12 Things You Didn't Know About James Bond

50 years of james bondSean Connery’s seven-film run as Bond ended ugly in a feud with the original 007 producers.

Photo: Courtesy of LIFE

“Skyfall” just saw the highest opening weekend of any James Bond film earning a huge $87.8 million at the U.S. box office. However, how much do you know about the secret agent of MI6?

Sure, you may know this isn’t REALLY the 23rd film in the franchise, and that Bond’s been around for more than 50 years–59 to be exact, but we bet you didn’t know Bond was almost a woman on screen.

We read through LIFE’s “50 Years of James Bond” to uncover some of the spy’s dirty laundry.

The 176-page book details many great tidbits from 007’s cars to gadgets, and shares behind-the-scenes photos of creator Ian Fleming and the many Bond men and women.

Here are a few items you may not know about 007.

There are 25 James Bond movies in all.

There were two non-Eon production films--the 1967 parody film 'Casino Royale' and Sean Connery's 'Never Say Never Again' in 1983.

(50 Years of James Bond)

Before his theatrical debut, 007 made his entrance in a television episode of Climax Mystery theatre on October 21, 1954.

CBS paid Fleming $1,000 to show the hour-long adaptation of his novel Casino Royale.

(50 Years of James Bond)

James Bond was nearly Jane Bond.

Producer-director Gregory Ratoff and screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. found the male James Bond to be unbelievable for the film adaptation of Fleming's 'Casino Royale.'

Ratoff nearly wanted Susan Hayward to play the role of Jane Bond.

(50 Years of James Bond)

Fleming wrote most of his Bond books in his Goldeneye estate in Oracasbessa, Jamaica.

The author has said he named his home after novel Reflections in a Golden Eye and 'Operation Golden Eye' which Fleming was in charge of running in Spain.

Nearby is James Bond Beach where Ursula Andress filmed her iconic 'Dr. No' scenes. Today, it holds annual concerts.

(50 Years of James Bond)

Bond was formed in creator Ian Fleming's own image.

007 and Fleming shared a lot in common right down to his hairstyle and eye colour.

Both were heavy smokers, loved to drink, and were womanizers.

Fleming and Bond also attended Eton, a British boarding school, and were lieutenant commanders in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Fleming even owned up to the personal inspiration behind his fictional spy saying, 'Bond was a compound of all the secret agents and commandos I met during the war.'

(50 Years of James Bond)

Fleming reportedly started writing the book January 15, 1952 and finished it March 18 of the same year.

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Fleming wanted Bond's name to be boring.

George Lazenby–the youngest man to play Bond–passed up on a reported $28 million to reprise his role as 007.

Lazenby starred as Bond once in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service.' Right before the film's premiere he announced he wouldn't return for another film no matter the paycheck.

According to LIFE, Lazenby thought the franchise was done with the impending onslaught of '70s hippie culture.

(50 Years of James Bond)

It took an hour and a half with makeup artist Paul Rabiger to transform actress Shirley Eaton into Bond's painted Golden girl.

A rumour spread the actress was killed on set during filming when the actress really retired soon after the film to raise her family.

(50 Years of James Bond)

The film was one of two unofficial Bond movies not released by United Artists.

As a little background, Connery signed on to do this film after a long-standing feud between he and Bond producers Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in which the actor claimed he wasn't paid his dues for his job.

Instead, he reunited with 'Thunderball' director Terence Young to bring 'Never Say Never Again' to the big screen in 1983 opposite Broccoli and Saltzman's 'Octopussy' starring Roger Moore.

Though 'Never Say Never Again' had a stronger opening than its competition ($10.8 million vs. $8.9 million), the UA film featuring Moore came out the overall winner with a $67.8 million gross at the time. 'Never Say Never Again earned $55.4 million.

(50 Years of James Bond)

Gayson has said she was originally supposed to play the role of Trench in the first six Bond films under director Terence Young.

Her character was dropped when Young didn't return to direct 'Goldfinger' after 'From Russia with Love.' Young did return for the next film 'Thunderball.'

(50 Years of James Bond)

The role eventually went to Eva Green.

(50 Years of James Bond)

BONUS: It was just revealed Skyfall's Bond, Daniel Craig, is related to the American ornithologist who inspired the character's name.

Ancestry.com family historian Michelle Ercanbrack told Yahoo! omg! they noticed similarities between Craig and Bond's trees.

'We discovered a fascinating connection between him and the actual bird-watching James Bond through English royalty,' said Ercanbrack.

Now see who fills in as Craig's stunt double ...

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