and where many of the ornithologist’s favorite West Indies bird species happened to be located. The bird expert was reportedly quite handsome, somewhat akin to Sean Connery himself, but he went by Jim rather than James. However, that wasn’t the only James Bond whom Fleming came across in his life.
James Charles Bond, from Wales, also “served under Felming in WWII,” according to the Esquire article. The individual was reportedly so taken with the idea that he was the “real” James Bond, his family eventually put “007” on his gravestone.
A number of other spies throughout history have also reportedly influenced Fleming’s creation of Bond, such as the gambling-inclined Serbian spy Dusko Popov, the Canadian-born boxing champ turned British agent Sir William Stephenson, and Biffy Dunderdale, the latter of whom was said to have unveiled a tuxedo underneath a wet suit after emerging from the ocean at one point, just like our martini-swilling hero often does.