When it comes to the Bond movies, there’s likely very little you don’t know: everyone seemingly has the 007 actors, the Bond girls, the cars, the gadgets and the one-liners all committed to memory.
However, the cast doesn’t begin and end with Bond – it takes a wealth of actors to make a movie, and some of the bit-part players occasionally go on to find fame of their own…
Dolph Lundgren in A View To A Kill (1985)
Before he was Gunner Jensen, before he was He-Man, even before he was Ivan Drago, Dolph Lundgren was mysterious KGB henchman Venz. The mountainous Swede made his movie debut in Roger Moore’s 1985 outing as 007, although Venz didn’t have any lines and wasn’t even mentioned by name. He pointed a gun at Grace Jones when she threatens to break an agent’s back, and he appeared as a blur in the background of a few shots over someone’s shoulder, but that’s about it. Still, it set him on the path to ‘Rocky IV’ and ‘Expendables’ infamy, so Venz secured his place in cinematic history.
Benicio Del Toro in ‘Licence To Kill’ (1989)
All untamed eyebrows and Eddie Munster stares, Benicio Del Toro also made his movie debut as a henchman in a Bond movie (unless you count ‘Duke The Dog-Faced Boy’ in ‘Big Top Peewee’). Not only does he get actual lines and fight scenes (duffing up Bond and coming this close to killing him, like every other henchman EVER), Del Toro’s bad guy Dario even gets a catchphrase of sorts. When asked what he did with a hostage’s wife, Dario replies dreamily: “Don’t worry… we gave her a niiice honeymoooon!” Sadly he meets an ignominious end at the bottom of an industrial shredder. But 12 years later? Boom: Oscar. Where’s your Academy Award, Timothy Dalton?
Joanna Lumley in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969)
We’ll overlook her proper movie debut as ‘Second Robot Saboteur’ in 1969 exploitation action Some Girls Do (we haven’t seen it but we’re thinking Austin Powers and fembots) and consider Joanna Lumley’s brief outing in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ as the real deal. Playing ‘The English Girl’, part of Blofeld’s harem, Lumley didn’t make much of an impact on screen, but behind the scenes she provided German, Chinese and Norwegian accents for international dubbing – she even taught the other Bond girls how to crochet. Of course, Lumley’s spy credentials would be guaranteed some years later when she joined ‘The New Avengers’, alongside ‘OHMSS’ co-star Patrick Macnee.
Sammy Davis Jr in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971)
The erstwhile Rat Pack swinger made a cameo playing himself in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, Sean Connery’s much heralded return to the role of Bond, but alas it was not meant to be. Just before Mr Wint and Mr Kidd kill Shady Tree, there was a scene with Davis Jr playing on the roulette table at the casino. When Bond shows up in his trademark white tux and bowtie, Sammy quips: “They ain’t ever going to find a cake big enough to put him on top.” Sadly for Sammy, the scene was deemed to ruin the pacing of the film and found itself on the cutting room floor.
Charles Dance in ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981)
You wouldn’t think Charles Dance would have a lot in common with Dolph Lundgren, but like the muscular star, Dance also made his movie debut in a Bond movie (they also both like lazy Sundays and long walks in the rain). He played Claus, a – you guessed it – villainous henchman who’s got it in for 007. After several unsuccessful attempts to kill Bond – including a tussle on a ski-slope and an incident with a dune buggy – Claus is terminated via a harpoon to the back. Interestingly, Dance later played Ian Fleming in TV movie ‘Goldeneye’, a biography on the Bond author.
Minnie Driver in ‘GoldenEye’ (1995)
Before her big break in ‘Good Will Hunting’, Minnie Driver made a small but memorable appearance in Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond movie. She played Irina, the Russian girlfriend of Robbie Coltrane’s gangster Zukovsky, who takes to the stage in a nightclub wearing a red cowboy hat and a low-cut top. After 007 describes her singing as “like strangling a cat”, Irina waltzes off stage in a strop.
Gerard Butler in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ (1997)
What a difference a decade makes. In 2007, Gerard Butler kicked a hole in the fabric of pop culture in ‘300’ as the mighty King Leonidas, fond of yelling, spitting and punting messengers into bottomless pits. Rewind 10 years, however, and Butler was still green, amassing around six seconds of screen-time in this forgettable Bond adventure as a sailor on the soon-to-be-sunk HMS Devonshire. “Sir,” he purrs in his unmistakable Scottish burr. “We’re fourteen degrees down by the stern!” Star quality, that. Out of acorns, mighty oaks grow.
Richard Branson in ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)
We’re stretching the definition of the word ‘actor’ to its absolute limits here, but yes, that mysterious bearded gentleman on whom ‘Casino Royale”s camera lingers for slightly too long is indeed Virgin benefactor and international playboy Richard Branson. While Bond busies himself with matters of national security in Miami airport, you’d be forgiven for not noticing the flaxen-haired tycoon getting scanned in the security gate. To be fair, it was the least Eon producers could do, given Rich provided a fleet of Virgin Airlines planes for the shoot. In a way, he was the real hero.