Movie Talk

007 Declassified: James Bond Was Almost Named James Secretan

Movie Talk

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Bond, James Bond (Everett Collection)

And right now you're thinking "The name's Secretan. James Secretan." It doesn't work quite as well, does it?

007 author Ian Fleming eventually thought the same thing, as pop culture's most famous secret agent officially emerged with the much more secret agent-ish handle of "James Bond." But in an early draft of the first Bond novel, "Casino Royale," everyone's favorite MI6 operative -- and at least one of his well-known cohorts -- were wearing decidedly different name tags.

"Ian's first idea was to give James Bond an assumed name as his cover," revealed Fleming's niece Kate Grimond upon the 1952 early draft of "Casino Royale" recently being made available to the public in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the novel's publication. "Ian must have realized it would cause confusion if he had Bond known as Bond to friends and the security services in London, but as Secretan for his cover name to strangers or people he didn't want to know he was a spy."

This, of course, began the decades-long joke of Bond being a secret agent who's not very good at being secret, as he tends to drop his real name wherever he goes. This questionable yet endearing character quirk is a small price to pay, though, if it means he doesn't have to be called "James Secretan."

As Fleming was known for basing the names of his characters on his own friends, acquaintances and influences, it's speculated that "James Secretan" was named after Charles Secretan, a 19th century Swiss philosopher whose writing was, according to Wikipedia, meant to "build up a rational, philosophical religion to reconcile the ultimate bases of Christianity with the principles of metaphysical philosophy." You know, secret agent kind of stuff.

"I've no proof but I do know Ian was interested in philosophy," said Grimond. Fleming would have studied the work of Secretan while at Eton College and when he went to universities in Germany and Switzerland.

The name "James Bond" has long been acknowledged to derive from the the American ornithologist of the same name, who was an expert on Caribbean birds. And Felix Leiter, Bond's trusted CIA colleague, is a nod to Fleming's own American friend, Marion Leiter.

Miss Moneypenny, M's trusty executive assistant at MI6, went through a less dramatic name change. She was referred to in the early draft of "Casino Royale" as "Miss Pettavel," which Bond affectionately shortened to "Miss Petty." The name and character were based on Kathleen Pettigrew, personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, the then director-general of MI6.

"But Ian again had second thoughts and changed it to Miss Moneypenny," Grimond said. Probably a good idea to not have the name of your fictional MI6 secretary sound so much like the name of a real-life MI6 secretary, after all.

Finally, Bond films may now be able to command $200 million budgets, but back in 1953, you could buy a Bond book for pretty cheap. Too cheap, at least according to the author, as revealed in another letter that was recently released to the public in which Fleming complains to Jonathan Cape, the publisher of "Casino Royale," about the suggested cover price being too low.

"I am not in favour of reducing the price of the book to 10/6d [10 schillings, 6 pennys, per British currency before 1971]," said Fleming in the letter dated October 1952. "Hardly a novel is published today under 12/6d, and I think it would be a mistake for your first thriller to seem to be given away ... Moreover it [the lower price] would whittle down still further my already meagre financial expectations from the book."

Fleming's protesting was for naught, as the price stayed at 10/6d. The 2006 film adaptation of "Casino Royale," which featured Daniel Craig's first performance as Secretan, er, Bond, went on to gross almost $600 million in worldwide box office -- MGM never has "meagre financial expectations" when it comes to their best cinematic agent.

Check out the trailer for 'Casino Royale':

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