LISBON – Fiction’s most famous spy, James Bond, had a connection in Portugal. His creator, Ian Fleming, was apparently inspired during his stay in the Iberian country by the espionage activities he witnessed during World War II, according to what different sources told Efe.
The start of filming of the latest installment in the veteran cinematic franchise on the 50th anniversary of Fleming’s death, has witnessed many 007 fans searching for the writer’s main sources of inspiration.
Fleming, who was an officer in the British Naval Intelligence, arrived in Portugal in May 1941 and stayed at the deluxe Palacio Estoril Hotel, located 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Lisbon, where he found some inspiration for the character of James Bond.
Francisco Correa de Barros, current manager of the five-star Palacio Estoril, confirmed to Efe that the property was chosen as headquarters by the Allied Powers in World War II, while the Park Hotel was selected by the Axis.
Given Portugal’s neutrality during the war and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Estoril was a strategic place for spy networks on both sides of the conflict and a starting point for routes to the Americas.
One of the 10 or so real-life people who influenced Fleming was Dusko Popov, a Serbian double agent who worked for both the British secret service MI6 and the Nazi Abwehr intelligence.
According to Correa de Barros, Fleming was greatly inspired by Popov, who was the main reference the British writer used when developing James Bond’s character.
Popov was a very professional individual, very good-looking and very popular among women, said the head of the hotel. He was often called “Tricycle,” a nickname that was awarded to him because he was often accompanied by three beautiful women.
At the Estoril Casino, the future British author saw Popov bet $40,000 (equivalent to $600,000 nowadays) at a baccarat table, just to dupe an enemy.
This episode was used as the basis for the first James Bond book, “Casino Royale,” published in 1953.
The Estoril Casino appeared again in 1969 in the film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” when the area was chosen as one of the movie’s main shooting locations.
In that film, the sixth in the saga, James Bond – played in this occasion by Australian actor George Lazenby – returned to the Palacio Hotel.
According to Francisco Correa de Barros, Estoril is one of the prime destinations for James Bond fans looking for traces of Ian Fleming’s inspiration.
What we know so far is that Fleming conceived his 007 secret agent from his experiences during the war and from the people he met during his life.
His “license to kill” character (Scottish Sean Connery was probably his most beloved incarnation) was named after an American ornithologist called, precisely, James Bond.
“Goldeneye,” Pierce Brosnan’s first movie as 007, was the code name of “Operation Goldeneye,” set by the Allies to monitor Spain and its relations with Germany after the country’s Civil War (1936-1939).
Later, Fleming named his own house in Oracabessa, Jamaica, “Goldeneye,” where he wrote his first Bond movie, “Casino Royale.”