There is a scene in the book Casino Royale when Bond is about to place a bet that has the potential, if luck favours him, to wipe out Le Chiffre at baccarat, the reason he’s been sent by M to Royale-les-Eaux. Changes are always made when bringing a book to the big screen, and Casino Royale was no exception, but Fleming’s scene is so dramatic that I’m surprised that it didn’t make it into the film.
The main changes to Casino Royale regard the plot being modernised and extended while on the whole remaining true to the core of Fleming’s book. Some of the changes in the casino are obvious, such as the switch to Texas Holden poker from baccarat, but, more subtly, the role of Felix Leiter during the gambling session was different. Fleming’s novel sees the CIA agent introduced to Bond prior to the game and acting as an observer, while in the film he takes part in the poker tournament; and in the book Bond is rescued by Leiter while remaining seated at the table, where he receives an envelope stuffed with cash.
However, let’s go back to the scene I was first talking about. In the book, Bond has already noticed that one of Le Chiffre’s henchmen walks with the cane, but as soon as he places the huge bet he feels something at the base of his spine. The gunman tells Bond in a whisper that the cane is, in fact, a silenced gun, and he will be shot unless he withdraws the bet; Bond must act fast and dramatically to get out of the situation; in place of this scene we get the stairwell fight and the “dirty martini”, two for the price of one.
While we didn’t see the gun stick scene in that film, one had already appeared in The World Is Not Enough when Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) shoots one of the metal restrainers to help free Bond from Electra’s torture chair (with Catalan garrote).
In fact, that whole scene is inspired by Casino Royale; Fleming describes a “throne-like chair in carved oak” in which Le Chiffre sits, which sounds identical to Electra’s torture chair but without the garrote; even Electra’s duplicity is similar to that of Vesper Lynd.
Because of that the filmmakers clearly needed to make some adjustments to the Casino Royale torture scene in order to avoid looking like a rehash of The World Is Not Enough. Instead of a villa, the scene is set in the hulk of a old boat and while the method of torture is similar to the book, the instrument is not; while a carpet beater might well be found in a villa, it would be unlikely to be found on a ship, and so a knotted rope was substituted instead.
It’s not the first time that elements from one book have appeared in a different film though. For example, when James Bond returns to his hotel room in Dr No he checks that the room has not been disturbed, a scene that Fleming wrote for Casino Royale. But more radically, whole scenes have sometimes been displaced from one of Fleming’s stories to an entirely different film.
Live And Let Die suffered this fate more than any other book, probably because the film used little of Fleming’s novel. In the book, Bond visits an quayside aquarium at night and finds gold coins are being smuggled in the bottom of fish tanks, before he is ambushed; the same scene surfaces in Licence To Kill, this time as a drug smuggling operation; also in Licence To Kill, Felix Leiter is also thrown to the sharks and found with a the message “he disagreed with something that ate him”; and 007 and Solitaire are dragged behind Mr Big’s boat over a coral reef, which appeared in For Your Eyes Only (with Melina Havelock in place of Solitaire).
And much more subtly, after Bond is involved in the stairwell fight in Casino Royale he washes off the blood while drinking a glass of what appears to be whisky; it immediately reminded me of how Bond acted after returning to his New York hotel after his first encounter with Mr Big and counting his blessings at remaining alive in the novel Live And Let Die.
But Live And Let Die is not the only one of Ian Fleming’s stories that Licence To Kill borrows from, as Milton Krest and his boat Wavekrest come from The Hildebrand Rarity, a short story that appears in the collection For Your Eyes Only.
And while Skyfall is an original title and, according to Michael G Wilson, not based on a Fleming story, the trailer reveals at least one scene that first occurred in the pages of You Only Live Twice. It will be interesting to see if the Skyfall screenplay recycles any other Ian Fleming material.
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