$5.5 million. Reportedly, that’s how much money Sean Connery turned down when the producers of the James Bond films tried to get him to return after the success of Diamonds are Forever.
A number of actors were considered for the role of James Bond in the 8th Eon production of Live and Let Die before they finally settled on Roger Moore (who at the time was best known on TV as The Saint and Beau Maverick). To differentiate the new James Bond from Sean Connery’s version, changes were made. Bond would no longer order vodka martinis, instead he would drink whiskey. The mission briefing would take place in his apartment, not M’s office. Q, the Quartermaster, is not in the film. And no more cigarettes for Bond, now he smokes cigars.
Jane Seymour plays the main Bond girl, “Solitaire”. Gloria Hendry portrays a black CIA agent, and is the first African American woman he makes love to in a film. In reality, she was part of the organization of the main villain, “Kanaga” aka “Mr. Big”, portrayed by Yaphet Kotto. Geoffrey Holder (best known for his 7-Up commercials) portrays the zombie Baron Samedi, an ally of Kanaga’s, and Julius Harris is “Tee-Hee”, a man with a prosthetic arm/hand he puts to good use in giving Bond a hard time. David Hedison plays “Felix Leiter” (which he will reprise 15 years later for another Bond actor).
Budgeted at $7 million, Live and Let Die grossed over $160 million at the box office and was a smash success. Fans weren’t happy that Q was not in the film and the overwhelming demand for his presence resulted in his return in the next Bond film. A minor character, “Sheriff J.W. Pepper” would also show up in The Man With the Golden Gun, which opened barely 18 months after Live and Let Die had premiered.
Based loosely on the 13th and final Bond book, The Man With the Golden Gun is the story of Bond trying to find and kill a man considered one of the best assassins in the world, “Francisco Scaramanga”. The energy crisis of the early 70s replaces the story of the Fleming novel which was set mostly in Jamaica. Instead, Bond is chasing Scaramanga throughout the Orient. This was the fourth and final film in the series to be directed by Guy Hamilton, with Britt Eklund’s “Mary Goodnight” and Maud Adams as “Andrea Anders” playing the main Bond girls.
Scaramanga is working with another villain named “Hai-Fat”, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Thailand. Bond is helped not by Felix Leiter this time around, but instead by “Lieutenant Hip” from Hong Kong, played by Soon-Tek Oh. Scaramanga’s man-servant “Nick Nack” was played by Herve Villechaize (famous for his role on TV’s Fantasy Island). The Man With the Golden Gun also features what may well be the most over-the-top name for any Bond girl: “Chew Mee”.
The box office was down for The Man With the Golden Gun, slightly. It failed to break the $100 million mark, topping out at $97 .6 million. But with budgets still running around $7 million, it was wildly profitable. It also marked the end of the partnership between “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Saltzman sold his shares in their partnership, based on what some say were severe financial problems he was experiencing. He would go on to produce two other feature films before his death, but none of his works were as well known or commercially successful as the Bond films.
Flying solo now, Broccoli set out to make the next Bond film based on a Fleming work where James Bond doesn’t appear until very late in the novel. The Spy Who Loved Me was a different type of work and as a result, much of the novel’s story is discarded in the film.
Roger Moore returns for his third outing as James Bond and the lovely Barbara Bach becomes the latest in the ever-growing line of Bond girls. While “Tatiana” in From Russia With Love believed herself to be on a mission for Mother Russia, Bach’s “Major Amasova” is the first actual Russian spy with whom Bond shares an entire mission. Curd (billed at Curt in the credits) Jurgens as the main villain, “Karl Stromberg”, one of the world’s richest men who is obsessed with life beneath the oceans. It’s the first of two appearances in the Bond films by Richard Keel as “Jaws”, an incredibly strong henchman who has deadly steel teeth. No Felix Leiter here, but Bond gets help from an American sub commander, “Commander Carter” played by Shane Rimmer.
The end credits of The Spy Who Loved Me state that James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only. In part V of “Countdown to ‘Skyfall’ – A History of the James Bond Franchise” we will find out why that statement proved to be completely wrong.