“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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39 Comments

  • Personally, I have never seen any of the James Bond movies, although, I have many friends who love and fawn over these films. I feel though, that this article was bit vague, as some of the claims seemed to paint with a broad brush. We never see who the character is, what makes him up specifically, or how his lasting fame throughout the decades has impacted the franchise as a whole. Although, I may have misinterpreted the intentions of this article. I found it to be insightful, and well-written.

  • This article was well researched and well written. The name of James Bond has become so recognizable that it was awesome to see a different take on him in this reading. I found it interesting that the author of the original Bond novels never intended for Bond to be the hero but also how the character itself was developed. I especially enjoyed how the author described Bond’s progression through time and how he remains relevant today. All this made for a great article.

  • I really enjoyed this article. I have seen several of the more recent James Bond movies, but I had never realized that they were based on a book series originally, or that the author pulled ideas from some real life events. What is interesting is that Flemings didn’t mean for Bond to become the hero type, but with all of his exposure and portrayals, that is what he evolved to become.

  • I loved watching the Bond movies, and seeing all the different James Bond actors and bond girls. I had no idea that these movies were based on book written by Ian Fleming. He must have met a lot of interesting people while he was in the service to make a character as dangerous, charming and witty as James Bond. It’s interesting that he picked to name his character, James Bond, because to him it seemed like a standard name that wouldn’t take away from the action of the story. Now it’s a household name.

  • Great article, I’d like to mention that I found it odd that Fleming named his fictional character after an ornithologist. After doing a quick google search, I found the reason why. While in Jamaica, Fleming had seen his book ”Birds of the West Indies.” Because he liked that “James Bond” sounded brief and masculine, he decided to use that name.

  • 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.

  • Over the years I have become familiar with the James Bond franchise and I had no idea that the movies were originally books written by Ian Fleming. It is interesting to hear how the character was developed based on the authors own military career and people he met and how Fleming didn’t intend For Bond to become a hero. This article is really well written, I enjoyed reading it.

  • I have never been a major James Bond fan, but this article did a great job at explaining the aspects and intriguing parts of this infamous character. “Bond…James Bond”, is a lasting and iconic quote that is constantly repeated by cinema fans. I was not aware that there were books on the ever so infamous 007, just heard about the movies, that part of the article really peaked my interest. It was also interesting to me that Fleming stemmed from his own life experiences to formulate the name James Bond! This article was very intriguing overall.

  • A very well written and to-the-point article. Although I have heard of the famous spy James Bond and the countless movies, video games, and books about him, I have never seen, played, or read any of them. All that I had known about 007 before reading this article was that he is a badass spy that kills a lot of people and “flirts” with a lot of women (and he drives a nice car). After reading this article, I know a great deal more about the fictional character, his creation, story, and the works that have portrayed him.

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