As somebody who’s been a gigantic James Bond fanboy for most of my like, as much as I enjoyed Daniel Craig’s Bourne-again version of 007 first introduced in Casino Royale, there were definitely elements from the classic movies that I really missed in this new, more realistic approach to the character. No, not double-taking pigeons or pretending that Sean Connery is Japanese. Definitely none of those. What I missed were some of the Bond staples, and right at the top of that list were all the flamboyant and memorable villains. Luckily, things took a giant, moustache twirling leap back to that status quo with Javier Bardem’s Silva in the fantastic Skyfall.
And according to a report from the UK’s Daily Mail (who have been very reliable when it comes to Bond scoops), Silva is about to have some stiff villainous competition from the biggest, baddest, baldest Bond villain of all time: Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The UK tabloid is reporting that Christoph Waltz, who was recently rumoured to be playing the still untitled Bond 24’s main antagonist will in fact be playing a new version of the Angora cat-stroking criminal mastermind who headed up terrorist group SPECTRE in the original films. And according to the Daily Mail, he’s going to be introduced with the type of subterfuge that would make Blofeld himself proud [WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS]:
Eon Productions…will announce the star is playing an unknown character called Franz Oberhauser, son of the late Hans Oberhauser, a ski instructor who acted as a father figure to Bond…But senior sources believe the casting is a double bluff worthy of 007 himself and that Waltz is actually playing Blofeld. One Hollywood source, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Christoph Waltz is playing Blofeld in the next Bond film. The tone of the 007 films has changed significantly in recent years and the producers have changed the character to fit in with the new-look 007.’
Blofeld has been officially played onscreen by three different actors thus far (not including the times when he was nothing more than just an on-screen torso or voice), with Donald Pleasance first tackling the role in You Only Live Twice, then Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and then finally Charles Gray had his turn in Diamonds Are Forever. Gray stood out from the other two in that his version of the character wasn’t sporting a chrome dome, and was a much smoother, more charming version. He still boasted the same penchant for felines, mandarin collared suits and swiveling around in chairs dramatically though.
Funny thing is, although Blofeld did indeed feature as the head of SPECTRE in Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels, he never once looked like the version we’ve come to know so well, and which has gone on to be parodied in everything from Austin Powers to Inspector Gadget. So if Waltz is indeed taking the role, expect something completely different as the Daily Mail alluded, and since Fleming himself could barely make up his mind on what the character looked and behaved like – he appeared completely different in just about all of his appearances – the producers are pretty much free to do their own thing now.
Seeing just how good Waltz is at playing baddies, I am really excited at the prospect of him going toe to toe with Daniel Craig’s Bond. Admittedly, I’m of course talking more about his villainous turn in Inglourious Basterds than his performance in The Green Hornet. The latter goes to show that even the best actors can ham it up when paired with the wrong director and screenwriter. Luckily, Bond 24 will see the Skyfall duo of Sam Mendes and John Logan returning to helm and pen respectively, so I’m expecting big things.
Especially since with Skyfall, a lot of pieces fell into place to take Bond out of the rebooted origin story phase and back into much more familiar territory. We’ve finally got Moneypenny, Q and his gadgets and Ralph Fiennes’ more classic M, so the timing couldn’t be better to bring back Blofeld, who had been off limits for years thanks to a lengthy character rights ownership court battle that EON productions finally won last year.[And now for a bit of a James Bond history lesson that you have no obligation to read. Please feel free to skip this if the origins of said legal dispute doesn’t interest you at all]
You may have noticed that I previously stated that only three actors played the character, but that’s not 100% correct. And that’s because Max Von Sydow also took a crack at him in the unofficial – that’s the keyword here – Bond sequel Never Say Never Again, which was produced by Kevin McClory. McClory was one of the co-writers, along with Ian Fleming himself and Jack Whittingham, on the planned first James Bond film adaptation – titled Warhead – and is credited with creating SPECTRE. Although those plans fell through, Fleming then used the Warhead script as a basis for his 9th James Bond novel Thunderball. McClory and Whittingham sued Fleming for plagiarism as they had come up with most of the elements he had used. The suit was eventually settled out of court, with Fleming allowed to publish the novel, but McClory and Whittingham retaining the rights to certain elements.
When Thunderball was eventually adapted by EON productions as the fourth Bond movie after Fleming had sold them the rights, McClory was brought on as a producer and he and Whittingham were credited for their contributions, but in exchange, he was not allowed to develop his own film making use of the characters/elements for at least 10 years. After that decade was up in 1983, McClory produced Never Say Never Again, his own adaptation of Warhead. The trustees of Ian Fleming’s estate took legal action to try and prevent this, but the courts sided with McClory, reaffirming his rights to make James Bond films with certain characters. McClory would subsequently go on to try and adapt Warhead several times at Sony – with one iteration boasting none other than a young Pierce Brosnan in the lead – although these production almost all fell apart when MGM, the Bond film rights owners at the time, took legal action to squash the films. Eventually Sony bought out 20% of MGM, but EON Productions still had final say on James Bond films, even though McClory – and eventually his estate, after he passed away – still retained some rights; all of which muddied the legal rights issue considerably.
And that’s how things remained until last year, when MGM and EON unexpectedly revealed that a deal had finally been made with McClory’s estate, with the full rights to all the characters and elements that McClory was involved with now reverting full to them. And now you know. Please, feel free to impress your friends with this piece of movie trivia.
Last Updated: November 24, 2014