James Bond: How A 53-Year-Old Movie Franchise And $9 Billion Almost Got Away

James Bond, believe it or not, almost didn’t make it to the big screen. And if the people behind it weren’t gritty enough, that would have been over $9 billion down the drain. Who are the incredible, pioneering people that gave birth to a movie franchise that, to-date, has spawned 25 blockbuster movies and changed Hollywood forever?

Their story will leave you not only in awe, but inspired by their genius. It’s a lesson for us all about not taking no for an answer. And true enough, it begins with Dr. No, as you will see later.

Most people only remember James Bond from the faces of the movie actors: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. But there’s more than meets the eye.

The story begins with Ian Fleming, says Vanity Fair. But before starting with the story, it’s better to dig into the meat of the James Bond business first. Where did all the over $9 billion in James Bond revenue come from? Quite frankly, it came from the pockets of all of us as we supported the burgeoning James Bond franchise through the years, beginning in 1962.

By marching to the movie theaters, popcorn or no popcorn, the 007 armies put money in the pockets of the James Bond movie producers — to reward them for their perseverance against all odds and all their forward thinking. Remember, if not for them, there won’t be any James Bond movie today. All $9 billion would have slipped through their hands if they haven’t kept the faith.

The North American movie-going public has shelled out over $2 billion just to watch James Bond, according to The Numbers. But outside of the continent, overseas markets would shell out so much more in the name of the 007 hero who has been flying with neither a cape or a special power — just sex appeal, lovely ladies rightfully called Bond Girls, clever thinking, good fashion sense, and lots of ingenuity.

Oh, and we almost forgot about the cars and the gadgets that kept changing over the years. As for the Aston Martin DBS V12, though, it would rear its ugly head every now and then. Ugly or beautiful, it depends on your point of view. Some cultures detest the car, but that hasn’t deterred them from watching a James Bond movie.

james bond how a 53 year old franchise and 9 billion dollars almost got away
In fact, the overseas fans of the world have shelled out — drum roll, please — over $7 billion just for watching James Bond movies. Oh yes, and we haven’t even factored in all the Betamax, VHS, DVD and Blu Ray sales yet. And Daniel Craig would have said, “not shabby at all.”

After all, James Bond has always been a master of the British practice of understatement. It goes this way. You don’t tell, say or show too much or else you risk losing appeal or impact. Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in Goldeneye: “She did enjoy a good squeeze.”

Asked what he enjoyed about portraying James Bond, according to Daily Mail, Sir Roger Moore would say to an audience of Cambridge University students, “It’s getting paid on Fridays.”

Here’s a running tally of the total James Bond output from 1962 to the present, numbered from the best to the worst:

  1. Casino Royale
  2. Goldfinger
  3. Skyfall
  4. The Spy Who Loved Me
  5. Thunderball
  6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  7. Dr. No
  8. For Your Eyes Only
  9. You Only Live Twice
  10. Goldeneye
  11. From Russia With Love
  12. The Living Daylights
  13. Octopussy
  14. Live And Let Die
  15. License To Kill
  16. Quantum Of Solace
  17. Spectre
  18. The World Is Not Enough
  19. Tomorrow Never Dies
  20. The Man With The Golden Gun
  21. Never Say Never Again
  22. Moonraker
  23. Diamonds Are Forever
  24. A View To A Kill
  25. Die Another Day

Impressive, but starting with the first one, Dr. No was really the hardest. The James Bond series is loosely based on Ian Fleming’s 12 novels and two short stories, which the author tried to merchandise by himself with no degree of success, according to Vanity Fair.

“Twice in the late 50s, Fleming worked with American networks to develop a TV series, first with NBC on a Bond-inspired spy show provisionally titled Commander Jamaica, and then with CBS on what would have been an explicitly Bond-based weekly drama. Neither show made it to the pilot phase.”

“In my opinion, these books are not even good enough for television,” Irving Allen, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s business associate would tell Fleming. In March, 1961, Cubby would part ways with Allen and find himself a new business partner, a Canadian by the name of Harry Saltzman. Broccoli and Saltzman had secured the rights to Fleming’s books but they had one big problem: still no James Bond actor.

But Albert Broccoli had a hunch and he wanted his wife to validate it — a tall, handsome Scottish man who was an unknown at that time. And so together with his wife, Dana, Cubby would watch Sean Connery’s footage at the Samuel Goldwyn studio. Dana’s response was instantaneous: “That’s our Bond!”

And so on October 5, 1962, at the London Pavilion theater, the first Bond film, Dr. No premiered.

Fast-forward to present time. The torch has been passed on to Barbara Broccoli, who faces the same challenge: who to choose as the next James Bond after Daniel Craig announced his resignation. Barbara is the daughter of Cubby and Dana.

“It’s not a democracy… Barbara Broccoli decides who is going to be the next Bond, end of story,” confided James Bond director Sam Mendes to Rolling Stone. Barbara took a chance with Craig in 2005, trusting her female intuition just like her mom did in 1961, and the James Bond actor brought the acclaimed producer untold fortunes, according to Daily Mail.

Isn’t it just mind-boggling how the highly successful, 53-year-old James Bond movie franchise has always relied on female intuition to rake in $9 billion worth of ticket sales?

[Photo by Francois Mori/AP Images]