Five Fascinating Facts about Ian Fleming

Fun facts about Ian Fleming and his most famous creation, James Bond

1. Ian Fleming named James Bond after an ornithologist because it was the ‘dullest name’ he’d ever heard. The original name for James Bond was ‘James Secretan’; Ian Fleming took the eventual name from the author of a book on birds. The Bond books (and the hugely popular film franchise) are famous for numerous characters and catchphrases: Miss Moneypenny, ‘M’, ‘licence to kill’, ‘shaken not stirred’ (though this is apparently something of a fallacy), and Bond’s gadget and weapons adviser, ‘Q’. Fleming based ‘Q’ in his James Bond novels on a man who wrote Fleming fan letters criticising Bond’s weapon choices.

The first US edition of Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale was published with the title ‘You Asked for It’; it took a few years for Bond to attract a fanbase in the States. The Bond books really became successful in the US when John F. Kennedy declared himself a fan. Indeed, in his book about Bond and Fleming, For Your Eyes Only, Ben Macintyre reveals that both John F. Kennedy and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, were reading Ian Fleming novels the night before Kennedy’s assassination.

2. As a boy, Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, referred to his mother as ‘M’. It was also the title of Fleming’s commander during WWII, when Fleming worked as an SOE (Special Operations Executive). ‘007’ was the Ian Fleming plaquecipher used by John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I.

3. The explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes was once considered for the role of James Bond; he was rejected for having ‘hands too big and the face of a farmer’. Numerous people have played Fleming’s most famous creation on screen over the years, but one of the more unusual people to be considered is Lord Lucan, who was once asked to audition for the role of James Bond. He declined. Others who have been considered for the role of James Bond include Dick van Dyke, Sean Bean, Simon Dee, and Robbie Williams (after he performed a Bond pastiche in the music video for his 1998 song ‘Millennium’).

4. Sting wrote the song ‘Every Breath You Take’ at the same desk which Ian Fleming used to write his James Bond novels. Fleming would spend his three-month annual holiday at his estate on Jamaica, which he called ‘Goldeneye’, after a wartime operation Fleming had been involved in. (The estate would, in turn, inspire the name for a later Bond film.) Indeed, the ornithologist from whom Fleming took the name of his hero had written a book on birds of the West Indies. In the 1980s, the songwriter and Police frontman Sting would spend time at Goldeneye and it would be here that he would write the classic Police song. Given that the song is about surveillance (‘I’ll be watching you’), it’s quite apt that Sting was sitting at the same desk at which Fleming’s ‘spy’ novels had been penned.

5. He wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As well as the hugely successful Bond novels, Ian Fleming also wrote the novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car, on which the 1968 film musical was based. Roald Dahl co-wrote the script for the film with Ken Hughes. Curiously enough, the year before, Dahl had also penned the screenplay to another film adaptation of a Fleming novel, You Only Live Twice.

Image: The English Heritage blue plaque for Ian Fleming’s previous residence at 22 Ebury Street, London; by ‘Schrodinger’s cat is alive’, 2011; Wikimedia Commons.

17 thoughts on “Five Fascinating Facts about Ian Fleming”

  1. Concerning James Bond being :”the dullest name” Fleming had ever heard, I assume the author is on the record somewhere saying that. However, not long before Mr. Fleming died, I and a small CBC film crew from Canada had the privilege of interviewing him at Goldeneye and if my memory is correct he not only liked the Bond bird book but liked the whimsy of naming 007 after an ornithologist. While we were in the middle of the interview our camera jammed, the cameraman was out of action with his hands in the changing bag making certain we lost no precious footage, and at that precise point the real James Bond dropped in to meet Fleming for the first time. Seeing a film crew, Bond chatted to Fleming only briefly, then left promising to return in a day or two. Our camera was functioning again only after he had left! We missed the documentary scoop of a lifetime.

    Another interesting tid-bit concerns the desk. If Sting sat at it he must have used a high stool. I remember that Fleming stood at his writing desk which was somewhat like a high lectern. Didn’t Churchill write that way as well?

  2. It’s interesting that John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, used the 007 cipher.
    The first person to sight the Spanish Armada approaching the English Channel was a Captain Fleming, who was said to be covertly reporting to Francis Walsingham – Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster. Is it known whether he was any relation to Ian Fleming?


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