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- Blofeld: "James Bond. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong."
- James Bond: "Yes, this is my second life."
- Blofeld: "You only live twice, Mr. Bond."
- ―Blofeld introduces himself to James Bond.[src]
Ernst Stavro Blofeld is the fictional founder and head of the global criminal organisation SPECTRE. Based on the literary character created by Ian Fleming, Blofeld appears in EON Productions' 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice and was portrayed by British actor Donald Pleasence. Pleasence was the second of seven men to play the iconic role of Blofeld on screen; notably the first in the series to fully reveal the appearance of Blofeld, who had previously been a partially unseen character.
Beginning in 1962, the EON series of Bond films placed a far greater emphasis on the SPECTRE organisation, which effectively replaced SMERSH as the primary antagonists of the early movies. As a result of this move, SPECTRE's leader, Blofeld, also plays a more prominent role than he had in the novels.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Apparently at his wits' end with failed plots and deaths of Dr. No, Klebb, and Largo, he decided to operate this one personally. He set up his base in the crater of an extinct volcano on an island in Japan. Blofeld attempts to ignite a war between the United States and the Soviet Union by hijacking their respective space capsules, to spark conflict. He does so using a large facility located inside a dormant volcano on an island in the Sea of Japan. With Chinese financers he plotted to have the super powers destroy each other so that SPECTRE may rule supreme over what survives.
James Bond managed to infiltrate the volcano lair and tried to get on board the rocket, but a minute error caught Blofeld's attention, and he ordered Bond to be brought to him, instead sending a spare pilot into space. At this point, Blofeld reveals his face, name and plans to Bond, whom he intends to kill after he captures one more space capsule. However, Blofeld orders his henchman Hans to detonate the spaceship, to leave the US and the Soviets no chance but to go to war. When Bond asked Blofeld whether he could smoke a last cigarette Blofeld granted the agent the wish, stating that Bond would surely not die from smoking. However, the cigarette hid a small explosive missile, which Bond aimed at one of his captors. He wrestled free from the other men holding him and managed to open the gate of the volcano base. Though Bond was immediately recaptured, the opening of the gate allowed the head of the Japanese secret service, Tiger Tanaka, and a special unit of ninjas, to infiltrate the base and to attack SPECTRE. Initially believing to be safe from the attackers, Blofeld soon realises that he needs to escape. He leaves the control room of the base with Osato and Bond, holding the latter at gunpoint. Blofeld opens a secret door, but shoots Osato, claiming that this would be how SPECTRE rewards failure. Taking Bond with him, Blofeld arrives at the railway station he plans to escape with. There, he intends to shoot Bond but Tanaka throws a throwing star from below, causing Blofeld to drop his gun. However, he quickly steps back into the railway cart which drives off, separating Bond from Blofeld.
Arriving at an isolated part of the base, Blofeld activates the base's self destruction before fleeing. Although Blofeld escaped, Bond managed to destroy the rocket remotely before it could capture more astronauts.
Behind the scenes
Czech actor Jan Werich was originally cast by producer Harry Saltzman to play Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. Upon his arrival at the Pinewood set, both producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert felt that he was a poor choice, resembling a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the casting work, Gilbert continued filming. After several days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich was not menacing enough, and recast Blofeld with Donald Pleasence in the role – the official excuse being that Werich was ill. Pleasence's ideas for Blofeld's appearance included a hump, a limp, a beard, and a lame hand, before he settled on the scar. He found it uncomfortable, though, because of the glue that attached it to his eye.
During development of the 2004 first-person shooter video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, developed by EA LA and published by Electronic Arts, official footage of character renders released by the publisher featured the terrorist leader 'Number One' holding his Persian Cat, with the likeness of Donald Pleasence. Likely due to legalities, in the final product the character's face is obscured, shot from behind and from the neck downwards. Number 1 was voiced by actor Gideon Emery using a similar intonation to Pleasence's portrayal of the character.