Ian Fleming recycled: literary Bond moments in Skyfall

In a previous article I discussed how the screenwriters for the James Bond series have, particularly in recent years, sometimes plundered Ian Fleming’s books for ideas that have been integrated into original stories.


Some examples of this are small elements from Casino Royale making their way into The World Is Not Enough, and while most of the plot of Live And Let Die was discarded when it came to making the first Roger Moore film, scenes from that book appeared instead in For Your Eyes Only and Licence To Kill.

You Only Live Twice

When the Skyfall trailer was released back in late July it was clear that at least one plot device from You Only Live Twice was to be appropriated for the 23rd James Bond film.

While the Sean Connery film abandoned Ian Fleming’s plot for You Only Live Twice entirely, the end of the book finds 007 suffering from amnesia and living in a small Japanese fishing village with Kissy Suzuki. Believing him to be dead, M writes Bond’s obituary for the Times.

The obituary seen on M’s screen towards the beginning of Skyfall matches this almost word for word. The You Only Live Twice obituary also mentions the names of Bond’s parents, which can be seen in the graveyard at Skyfall Lodge, and that his father was Scottish.

The book ends with Bond leaving Japan headed for Vladivistok after seeing the Russian city mentioned in a newspaper article when something in his mind clicks. The story arc continues at the start of The Man With The Golden Gun when, brainwashed by the Russians, he tries to kill M.

The Man With The Golden Gun

While it was clear from the Skyfall trailer that Bond’s disappearance has its roots inYou Only Live Twice,  one of the scenes in the trailer made me think of Scaramanga. In this article from the beginning of August I wrote:

…the trailer looked rather like The Man With The Golden Gun, although there isn’t really much substantial to go on to give that idea having watched it several times; Javier Bardem with a pistol, perhaps, but it certainly seems that Skyfall is unlikely to follow the beginning of The Man With The Golden Gun due to the way in which 007 introduces himself to M.

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have since confirmed in this recent interview going back to The Man With The Golden Gun as well as You Only Live Twice for their inspiration, as those films used little Fleming material.

In the book, Scaramanga is described by Fleming as being 6 foot 3 inches and having reddish hair and being slim and fit; he is also described as being related to the family of Catalan circus managers. Compare that with Silva; he is tall and fairly slim, alth0ugh with blond rather than reddish hair. While his name is Portuguese, it turns out to be an assumed name and that his real name is Tiago Rodriguez, which is Spanish.

Scaramanga’s dossier also describes him as “a sexual fetishist with possible homosexual tendencies”, an idea that Kingsley Amis took further.

Following Fleming’s death, Amis was asked to read the manuscript, which was considered to be too weak to publish. Amis suggested that the plot only made sense if Scaramanga was attracted to Bond and, after employing him as an assistant, intended to seduce him; he also believed that  Fleming must have removed these passages from the manuscript.

Although the book was published without modification, I wonder how much of that influenced the now infamous scene in Skyfall in which Silva propositions Bond.

And there is another scene in the book that seems to have influenced Skyfall, despite the circumstance and outcome being very different. Scaramanga is holding a party for the “investors” in his hotel, but when the entertainment provided by a local Jamaican band begins to flag he tells Bond to provide some excitement.

Asking to borrow the golden gun, Bond shoots the false pineapple from the head of the female singer. In Skyfall the target becomes a glass of The Macallan 1962; but after Bond misses the glass completely, Silva shoots her dead.


Finally, it is probably no more than coincidence, but while staying at Shrublands in Thunderball James Bond reflects that the damage to his back attributed to a “bad fall” by his doctor was probably when he jumped from a train; he falls from a train at the start of Skyfall.

However, in the book Count Lippe has connections with Macau and (as in the film) has a tattoo on his wrist linking him to a Chinese gang; Severine is similarly marked, although her tattoo marks her as a prostitute.

Is that list conclusive?

Probably not, I’m certain there are things I have missed. If you have anything you’d like to add or comment on, or if you just plain disagree with me, then please leave a comment below.


David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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4 Responses to “Ian Fleming recycled: literary Bond moments in Skyfall”

  • newdeep-DEEPINDER

    Macau — the moment I saw Bond in Macau in Skyfall, I was reminded instantly of The Man With The Golden Gun

  • M

    It is similar to the film, but I’m talking about how the books influenced Skyfall.

  • MartinPritchard

    I was very impressed by your version of references to different plotlines.
    Can you confirm that the car park scene in jamaica from Casino Royale had more than a nod towards a brief encounter with Goldfinger, with the gold range rover and the rude German who threw Bond his keys to park it.
    I think I saw another reference but need to watch again to remember it.
    Thanks for a great Newsletter , much enjoyed
    M P

  • M

    It certainly seems like a nod to Goldfinger, although Gert Frobe rather than the book.