Settling An Argument

I recently had a quiz question shared with me:
Which was the first James Bond film not to be based on an original story by Ian Fleming?

The answer I gave was different to the one in the quiz claimed. Naturally I’m confident in my Bond knowledge so I’m disputing this. However I’m also prepared admit it comes down to a dispute in the wording of the question.
I’ll hold off giving mine and the quiz answers until I see how other people interpret the question, I don’t want to cloud anyone’s objectivity.

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You Only Live Twice was the first not to follow even the bones of the plot, Licence To Kill was the first to admit it

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Depends on the definition of “based on”.

As long as the films were titled after anything from Fleming they were kind of based on the original stories, meaning… “we used the title, didn’t we?”

But if one looks at the actual narratives, yeah - YOLT was a first really huge departure from its source. Then again, in an adaptation everything is subject to change. OHMSS sticked more closely to the novel again, but DAF… more like mentioning things or characters in passing.

Since YOLT at least was set in Japan and had some characters (in names) from the novel, I would probably say TSWLM went even further and was the first completely new story.


Basically, this gets complicated fast


A most interesting question that gives plenty food for thought. When exactly do we leave the base of Fleming behind? Is perhaps the change of tone in GOLDFINGER* already a crucial step? Must events be intact, can characters change? Or the opposite? And what if both are in evidence yet the result is entirely different from what Fleming wrote?


Characters: Bond, Tanaka, Kissy Suzuki, Blofeld all there in book and film.

Events and elements: Bond in Japan, helping out the head of Japan’s secret service, some travel, some yellow facing, a ninja school, an ama village giving Bond cover, a villain’s base infiltrated and a surprise meeting with Blofeld. All that is also in the film. And yet, in spite of characters and elements shared with the book YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is a totally different result in spirit from everything Fleming wrote.

The series gives plenty of examples where it put Fleming through the mincer to get elements handily enough to spread over a film script, with varying degrees of ‘source’ content. And often enough they claimed to want to get back to the spirit of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and the various train fights seem to support that aspiration.

Another tough case might be THUNDERBALL. It’s definitely a Fleming title, follows the book probably closer than FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE does its source. But is it an original Fleming story? Not according to the judges of the case McClory brought.

*From the book’s moody middle aged philosophy excursion about life and death, various shortcomings of other nations and finally an entirely out-of-the-blue change of heart of a minor protagonist to a fun adventure spectacle with specks of sci-fi atmosphere.


Not trying to be a smart a&^e here, but I would offer the 1967 Casino Royale, which, if my Wikipedia visit is correct, came out a couple of months before YOLT.

No, not EON, but it is a Fleming title, with a plot unrecognizable to the source material. My rapid internet deep-dive also leads me to believe that it leaves Fleming’s name off the posters - an admission of “guilt” if there ever was one…


Does TSWLM contain any plot /story elements from the Fleming novel?

MOONRAKER could also be a possibility. Nothing of the novel’s story (understood as narrative) made it into the movie–only the character of Drax and the fact that he plays bridge.

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TSWLM is the first one to be a completely original story with NO connection to the novel other than the title. Fleming himself requested that apparently…when he sold the rights to the books to EON, he made them agree that they wouldn’t adapt the novel but only use the title. So that’s as close to an official ‘answer’.

But I’d say YOLT was the first ‘loose adaptation’ of a Fleming novel - to the point where it was virtually a new story which heavily borrowed elements from the book. The same holds true for DAF, LALD and TMWTGG. Come to think of it, these films were a precursor to the comic-book films today which loosely ‘adapt’ elements from the source material and repurpose them to tell their own stories.

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Jaws was based (loosely) on Sol from the book.


A while back we’ve had an interesting conversation about MOONRAKER. On the surface it’s that silly circus performance with all kinds of tricks, laughs and spectacle, quite the Marvel food of its time. But the story is about a man aiming to gas an entire planet’s human population, replacing them with his own race of perfect DNA specimens. It’s Hitler all over on a global scale, down to the lebensraum and the master race*. The film’s biggest trick is that we as audience hardly notice the consequences of that plan amid the gloss and action.

Drax in the film is definitely not identical with the book’s counterpart - but it seems perfectly plausible that the literary version would enthusiastically sign up to the grander scheme, if only for the chance to strut down Pall Mall and enjoy the sight of piles of suffocated Englishmen.

*Which actually is the pivotal point that helps Bond turning the tables. He and Goodhead would no doubt pass the physical requirements of Drax’ human ark - but they need the help of the misfits to spoil the plan.


My guess would be The Spy Who Loved Me. You Only Live Twice contains characters and some basic ideas from the book. Licence to Kill contained some central concepts from Live And Let Die (“He disagreed with something that ate him”). I’d say that the first non-Fleming film (apart from the title of his Jamaican house) would be Goldeneye.

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I agree it’s an impossible question. “Based on” could imply “used a Fleming title” or “used plot elements or scenes from a Fleming story,” and the two could prove to be be almost mutually exclusive at times.

Another possibility is that the test maker has an entirely superficial familiarity with the films and only knows what’s on the posters. TSWLM is, I believe, the first film to break with tradition and say Roger Moore is “Ian Fleming’s James Bond,” placing the ownership on the character and not the title. Three years earlier, they were still saying “Ian Fleming’s Man With The Golden Gun” ( though it is arguably nothing of the kind).


A lot of interesting responses here. Indeed it is a question open to interpretation. My answer was The Spy Who Loved Me as the book’s plot was completely dropped in favour or a completely original story. Even some of the looser adaptations such as Diamonds Are Forever or The Man With the Golden Gun retain some recognizable elements from the novels they were adapting. TSWLM, due to to a stipulation in the sale of the rights, has nothing to do the the story that gives the title (Jaws and Sandor being based on Sol and Slugsy doesn’t count in my opinion).

I’d also argue that A View To A Kill doesn’t take anything from Fleming (not even the entire title) unless you count rehashed ideas from Goldfinger. Licence to Kill uses ideas and characters from Live and Let Die and The Hildebrand Rarity although it cannot be called an adaption of either.

Casino Royale '67 is a really interesting answer but buried beneath all the madcap comedy is Bond’s card game against Le Chifre.

However the quiz gave the answer as GoldenEye.


I guess that works, but I would never have given that answer. A more accurate wording might have been “took nothing from an Ian Fleming story.” But even then GE used the name of Fleming’s hero.

I gave up on Bond quizzes a long time ago. I never found one yet that didn’t have at least one “iffy” answer, or a flat-out error.


My answer would be The Spy Who Loved Me. The film shares nothing with the book except the title and, as far as I know, it doesn’t adapt any Fleming stories. You Only Live Twice was the biggest departure up to that point, but it still shared the setting and characters from the novel. If we’re talking the first story to have zero connection to Fleming (no story bits or even title) then I would go with Goldeneye. But if the name of Fleming’s house counts then it would be Tomorrow Never Dies. I would say this is a question that doesn’t exactly have a straight answer.


My answer would be The Spy Who Loved Me, since the movie takes practically nothing from the novel. I feel like the quiz in question probably said that the answer is Licence To Kill, even though there are story elements from multiple Fleming stories. Another possibility is the quiz said the answer is GoldenEye, which really doesn’t have any Fleming elements aside from the name.

What about The Man with the Golden Gun?
Except for the main characters the story has nothing to do with the one from the book.

It still has the duel at the end between Bond and Scaramanga.

I’d say that Mankiewicz version gets the soul of it, but I am aware that i could be alone in seeing it as purely a tale of Bond Vs Scaramanga