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I first saw this when I read a Cracked article about insane fan theories that make sense. I first thought of the same thing long before I read that though because it makes sense. James Bond has had 23 movies since 1962 and has been played by 6 different actors (7 if you include David Niven, which everyone should) and yet the story of James Bond is supposed to be of only one man.

It makes so much more sense for James Bond to be a name assumed when an agent becomes 007 it makes them an alias. Especially with the time frame involved and the adventures placed out of order. Is there any reason given for why there is only one James Bond rather than embracing this idea of it being a code name? Also who controls this aspect of the franchise?

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Related: movies.stackexchange.com/q/11384/49. –  Napoleon Wilson Jul 2 at 18:40
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The movies, you see, are based on books. And in books, James Bond does not change faces. ;o) –  Johnny Bones Jul 2 at 18:43
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When Diana Rigg runs away from George Lazenby (portraying Bond) at the beginning of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", he mutters "This never happened to the other fellow." youtube.com/watch?v=n5usOfiqUq0 –  Will Feldman Jul 2 at 19:10
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@WillFeldman Yeah, yet that was just an in-joke without any story relevance. But while we're at the first change of actors, I actually heard that at first the filmmakers wanted to come up with some plastic surgery story to explain Lazenby, but later (fortunately) dropped this idea and just ignored the change. –  Napoleon Wilson Jul 2 at 19:42
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It may be worth noting that in the original Casino Royalle (which, despite being a complete parody/farce, is in some ways closer to the book than most Bond films have been!), "James Bond" does become a code name... shared by all agents. –  keshlam Jul 3 at 2:52

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There's no concrete answers to why it's never acknowledged, but as Johnny Bones points outs, most of the films are based on books:

Film                                        Novel

Dr. No (1962)                              Dr. No (1958, Fleming)
From Russia with Love (1963)          From Russia, with Love (1957, Fleming)
Goldfinger (1964)                         Goldfinger (1959, Fleming)
Thunderball (1965)                         Thunderball (1961, Fleming)
You Only Live Twice (1967)              You Only Live Twice (1964, Fleming)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963, Fleming)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)            Diamonds Are Forever (1956, Fleming)
Live and Let Die (1973)                    Live and Let Die (1954, Fleming)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)   The Man with the Golden Gun (1965, Fleming)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)          The Spy Who Loved Me (1962, Fleming)
Moonraker (1979)                          Moonraker (1955, Fleming)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)               For Your Eyes Only (1960, Fleming)*
Octopussy (1983)                         Octopussy and The Living Daylights (1966, Fleming)*
A View to a Kill (1985)                    For Your Eyes Only (1960, Fleming)*
The Living Daylights (1987)              Octopussy and The Living Daylights (1966, Fleming)*
Licence to Kill (1989)                       N/A
GoldenEye (1995)                          N/A
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)             N/A
The World Is Not Enough (1999)          N/A
Die Another Day (2002)                    N/A
Casino Royale (2006)                     Casino Royale (1953, Fleming)
Quantum of Solace (2008)                 N/A - Name is taken from a short story with no relation to the plot.
Skyfall (2012)                                N/A

* Short stories or taken from a collection of short stories

Adapted from Wikipedia's List of James Bond Novels and List of James Bond Films

Ignoring real-world time constraints, there's very little information given in the novels or the movies indicating the passage of time. The only exception I can think of is Die Another Day, in which James Bond spends 14 months as a prisoner of the North Koreans:

Time shift!

Other than this, there's no reason the rest of the missions couldn't take place one after another, with maybe enough time for wounds to heal (or be rescued from the middle of the sea, as happens a few times).

It's also possible that these 14 months don't matter, Die Another Day is an appropriate end to the series, and the fact that Casino Royale opens with James Bond being given his "007 Status", which indicates it's either a prequel, reboot, or different person. The only thing that goes against the different person hypothesis is the fact that Bond has the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger in Skyfall, and knows how to use the ejector seat.

There are some non-canon sources which offer interesting perspectives, for example the hilarious O.K. Connery starring Neil Connery as Dr. Neil Connery, a cosmetic surgeon, hypnotist, and brother of a famous secret agent, which is obviously supposed to be James Bond, but couldn't be said for copyright reasons. While it's just a silly knock-off movie, the fact that he's called Neil Connery instead of Neil Bond despite being his brother seems to indicate that James Bond is a code name, and he's called James Connery (or Sean Connery perhaps).

Also who controls this aspect of the franchise?

As you can see, the majority of them are wirtten by Ian Fleming, however the films have a lot of writers and producers in common, but those with the biggest claim to "canon" at this point, I believe, are:

  • Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
    • The World Is Not Enough (Story by)
    • Die Another Day (Written by)
    • Casino Royale (2006) (Screenplay by with Paul Haggis)
    • Quantum of Solace (2008) (Written by with Paul Haggis)
    • Skyfall (2012) (Screenplay by with John Logan)
  • Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. Broccoli who produced 17 Bond movies
    • Octopussy (Assistant director)
    • A View to a Kill (Assistant director)
    • The Living Daylights (Associate producer)
    • Licence to Kill (Associate producer)
    • GoldenEye (Producer)
    • Tomorrow Never Dies (Producer)
    • The World Is Not Enough (Producer)
    • Die Another Day (Producer)
    • Casino Royale (Producer)
    • Quantum of Solace (Producer)
    • Skyfall (Producer)

These three are the most experienced and important people I can find who are still working on James Bond and I should imagine they're the closest thing you could find to an authority on James Bond at this point.

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An incredibly well produced/researched answer, fantastic. +1 –  John Smith Optional Jul 3 at 0:11
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While presenting some facts, I fail to see what the exact point is you're trying to make with this answer. Apart from that "The only thing that goes against the different person hypothesis is the fact that Bond has the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger in Skyfall, and knows how to use the ejector seat." - That clearly isn't the one he used in Goldfinger, since in the Craig-verse Goldfinger didn't exist at all, it's just an old prop that someone sometime used and that somehow found it's way into James' possession. –  Napoleon Wilson Jul 3 at 0:28
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@NapoleonWilson I'm not trying to draw a conclusion because short of the ghost of Ian Fleming making an account there isn't one, these are just some facts which may lead you one way or the other. And I don't know that your Goldfinger statement is true, it could have happened off-screen, which I think is more likely than Bond becoming a spy in Casino Royale, doing 1 mission in QoS then thinking about retiring in Skyfall. –  Crow T Robot Jul 3 at 0:39
    
@MrLore Ok, then maybe a little statement that it seems inconclusive would do wonders to provide the answer with at least some kind of bottom line (or maybe I just couldn't filter this out from the rest). –  Napoleon Wilson Jul 3 at 15:40

On the technical side, as Jonny Bones said, because Ian Fleming didn't write a code-name, he wrote a character. A character with his own backstory, personality, mannerisms likes & dislikes. A code-name would explain the changing faces and gadgets, but if you went with that idea, you would then have to explain how all the "James Bonds":

  • Were Commanders in the Royal Navy and experts in underwater combat (I mean, even in the secret service that can't be a common speciality!)
  • Liked Vodka Martinis (shaken, not stirred)
  • Held a grudge against the same super-villian
  • Were sauve womanisers
  • Preferred classic Aston Martins (although Q wasn't always obliging, you know this is what he wanted...)
  • Were probably the best poker players in the building wherever they were

On a personal note, I think for many people it would be a disappointment. You don't fantasize about doing the individual things James Bond does, you fantasize about being him. (In fact, if you think about it, a lot of the things that happen to him aren't very pleasant at all...) You're attached to a character, who is made up of all the little details about him and his life scattered across the books and films. Make all of those the acts of a disparate group of nameless strangers, and that character disappears.

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+1 - Excellent answer and thanks for adding yet another bunch of reasons for not even trying to force any kind of artificial continuity into those movies. Concise, to the point, and clearly putting a stop to all the weird theories. I certainly have to remember this answer for the next 10 "I want the James Bond movies to be connected"-questions. –  Napoleon Wilson Jul 2 at 21:38
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All the James Bonds could be complicit in the fabrication of a shared 'legend', meaning constructed alias. If MI6 forced their agents to conform to certain established behaviors, shared across appointment to the position, it would create interference with any counter-intelligence trying to find out who James Bond is... think about it: all those attributes could simply be something the agent is consciously deploying in the construction of a consistent, shared alias... this proves nothing!! ha ha. –  John Smith Optional Jul 3 at 0:15
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You're assuming non-continuity over rolling diegetics here, and making assumptions on behalf of the producers! tut tut, who are we to say whether the theory has any credibility: keep it alive until proven otherwise, conclusively. I appreciate the deliberate ambiguity... –  John Smith Optional Jul 3 at 0:25
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Currently working on a similar theory to prove the CIA forced 3 different men to call themselves Bruce Wayne and dress in latex in 1989-1997. Having a hard time factoring in the bat-nipples, though. –  Walt Jul 3 at 0:31
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Alan Moore used this theory convincingly in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, and it was watertight. If it's only a 'fan theory', its a pretty well circulated/yet to be disproven one... –  John Smith Optional Jul 3 at 8:48

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