Casino Royale, the '67 007 Spoof: Cast List And Facts
Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles pictures on a lobby card for 'Casino Royale.' Source: IMDB
The 1967 James Bond comedy Casino Royale assembled one of the greatest cast lists in movie history, including Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress, David Niven, William Holden, Barbara Bouchet, George Raft, Deborah Kerr and more. The list of stars makes the poster look like a page out of a phone book -- well, if you look past Robert McGinnis' iconic image of a body-painted pistol-packin' model. This farce, which featured numerous James Bonds and which isn't at all part of the Eon 007 canon (which had kicked off with Sean Connery in Dr. No five years earlier), is the sort of kitchen-sink '60s comedy that tried to be hip but seems incredibly square today. It also tried to be funny, with mixed results.
Bond, James Bond, the seductive secret agent with no equal, never encountered a situation without a pun at the ready. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Casino Royale” that starred Woody Allen, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, and Orson Welles as opposed to Sean Connery or Daniel Craig. The ‘67 Casino Royale in no way resembles a James Bond film because it really isn’t one. Producer Charles K. Feldman secured the rights from Ian Fleming but failed to rope in any of the major players. So instead, Feldman, coming off the major success of the purposely incongruous, “What’s New, Pussycat,” went the spoof route for his swing at 007.
Casino Royale was a star-studded debacle -- not an unsuccessful film, owing probably to its A-list cast, but not a classic. It was painful to watch at the time (as contemporary reviews make clear); today it's kitschy fun for the dated visuals and verges on so-bad-its's-good. Eon productions, the company headed by the Broccoli family that is responsible for the Bond cinematic canon, was horrified by the tarnishing of the James Bond brand. Ever since, Eon has been famously protective of the rights to Ian Fleming's work, lest some other inferior version of the secret agent make it to the big screen. (Eon's failure to lock down exclusive rights to Thunderball resulted in the non-canon Never Say Never Again, but that's another story.)
Woody Allen As Jimmy Bond (Dr. Noah)
The controversial but undoubtedly talented Woody Allen, who was primarily a writer and standup comedian, signed on to play Jimmy Bond in Casino Royale after his successful experience with Feldman on What’s New, Pussycat. Unfortunately, Allen probably didn’t realize that Feldman would use as many as six directors all shooting at the same time without consulting one another.
Naturally, that created some confusion, to say the least. Apparently, said confusion delayed Allen’s final day of shooting so many times, he left the set in a huff and flew directly to New York without even changing out of his costume. Such angst was common during Casino Royale. Part of the problem may have laid with the fact that most of the stars had no idea they signed on for a comedy and not a real James Bond movie.
In a hilarious letter penned to a friend, Allen lays out the litany of problems with the film:
I haven't begun filming yet but saw the sets for my scenes. They are the height of bad pop art expensive vulgarity. Saw rushes and am dubious to put it mildly, but probably the film will coin a mint. (Not money, just a single peppermint.) I play the villain (okay to give that out) and also James Bond's bastard nephew (not all right to give that out) and my part changes every day as new stars fall in. ... I would like it emphasized and made quite clear that I am not a writer of Casino. I'm adding a few ad-lib jokes to my own part but that's all. In fact ... we demanded a letter saying my name cannot appear on screen as a writer. This because everyone who contributed a comma is demanding his name on the film.
Peter Sellers As Evelyn Tremble (James Bond 007)
Sellers was another of the actors playing a James Bond (there are at least four) in Casino Royale, and was also alarmed by the chaotic nature of the concept and shoot -- so much so that he hired his own writer, Terry Southern, to write his dialogue so he could outshine Allen and Orson Welles. He also made the executive decision to play it straight, despite starring in what amounted to Monty Python’s version of James Bond.
His decision to not go along with the tone of the film created extraordinary tension between Peter Sellers and Orson Welles as well as director, Val Guest. Allegedly, Sellers and Welles hated each other so much that they couldn't be in the same room together. Their scene at the gambling table had to be shot over multiple days, with doubles standing in for the other actor. Supposedly, the rift between Sellers and Welles started when Princess Margaret, with whom Sellers was familiar, visited the set and completely ignored him to swoon over Welles. Guest, on the other hand, was so sick of Sellers' behavior that he fired him before the actor had even finished all his scenes. Rewrites were required to remove Sellers from the film.
Jacqueline Bisset As Miss Goodthighs
Even more disturbing, Sellers, during one of his serious ad-libs, also shot Jacqueline Bisset in the face with a blank. The gunpowder burned her face and the tiny shards from the round actually made her bleed. As Bisset remembered,
First I thought I had been actually shot and then when I realized it had been a blank, I thought I'd been blinded. My face looked like a shower spout of pinpricks leaking blood. I was panicked whenever I had a scene with Peter Sellers. To get shot in your first scene with a big star, that is a nightmare.
To cap it all off, Sellers punched friend and director Joseph McGrath in the face when he complained about the actor’s behavior.
David Niven As Sir James Bond
Niven was actually Ian Fleming’s first choice for the real James Bond, but was overruled by producers who selected Sean Connery. Niven got his chance, of sorts, to play “Sir James Bond” in what Woody Allen called “a madhouse” of a production. Niven's character is in a sense the "real" James Bond, a dashing and successful British secret agent who retired 20 years before the film begins but is drawn out of retirement. In the face of an imminent and convoluted threat, Sir James Bond decrees that all MI6 agents be renamed "James Bond" to confuse the villains (and, unfortunately, the audience).
When considering Casino Royale, it’s better to think of it as an Austin Powers movie rather than an actual James Bond movie. Thanks to the complete chaos involved from top to bottom, it doesn’t really work any other way.
Joanna Pettet As Mata Bond
As Mata Bond, Joanna Pettet plays the daughter of the legendary femme fatale/spy Mata Hari. Her father, from whom she is estranged, is Sir James Bond (Niven). Bond, a famous ladies' man, finds old habits die hard, even around his own daughter, who tends to dress in skimpy belly-dancing outfits. He's also constantly cracking wise about Mata Hari's sexual aptitude and enthusiasm:
Mata Bond: Oh! You want me to be a spy - like mum, huh? Well.
Sir James: Family tradition, my dear.
Mata Bond: Do I get an exploding brief case and a secret transmitter?
Sir James: That won't be necessary.
Mata Bond: Well, I have to have some equipment.
Sir James: Your mother wiped out three divisions of infantry and five brigades of cavalry and, well, frankly, she had much less equipment than you have.
Pettet continued to make movies for years after Casino Royale, but never had a hit. She was considered a virtual Sharon Tate lookalike, which is interesting because she and Tate were actually good friends in real life. Pettet was one of the last people to see Sharon Tate alive, having been at the pregnant actress' house the day she was murdered. In Quentin Tarantino's film Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood, Pettet was played by Rumer Willis.
Orson Welles As Le Chiffre
Orson Welles played the evil mastermind, “Le Chiffre” and got the role, ironically, in part thanks to Sellers’ recommendation. Unfortunately, whether it was Princess Margaret’s unintentional snub of Sellers, her fawning over Orson Welles, or Welles' own adamant desire to perform magic in the movie, the two Hollywood heavyweights despised one another almost immediately.
We certainly aren’t taking sides but stories like Sellers demanding a set be taken down because he had a dream in which his mother disapproved of the background, making the animosity understandable. Interestingly, the iconic polymath Orson Welles, director of the masterpiece Citizen Kane, attributed the relative success of the film to an ad featuring a naked tattooed woman.
Ursula Andress As Vesper Lynd (007)
Ursula Andress played Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and unlike her subsequent movies which earned her the nickname, "Ursula undress," did not actually get naked. She did wear a skin color bodysuit that assuredly got many men hot under the collar and likely led to years of research by internet sleuths. Unlike her male counterparts who sparred like wild animals, Andress stirred clear of most of the controversy surrounding the cast of the film. She did, however, manage to get an eye injury while feeding deer at Hampton Court.
Tags: Cast Lists From Popular Movies | David Niven | James Bond | Orson Welles | Peter Sellers | Ursula Andress | Woody Allen
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