- Felix Leiter: "Fine way to treat the CIA!"
- James Bond: "Sorry about that, Felix, but you were just about to say '007'."
- ―Felix Leiter and James Bond[src]
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. He was portrayed by Rik Van Nutter in the 1965 film Thunderball.
James Bond teams up with Felix Leiter to find a hijacked plane that was carrying two atomic bombs, which they eventually find along with the corpse of the phony NATO observer. He then watches over Domino while Bond is chased through town by Fiona Volpe and her SPECTRE agents. 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 men whilst James pursues Largo in his yacht, the Disco Volante.
The fourth film in the EON Productions 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".