|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed By:|| Jack Lord|
Rik Van Nutter
|First Appearance:|| Casino Royale (Novel) |
Dr. No (Film)
|Last Appearance:|| Quantum of Solace (Film)|
Felix Leiter is a fictional character invented by Ian Fleming in the James Bond books, who also appears in the Bond movies. In the films, Leiter works for the CIA, and assists Bond in his various adventures, although in Licence to Kill, Leiter had transferred to the DEA. In the novels, Leiter initially works for the CIA, then later becomes a private detective after suffering a catastrophic injury.
The name "Felix" comes from the middle name of Fleming's friend Ivor Bryce, while the name "Leiter" was the surname of Fleming's friend Marion Oates Leiter Charles, then wife of Thomas Leiter.
Leiter also appeared in novels by continuation authors, as well as ten films and one television programme, Casino Royale, where the character became a British agent, Clarence Leiter, played by Michael Pate. In the Eon Productions series of films, Leiter has been portrayed by Jack Lord, Cec Linder, Rik Van Nutter, Norman Burton, David Hedison, John Terry and Jeffrey Wright; in the independent production Never Say Never Again, the part was played by Bernie Casey.
Felix Leiter, James Bond's CIA ally and friend, played a part in six of the Fleming novels; he is introduced in Casino Royale as being thin, tall, about thirty-five years old and a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps who was working with the Joint Intelligence Staff of NATO. Fleming named the character after two of his American friends: "Felix" was Ivar Bryce's middle name, whilst Tommy Leiter was a mutual friend. Academic Kerstin Jütting describes Leiter as "a cool and quiet no-nonsense character who knows 007's strengths and weaknesses well". Physically, Fleming describes Leiter in Casino Royale: "a mop of straw-coloured hair lent his face a boyish look which closer examination contradicted".
Leiter is Bond's saviour in Casino Royale, providing him with 32 million francs when Bond has been cleaned out by SMERSH paymaster Le Chiffre, calling it "Marshall Aid". Media historian James Chapman notes that Bond's relationship with Leiter represented the Special Relationship between Britain and America, although the American Leiter is in the subordinate position to the British Bond. Academic Jeremy Black agrees, although points out that the Bond and Leiter relationship suggested "a far smoother working of the Anglo-American alliance than was in fact the case." Academic and writer Kingsley Amis, in his exploration of Bond in The James Bond Dossier, considered that this view of Leiter was partly because of Fleming's writing, noting that "Leiter, such a nonentity as a piece of characterization ... he, the American, takes orders from Bond, the Britisher, and that Bond is constantly doing better than he". Bond scholars Bennett and Woollacott note that although the two men share adventures, it is Bond who leads, not Leiter. Leiter's role is to "suppl[y] Bond with technical support and hardware, add ... muscle where needed and money".
Fleming's second novel, Live and Let Die shows that in his early twenties, Leiter wrote a few pieces on Dixieland jazz for the New York Amsterdam News. Bond scholar John Griswold notes that in the original draft of the story, Fleming killed Leiter off in the shark attack; when Naomi Burton, Fleming's US agent with Curtis Brown protested about the death of the character, Fleming relented and Leiter lived, albeit missing an arm and half a leg. Espionage scholar Rupert Allason, writing as Nigel West, noted that Leiter's involvement in a domestic US matter was a breach of the CIA's charter, as laid out in the National Security Act of 1947.
After the shark attack, Leiter returned in Diamonds Are Forever with a hook for his missing hand and a prosthetic leg; as he had lost his gun hand, he was no longer with the CIA, but employed as a private detective by Pinkertons Detective Agency, although he was on the reserve of the CIA and was recalled for Thunderball and The Man with the Golden Gun. Fleming had flown to the US in August 1954 to research the background to Diamonds Are Forever; his friend Ernest Cuneo introduced him to a rich socialite, William Woodward, Jr., who drove a Studillac—a Studebaker with a powerful Cadillac engine. According to Bond scholar Henry Chancellor, "the speed and comfort of it impressed Ian, and he shamelessly appropriated this car" for Leiter to drive in the novel.
For the post-Fleming continuation Bond authors, Leiter has also appeared on a periodic basis. After John Gardner took over writing the James Bond novel series, Leiter made an occasional appearance and the novel For Special Services introduces his daughter, Cedar Leiter, who is also a CIA officer (and briefly Bond's romantic conquest). Raymond Benson also included Leiter's character in some of his novels, including The Facts of Death and Doubleshot. Similarly the more recent continuation Bond novels—the 2008 Sebastian Faulks novel Devil May Care and the 2011 novel Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver—both contained the character.
In the movies, Leiter is a CIA agent in all appearances except in Licence to Kill in which he now works for the DEA. A number of the movies feature Leiter, but the character is frequently recast and as a result has not achieved the memorable status that other characters such as M, Q and Miss Moneypenny have achieved. In fact, Leiter appears in a total of eight movies, played by seven different actors, widely varying in age and physical characteristics.
Jack Lord: 1962
Jack Lord was the first Felix Leiter, appointed into the role for the first Bond film, Dr. No. Eon Productions started filming the series out of the order written by Fleming (Fleming had started with Casino Royale, with Dr. No being the sixth novel). Leiter was not present in the Fleming novel, but the writers added the character to the film. Bond scholars Smith and Lavington consider Leiter to offer negligible help to Bond, largely because there is no role for him in the novel, a point with which continuation Bond author Raymond Benson agrees, noting that he is "extraneous to the dramatic action". Jeremy Black agrees, although points out that the inclusion of Leiter was a sign of American influence in the Caribbean.
Lord played Leiter in a "swaggering" fashion, according to Smith and Lavington, and they considered him "excellent, an effective American version of James Bond." Bond scholars Pfeiffer and Worrall agree, stating that Lord's was "one of the most satisfying portrayals of Leiter".
Character Biography: In the film, Felix meets Bond when he is fighting Quarrel and breaks up the fight. Quarrel, who is Felix's agent, helps Bond reach Dr. Julius No's island. After defeating Dr. No, Felix tows Bond and Honey Ryder from the island.
Cec Linder: 1964
When the role of Leiter was brought back for the third Bond film, Goldfinger, in 1964, Lord was again approached to play Leiter; according to screenwriter Richard Maibaum, Lord demanded co-star billing with Connery, a bigger role and more money to reprise the role. The producers instead decided to recast the role, initially with Austin Willis. At the last minute, Cec Linder switched roles with Willis, who played cards with Goldfinger. Linder was the only actor actually on location in Miami. Raymond Benson considers that Linder was "miscast" as Leiter because he looked too old: "he looks like Bond's uncle rather than his best friend."
Character Biography: Bond receives instructions from M via Leiter in Miami about Auric Goldfinger. Leiter later joins the raid on Fort Knox and helps Bond disarm the bomb designed to blow the vault to pieces.
Rik Van Nutter: 1965
The fourth film in the Eon series, Thunderball, was the third to portray Leiter and the producers chose a third actor to play the role, Rik Van Nutter. Van Nutter was married to Swedish actress Anita Ekberg at the time and the couple had dined with Cubby and Dana Broccoli after Ekberg had appeared in the Eon-produced Call Me Bwana. Van Nutter was subsequently offered the Leiter role without an audition, although he did have screen tests with some of the Bond girls.
According to Pfeiffer and Worrall, Leiter had a more proactive role in Thunderball and Van Nutter was "an inspired choice for the role". Smith and Lavington agree and consider that Van Nutter's "relaxed and charming performance works well." Benson also concurs, but complains that although Van Nutter is a piece of successful casting, "the script … does not give the character any real depth".
Character Biography: Bond teams up with Felix Leiter to find a hijacked plane, which they eventually find along with the corpse of the phony NATO observer. Bond is later rescued by Leiter from the underwater cave where bombs were concealed. Bond informs Felix of the location of the bomb and a platoon of US Navy Frogman attack Emilio Largo's underwater base.
Norman Burton: 1971
For the 1971 instalment, Diamonds Are Forever, EON chose Norman Burton. Burton's Leiter was more amusing and more exasperated than the previous incarnations of the role.
Raymond Benson again considers that the Leiter role was miscast and considered Burton to be "overweight and too old for the role". Smith and Lavington describe him as "an elderly, portly man in a government-issue suit … anonymous, orthodox". Pfeiffer and Worrall agree, thinking that Burton was "the least likely incarnation" of Leiter.
Character Biography: At LAX Bond meets Felix and drives to a funeral home, where Peter Franks' body is cremated and the diamonds passed onto the next smuggler, Shady Tree. The diamonds are replaced with fakes by Leiter and Bond. Bond tells Leiter to ship the real diamonds to London as he goes to Las Vegas.
On Blofeld's California oil rig, Leiter and the CIA begin a helicopter attack to assist Bond.
David Hedison: 1973 & 1989
In 1973 the Bond franchise introduced a new main lead, Roger Moore, who played Bond for the next twelve years in the role and making seven films. To play the part of Leiter, an old friend of Moore's was chosen, David Hedison. Pfeiffer and Worrall consider that this friendship comes though, with "genuine chemistry" between the two. Hedison played the role with an understated charm, although the script did not give Leiter much to do. Raymond Benson thought him miscast, but acknowledged that "he's the best Leiter next to Rik Van Nutter."
Hedison returned to play Leiter sixteen years later and after another actor has also been in the role. Hedison did not expect to return to the role, saying "I was sure that [Live and Let Die] would be my first – and last" and Glen was reluctant to cast the 61-year old actor, since the role even had a scene parachuting. Hedison was the only actor to play Leiter twice, until Jeffrey Wright appeared in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
Character Biography: Felix is in New York investigating Mr. Big, Bond's new target. The two travel to one of Big's Fillet of Soul restaurant in Harlem, where Felix steps out for a moment, leaving Bond on his own. Leiter later returns to assist Bond after a crisis in Louisiana, dealing with J.W. Pepper.
In Licence to Kill, now working for the DEA, Leiter and Bond arrest a drug runner before parachuting into Leiter's wedding. On his honeymoon, fellow DEA agent Ed Killifer assisted in breaking Sanchez out after accepting $2,000,000 from the drug dealer, Felix is kidnapped and maimed by Franz Sanchez by being lowered into a shark tank while Della was raped and murdered. After being maimed, they threw his body back into his house and left a note saying "He disagreed with something that ate him". James, who was heading home had heard Sanchez' escape from an airport employee and went over and found Della dead, Leiter's office ransacked of his files and a bloodied Leiter. 007 soon answered a call inteded for Felix but soon informed him to call an ambulance. Bond, in the process was fired from MI6 and went rogue to take his revenge on Sanchez in this film for these actions. Near the end of the film after 007 killed Sanchez with Leiter's best man present, Leiter had almost recovered and while talking to James, he said he'll be out of the hospital and James recommend some fishing and Felix said M tried to get 007 and said he is rehiring him into MI6.
For Licence to Kill, Leiter was working for the DEA and was attacked by a shark, losing his left leg in the incident and almost his left arm but was saved by medics. He knew James was once married 'but it was a long time ago'.
John Terry: 1987
Following Hedison's first outing in 1973 in Live and Let Die, the Leiter role did not appear again until the 1987 film The Living Daylights, by which time Bond was being played by Timothy Dalton; the role was taken up by John Terry.
Smith and Lavington consider that, although the scene between Bond and Leiter sees warmth in the relationship between them, "it is too fleeting to have any impact". Pfeiffer and Worrall agree on the briefness of Leiter's role in the film, although they consider that Terry has "virtually no chemistry with Dalton".
Jeffrey Wright: 2006 & 2008
Casino Royale rebooted the franchise, which allowed Leiter to re-appear and he and Bond meet for the first time in the film. Early script drafts for Quantum of Solace gave Wright a larger role, but his screen time was restricted by on-set rewrites.
Character Biography: At the Casino Royale in Montenegro Leiter plays in the high-stakes poker game against Bond and Le Chiffre. Unable to beat Le Chiffre, Leiter backs Bond with $5 million after Bond misreads Le Chiffre's bluff under the agreement that the CIA arrest Le Chiffre after the game.
In Wright's second film as Leiter, the character and Gregg Beam work with Medrano's regime to ensure American gets oil rights in Bolivia when Medrano becomes president by force. Leiter informs Bond of these dealings at a bar in La Paz and warns him that the Bolivian government is after him. Bond escapes and eventually defeats Medrano. Leiter is then promoted within the CIA.
Michael Pate (1954)
The first screen interpretation of the Leiter character was in the 1954 CBS one-hour television adventure Casino Royale, broadcast as part of the dramatic anthology series Climax Mystery Theater, which ran between October 1954 and June 1958. For the American audience the Bond character from Casino Royale was re-cast as an American agent—"Card Sense" Jimmy Bond, played by Barry Nelson—described as working for "Combined Intelligence", supported by the British agent, Clarence Leiter; "thus was the Anglo-American relationship depicted in the book reversed for American consumption", according to Jeremy Black. Leiter, who was an agent for Station S, was a combination of the novel's Felix Leiter and René Mathis and was played by the Australian actor Michael Pate.
Bernie Casey: 1983