The Spy Who Loved Me
The James Bond movies function similar to the Presidency. The faces may change but the institution remains the same. For James Bond, “The Spy Who Loved Me” represented a return to prominence. After “The Man with the Golden Gun” received terrible reviews from critics, many worried that Bond, James Bond could drift into obscurity or lose the mega budgets that helped fuel the film’s success. Thankfully, producer Albert R. Broccoli and Roger Moore doubled down and gave the public one of the best Bond films ever! “The Spy Who Loved Me” featured one of the seminal Bond cars, the Lotus Esprit S1, one of the best henchmen, Jaws, and a villain who owned a shark tank in an underwater palace called Atlantis. What more could you want?
Going All In
Rather than tone down the series after the disaster that was “The Man with the Golden Gun,” Broccoli went for broke. “The Spy Who Loved Me” rolled out one of the largest budgets for a Bond movie at the time, a hefty $13.5 million. While that doesn’t seem like a lot now, for 1977 that was a bold choice. A lot of that money went into Bond’s car, the elaborate sound stages, and many of the unforgettable stunts.
In fact, to grab the audience’s attention, the opening stunt for “The Spy Who Loved Me” spotlighted Hollywood stuntman Rick Sylvester ski jumping off the summit of Canada's Mt. Asgard. Producers hired him after seeing his illegal jump from 3,000 feet off El Capitan at Yosemite. They paid him $30,000 for a single take that the crew nearly failed to catch on camera.
The Quintessential Bond Mobile
While the Lotus Esprit S1 wasn’t an Aston Martin, it was British and could also turn into a submarine if Bond needed to make a watery escape. For the film, they used six versions of the Lotus, each in a different form of its transformation from car to submarine. One of the versions could operate underwater which the crew dubbed, "Wet Nellie."
The aquatic version was actually a $100,000 mini sub ensconced in an Esprit shell. In 2013, the infamous Wet Nellie sold at auction for just shy of $1 million to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. At the time he promised to turn it into a fully functional amphibious vehicle. No word on if that promise was kept.
Ultimate Bond Baddies
Karl Sigmund Stromberg, played by Curd Jürgens, helped set the bar for future Bond villains. He employed undoubtedly the most famous Bond henchmen in a 7’2” bruiser named Jaws with metal teeth, fed his assistant to his pet Great White Shark, and supplied some memorable comic relief (unintentional or not). One of the funniest lines in the movie comes after Stromberg kills two scientists, to whom he owed $10 million each, barking at his assistant, "cancel the transfer of 20 million dollars."
Richard Kiel, who played the monstrous Jaws, became one of the very few Bond Henchmen to return for a second film. In fact, filmmakers shot two versions of the ending, one with Jaws dying and another with him surviving his run-in with a real shark by biting it to death with his notable metal teeth. Test audiences actually cheered his survival, which sealed his continuance in the films. Jaws even earned a turn to the good side in “Moonraker,” thanks to his popularity with fans. Reportedly, Kiel could only wear those shiny chompers for a minute or two because they caused him intense pain.
Dependable Eye Candy
Naturally, no Bond film would be complete without some jaw-dropping ladies. Barbara Bach, who played Russian spy Anya Amasova was cast just days before filming started. Since more is often better, they also cast Caroline Munro to play Naomi, an evil but gorgeous henchwoman who Bond shoots out of the air with his submarine Lotus torpedo. Apparently, Bach held no great love for Bond saying, (he’s) "a chauvinist pig who uses girls to shield him against bullets.” The retired actress married to former Beatle Ringo Starr isn’t exactly wrong...