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James Bond Villains Reimagined


When you picture Auric Goldfinger, you probably envision Gert Frobe. However, Ian Fleming had a different idea of what Bond’s nemesis looked like. In the novel, James Bond uses a device called an “Identicast” to assemble an image of the villain from memory. As you can imagine, that image didn’t look like Frobe. 

So, what did Fleming’s Goldfinger look like? And, what other cinematic misconceptions are we holding onto? That’s what Will Scott answers in his new 007 fan art project. Using Photoshop, Will recreate the Identicast process that Bond used back in 1959. Here’s how he describes it:

“I’m a graphic designer in London and a real Bond fan – of both the novels and the movies. During lockdown, with some time on my hands, I set myself the task of redesigning the Bond covers using images of each villain based on Fleming’s (surprisingly detailed) original descriptions.”

Ian Fleming’s Identicast

Writing Goldfinger in January 1958 Ian Fleming was, as usual, remarkably prescient in his description of this gadget since the real-life “Identi-kit” wasn’t invented by the Los Angeles Identification Bureau until the following year. (It was developed into the Photofit system in the UK in 1970 using actual photographs, rather than drawings, of facial features.)

Without access to an original Police kit I used Photoshop to recreate the process that Bond employed in the Records office of the Secret Service HQ.

“The Identicast is a machine for building up an approximate picture of a suspect – or of someone who has perhaps only been glimpsed in a street or a train or in a passing car. It works on the magic lantern principle. The operator flashes on the screen various head-shapes and sizes.

When one is recognised it stays on the screen. Then various haircuts are shown, and then all the other features follow and are chosen one by one – different shapes of eyes, noses, chins, mouths, eyebrows, cheeks, ears.

In the end there is the whole picture of a face, as near as the scanner can remember it, and it is photographed and put on record. It took some time to put together Goldfinger’s extraordinary face, but the final result was an approximate likeness in monochrome.”

~ Ian Fleming, Goldfinger

I didn’t attempt the short stories and decided against The Spy Who Loved Me and Diamonds are Forever because of the lack of a leading bad guy. Meanwhile, Blofeld presented some interesting challenges because, of course, he alters his appearance from one story to the next.

Below are Fleming’s descriptions of Bond’s antagonists, straight from the novels. You decide how successful I’ve been in portraying them on the covers!

~ Will Scott

Casino Royale

“Age: About 45. Description: Height 5 ft 8 ins. Weight 18 stones. Complexion very pale. Clean-shaven. Hair red-brown, ‘en brosse’. Eyes very dark brown with whites showing all round iris. Small, rather feminine mouth. False teeth of expensive quality. Ears small, with large lobes, indicating some Jewish blood. Hands small, well-tended, hirsute. Feet small. Racially, subject is probably a mixture of Mediterranean with Prussian or Polish strains… the wide expanse of white face surmounted by the short abrupt cliff of reddish-brown hair, the unsmiling wet red mouth and the impressive width of the shoulders… he might have been… the thick bust of a black-fleeced Minotaur.”


 

Live and Let Die

“It was a great football of a head, twice the normal size and very nearly round. The skin was grey-black, taut and shining like the face of a week-old corpse in the river. It was hairless, except for some grey-brown fluff above the ears.

There were no eyebrows and no eyelashes and the eyes were extraordinarily far apart so that one could not focus on them both, but only on one at a time. Their gaze was very steady and penetrating. When they rested on something, they seemed to devour it, to encompass the whole of it. They bulged slightly and the irises were golden round black pupils which were now wide. They were animal eyes, not human, and they seemed to blaze.

The nose was wide… The lips were only slightly everted, but thick and dark. They opened only when the man spoke and then they opened wide and drew back from the teeth and the pale pink gums.
There were few wrinkles or creases on the face, but there were two deep clefts above the nose, the clefts of concentration. Above them the forehead bulged slightly before merging with the polished, hairless crown.

Curiously, there was nothing disproportionate about the monstrous head. It was carried on a wide, short neck supported by the shoulders of a giant. Bond knew from the records that he was six and a half foot tall and weighed twenty stone, and that little of it was fat. But the total impression was awe-inspiring, even terrifying.”

 

Moonraker

“Drax gave the impression of being a little larger than life. He was physically big-about six foot tall, Bond guessed-and his shoulders were exceptionally broad. He had a big square head and the tight reddish hair was parted in the middle.

On either side of the parting the hair dipped down in a curve towards the temples with the object, Bond assumed, of hiding as much as possible of the tissue of shining puckered skin that covered most of the right half of his face.

Other relics of plastic surgery could be detected in the man’s right ear, which was not a perfect match with its companion on the left, and the right eye, which had been a surgical failure. It was considerably larger than the left eye, because of a contraction of the borrowed skin used to rebuild the upper and lower eyelids, and it looked painfully bloodshot. Bond doubted if it was capable of closing completely and he guessed that Drax covered it with a patch at night.

To conceal as much as possible of the unsightly taut skin that covered half his face, Drax had grown a bushy reddish moustache and had allowed his whiskers to grow down to the level of the lobes of his ears. He also had patches of hair ’on his cheek-bones.

The heavy moustache served another purpose. It helped to hide a naturally prognathous upper jaw and a marked protrusion of the upper row of teeth. Bond reflected that this was probably due to sucking his thumb as a child, and it had resulted in an ugly splaying, or diastema, of what Bond had heard his dentist call ’the centrals’. The moustache helped to hide these ’ogre’s teeth’ and it was only when Drax uttered, as he frequently did, his short braying laugh that the splay could be seen.

The general effect of the face-the riot of red-brown hair, the powerful nose and jaw, the florid skin-was flamboyant. It put Bond in mind of a ring-master at a circus. The contrasting sharpness and coldness of the left eye supported the likeness.”

 

From Russia With Love

“Rosa Klebb would be in her late forties… The thinning orange hair scraped back to the tight, obscene bun; the shiny yellow-brown eyes… through the sharp-edged squares of glass, the wedge of thickly powdered, large-pored nose; the wet trap of a mouth, that went on opening and shutting as if it was operated by wires under the chin…. pale, thick chicken’s skin that scragged in little folds under the eyes and at the corners of the mouth and below the jaws… big peasant’s ears… the impression… of coldness and cruelty and strength.”

 

Dr No

“Doctor No was at least six inches taller than Bond, but the straight immovable poise of his body made him seem still taller. The head also was elongated and tapered from a round, completely bald skull down to a sharp chin so that the impression was of a reversed raindrop or rather oil drop, for the skin was of a deep almost translucent yellow.

It was impossible to tell Doctor No’s age: as far as Bond could see, there were no lines on the face. It was odd to see a forehead as smooth as the top of the polished skull. Even the cavernous indrawn cheeks below the prominent cheekbones looked as smooth as fine ivory.

There was something Dali-esque about the eyebrows, which were fine and black, and sharply upswept as if they had been painted on as makeup for a conjurer. Below them, slanting jet black eyes stared out of the skull. They were without eyelashes.

They looked like the mouths of two small revolvers, direct and unblinking and totally devoid of expression. The thin fine nose ended very close above a wide compressed wound of a mouth which, despite its almost permanent sketch of a smile, showed only cruelty and authority.”

 

Goldfinger

“The face, under the cliff of crew-cut carroty hair, was as startling, without being as ugly, as the body. It was moon-shaped without being moonlike. The forehead was fine and high and the thin sandy brows were level above the large light blue eyes fringed with pale lashes.

The nose was fleshily aquiline between high cheek-bones and cheeks that were more muscular than fat. The mouth was thin and dead straight, but beautifully drawn. The chin and jaws were firm and glinted with health. To sum up, thought Bond, it was the face of a thinker, perhaps a scientist, who was ruthless, sensual, stoical and tough. An odd combination.”

 

Thunderball

“Blofeld’s own eyes were deep black pools surrounded—totally surrounded, as Mussolini’s were—by very clear whites. The doll-like effect of this unusual symmetry was enhanced by long silken black eyelashes that should have belonged to a woman.

The gaze of these soft doll’s eyes was totally relaxed and rarely held any expression stronger than a mild curiosity in the object of their focus… The skin beneath the eyes that now slowly, mildly, surveyed his colleagues was unpouched.

There was no sign of debauchery, illness, or old age on the large, white, bland face under the square, wiry black crew-cut. The jaw line, going to the appropriate middle-aged fat of authority, showed decision and independence.

Only the mouth, under a heavy, squat nose, marred what might have been the face of a philosopher or a scientist. Proud and thin, like a badly healed wound, the compressed, dark lips, capable only of false, ugly smiles, suggested contempt, tyranny, and cruelty—but to an almost Shakespearian degree.”

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

“The Count had longish, carefully-tended, almost dandified hair that was a fine silvery white. His ears, that should have been close to his head, stuck out slightly and, where they should have had heavy lobes, had none.

The body… was not more than twelve stone, and there were no signs of the sagging flesh that comes from middle-aged weight-reduction. The mouth was full and friendly, with a pleasant, up-turned, but perhaps rather unwavering smile. The forehead was serrated with wrinkles above a nose that… was aquiline and, round the right nostril, eaten away, poor chap, by what looked like the badge of tertiary syphilis.

The eyes? Well, there might be something there if one could see them, but they were only rather frightening dark-green pools. The Count wore, presumably against the truly dangerous sun at these altitudes, dark-green tinted contact lenses.”

 

You Only Live Twice

“The bland, high forehead, the pursed purple wound of a mouth, now shadowed by a heavy grey-black moustache that drooped at the corners, on its way, perhaps, to achieving mandarin proportions, the mane of white hair… the black bullet-holes of the eyes.”

 

The Man with the Golden Gun

“Age about 35. Height 6 ft. 3 in. Slim and fit. Eyes, light brown. Hair reddish in a crew cut. Long sideburns. Gaunt, sombre face with thin pencil moustache, brownish. Ears very flat to the head… The description in Records was exact, but it had not caught the catlike menace of the big man… the cold immobility of the eyes that now examined Bond with an expression of aloof disinterest.”

… about the artist …

I’m a graphic designer and art director working on magazines, book covers and brand identities and was formerly creative director at a London publishing agency. More importantly I’m an irredeemable Bond fan – of both the books and the films. (Favourite film: Goldfinger. — Favourite book: Diamonds are Forever.)

The renowned journalist and broadcaster Alistair Cooke once said “I prefer radio to TV because the pictures are better.” And similarly, it could be said that the images created in novels are more vivid, or perhaps more personal, than those in movies.

I’ve always loved the James Bond books and pictured the characters in my mind but inevitably these visualisations get overwritten by multiple viewings of the films. I thought it would be interesting to go back to the text and objectively assemble images of the Bond villains, like an eyewitness, using (virtual) police facial composites.

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Random Memory – I once had the privilege of meeting legendary Bond Art Director Sir Ken Adam at his home in central London. He was amazing, as was his vintage white Rolls Royce parked outside.

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