What has been somewhat overlooked in all of this is the fact the Bond films may never have happened without the dogged persistence of Canadian producer Harry Saltzman. Born in Sherbrooke, Québec, Saltzman ended up in England in the 1950s where he was a theatre producer. He began in films in 1956 with The Iron Petticoat, which was based on the play of the same name. His company, Woodfall Film Productions, and partners Tony Richardson and John Osborne, were responsible for a small string of impressive films but it was the serendipitous timing of Saltzman reading a James Bond novel, and approaching the author about acquiring the rights to the character, that led to the longest film franchise in history. It also led to the formation of Eon Productions and a long partnership with Albert "Cubby" Broccoli. Saltzman sold his shares to United Artists in 1975.
The book that inspired Saltzman was Goldfinger, but the first Bond film was Dr. No. In addition to introducing Sean Connery as the suave, licensed-to-kill spy numbered 007, the film also introduced Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, a role she would play in every bond film for the next 23 years. Her last Bond film was A View to Kill in 1985.
Then there's the Canadian-born villain. The very first, Dr. No, was played by Canadian stage and film actor Joseph Wiseman. An indication of expectations surrounding the first Bond film can be found in something Wiseman once said: "I thought it might be just another grade-B Charlie Chan mystery." Of course it was something much different. It was the film that launched a mini-industry and created a character larger than Ian Fleming could have ever dreamed. A character so strong that he has survived portrayals by six different actors; Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig.
Another Canadian who showed up in a Bond film, 1964's Goldfinger, was the man who played Bond's CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter. Leiter was played by Cec Linder. Linder was originally cast to play the role of Mr. Simmons, the card player Goldfinger is cheating, while fellow Canadian, Austin Willis was to play Leiter, but the roles were switched as production began.
It has long been thought that Bond was based at least in part on the Canadian spymaster, William Stephenson who was known by his code name, Intrepid. At one point in his career Stephenson was the head of British Security Coordination, an MI6 organization based in New York. In an article Ian Fleming wrote in The Sunday Times on October 21, 1962, shortly after the first Bond film was released, he confirmed that Bond was "a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing... William Stephenson."
Toronto Bond fans can enjoy Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style, an extensive exhibit of
Bond stuff making its North American debut at the TIFF Bell Lighbox following its premiere in England this past summer. It is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Bond, featuring costumes, props, models, gadgets, concept artwork, storyboards and other fascinating artifacts from the series. Signature Bond items featured in the exhibition include the steel teeth worn by Richard “Jaws” Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); the Anthony Sinclair overcoat worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962); the poker table from Casino Royale (2006); and multiple gadgets from Q Branch. There is more information about times and ticket available online.