After more than 6 decades, Felix Leiter gets a solo adventure

"I'm finally getting my own series, James."

“I’m finally getting my own series, James.”

After more than 60 years as a sidekick, Felix Leiter is getting his own series — well, a comic book mini-series — from Dynamite Entertainment, according to COMIC BOOK.COM.

Leiter appeared in the first James Bond novel, 1953’s Casino Royale. In the novel, he was a CIA agent who helps Bond out of a tight spot. Leiter’s first live-action appearance, under the name of MI6 agent Clarence Leiter as played by Michael Pate, occurred in the 1954 CBS adaptation of Casino Royale.

When 007 hit the big screen, Leiter appeared in the person of Jack Lord in Dr. No. Leiter wasn’t in the 1958 novel but was inserted into the story when it was adapted as first Bond movie produced by Eon Productions. Various actors, from Cec Linder to Rik Van Nutter to David Hedison to Jeffrey Wright, would follow in Lord’s footsteps.

Here’s an excerpt from the Comic Book.com story.

In the new series, “Felix Leiter — now operating as an independent investigator — finds himself in Japan, tracking down a beautiful Russian spy from his past. But when the mission takes a turn for the worse, he will discover that there are more deadly schemes taking shape in Tokyo… and beyond!”

At various times, screenwriters tried to give Felix more to do in early drafts. But given how these were James Bond movies, Leiter’s screen time would end up being cut back.

The comic book mini-series is written by James Robinson and drawn by Aaron Campbell.

Jeffrey Wright tells Reuters 007 films have `independent movie’ feel

Reuters caught up with Jeffrey Wright, the most recent screen Felix Leiter, to discuss a new play he’s working on in New York, “A Free Man of Color.” The story is mostly about the play but Wright makes an observation or two about the Bond franchise.

Yet even in the film world, there is enormous variety, and contrary to what one might think, not all big-budget films are commodities, he emphasizes. “I’m part of a wonderful franchise, the Bond franchise,” having played CIA agent Felix Leiter in “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.” “That’s about as big-budget as they come, but it feels like an independent movie when we’re on the set.”

Here’s how Reuters describes Wright’s newest role and current project:

(T)he 44-year-old actor is now playing a flamboyantly preening ladies’ man named Jacques Cornet in early-19th-century French New Orleans.

The world of “A Free Man of Color” is peopled with broadly drawn, larger-than-life locals as well as historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, James Monroe, and Napoleon Bonaparte. This stylized, panoramic comedy-interspersed-with-tragedy is a story of manipulation, intrigue, and lots of adultery, in a place where the races intermingle freely.

To read the entire story, which is on The New York Times’s Web site, JUST CLICK HERE.

Time names Felix Leiter as one of the Top 10 Movie Sidekicks

Time magazine’s Web site has a list of the Top 10 Movie Sidekicks and puts Felix Leiter, James Bond’s 007 CIA pal, at NUMBER EIGHT ON THAT LIST. The short article has a photo of Leiter’s most recent incarnation, actor Jeffrey Wright from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. However, the article makes brief mentions of Leiter in other Bond movies such as Goldfinger and Licence to Kill. Bond fans may note the Time article uses the American spelling of license for the latter.

You can view the entire Time sidekick list by CLICKING RIGHT HERE. Some of Leiter’s fellow list members include A WISE INSECT AT NO. 5 and A TALL, HAIRY FELLOW in the No. 2 slot. And No. 1 is held BY ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS OF A VERY POPULAR CURRENT MOVIE.

James Bond characters on Facebook

The old tagline was “JAMES BOND DOES IT EVERYWHERE!” and that’s certainly true of Facebook, the social-networking site. It appears that even 007 characters feel compelled to set up Facebook profiles.

One of the most amusing is Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Under relationship status, we’re told, “It’s complicated.” And, of course, his birthdate is listed as May 28, 1908. Ernst provides frequent status updates such as, “SPECTRE always delivers what it promises. Our entire organization survives upon the keeping of those promises. We’re kinda like an evil UPS.” Or, “Catch me soon as the new band leader on ‘The Tonight Show with Ernst Stavro Blofeld’.” Ernst also regularly trades quips with his Facebook friends.

One of those friends is none other than Jane Moneypenny, listing her birthdate as Feb. 14, 1927 and being single. However for those who believe Moneypenny is “Britain’s last line of defense,” may be in for a shock. She inquired with Ernst about a job in SPECTRE. This Facebook saga has yet to play out.

Auric Goldfinger has also surfaced on Facebook (reports of his death, like Mark Twain’s, were apparently exaggerated. He lists his birthdate as June 5, 1917 and his relationship status is also listed as “It’s complicated.” Gold bullion is listed as both his reglious views and interests.

Felix Leiter is also around and, not surprisingly, is listed as a fan of the Felix Leiter fan page.

Others include Franz Sanchez, Emilo Largo, Carl Stromberg and John Kaufman. (There are others, but hey, we don’t have room for everyone.)

Finally there is Bond James, taking on the guise of the mid-1960s Sean Connery, who seems to enjoy trading quips with Ernst and playing Mafia Wars.

A mini-007 tour of New York

The Spy Commander was recently in New York and (figuratively) retraced some of the steps that the literary James Bond took.

Sardi’s, 234 West 44th Street: In Chapter 8 of Diamonds Are Forever, Felix Leiter takes Bond to lunch at Sardi’s and they dine in the upstairs dining room. The friends have some martinis (with a domestic vermouth).

At the time of the visit, the upstairs dining room was closed but the Spy Commander had an unofficial tour guide. We were told the bar had been moved since the time Fleming described the Bond-Leiter meal. Also, black paint had been removed from windows overlooking 44th Street, so now the restaurant has a great view of nearby theaters.

21 Club, 21 West 52nd Street: In chapter 9 of Diamonds, Bond and Tiffany case have dinner. Tiffany has three martinis before dinner and as the main course arrives, so does “one of the famous Kriendler brothers who have owned ’21’ since it was the best speak-easy in New York.”

The 21 Club is know for the jockey statues outside. If you go, prepare to spend money. A cocktail costs about $15. There’s a mens room attendant who has been with 21 for decades, complimenting patrons (for example telling middle aged men they should remember to bring their ID next time or they might get carded).

007/Hawaii Five-O connections

Some James Bond connections to television shows are natural. There are ties between 007 and The Avengers TV series because both were filmed in the U.K. There are a lot of ties between 007 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But there are surprising number of connections between James Bond movies and the Hawaii Five-O TV series that ran from 1968 to 1980.

Here are a few:

Jack Lord: played the screen’s first Felix Leiter in Dr. No while also playing Five-O’s Steve McGarrett through the entire run of the series. Rose Freeman, widow of Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, told fans attending a 1996 Five-O convention in the Los Angeles area that Lord was cast only five days before production of the pilot began.

Soon-Tek Oh: played Lt. Hip in the 1974 007 film The Man With The Golden Gun. Five-O: appeared in at least eight episodes, including the pilot as one of arch-villain Wo Fat’s techicians and another Wo Fat episode (The Jinn Who Clears The Way) as a dupe of Wo Fat.

Yao Lin Chen (billed as Chan Yiu Lam): played badass Kung Fu guy Chula in Golden Gun that Roger Moore’s 007 is (unbeliveably) able to overcome. Five-O: appears as a doomed undercover Hong Kong police operative who gets hacked to pieces in the ninth-season episode (and another Wo Fat story) “Nine Dragons.”

Maud Adams: appeared in both Golden Gun and as the title character of Octopussy. Five-O: appears as a spy in the 1977 episode “Deep Cover.”

Luciana Paluzzi: appeared as SPECTRE hitwoman Fiona in Thunderball, arguably overshadowing the film’s lead actress, Claudine Auger. Five-O: appears as an opinionated Italian journalist in a 1978 episode, “My Friend, The Enemy.” At the end of the episode, Danno has asked her out for a date but McGarrett intends to pull rank and grab an evening with her for himself. Momma mia!

George Lazenby: The first screen 007 to follow Sean Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Five-O: appears in the two-hour 11th season finale in 1979, “The Year of the Horse,” filmed in Singapore. This would also be James MacArthur’s final appearance in the series, with the actor deciding to exit the show.

Donald Pleasance: The first screen Blofeld to actually show his face in You Only Live Twice. Five-O: a German-born scientist working for the U.S. who is actually under the control of Wo Fat in the fourth-season episode The 90-Second War Part II, which had its first run in 1971.

Iconic Five-O location averts closing (apparently)

OK, Hawaii Five-O isn’t a spy show, but it did have some spy stories and it starred Jack Lord the screen’s first Felix Leiter. So this is fair game for us.

Five-O had a memorable main title, thanks to the theme by Morton Stevens and the title design by Reza S. Badiyi. One of the key moments was the set up for Lord’s “Starring” credit when a camera zooms in on lawman Steve McGarrett standing on a balcony of the Ilikai Hotel. The hotel also showed up in a number of episodes.

The Ilikai nearly closed, although it apparently received a reprieve, according to THIS FEB. 25 NEWS STORY. We hope that’s still the case. In any event, this gives an excuse to show you this main title from the first season:

The screen’s first Felix Leiter remembered

That, of course, would be American actor Jack Lord, born 88 years ago today on Dec. 30, 1920.

Lord’s association with the James Bond film series was only in Dr. No. Whatever one thinks of him (he has his fans and detractors), JL was there at the beginning of Bond in the cinema. Also, he would go on to star in Hawaii Five-O for 12 seasons (1968-80). At the end of the 11th season, one-time Bond George Lazenby was a guest star. So in honof JL, who passed away in early 1998, we present:

1. A fan trailer put up on YouTube, including a few clips of Felix with Bond

2. We link to IMDB where you can watch the Hawaii Five-O episode “Forty Feet High and it Kills!” the second encounter between lawman Steve McGarrett and international bad guy Wo Fat. You can view it by clicking RIGHT HERE.

3. The original, 90-second version of Morton Stevens’s Five-O theme from the two-hour pilot episode: