No one has introduced more people to the secret realm of espionage than James Bond. The man we know as 007 has been the brutally handsome face of clandestine operations for more than half a century, giving readers and movie audiences glimpses of a hidden world few could imagine.
Bond and his onscreen exploits represent fiction informed by the truth—some of it drawn from author Ian Fleming's own experience in covert operations as a WWII British naval intelligence officer. In books and on screen, the ablest agent of British Secret Intelligence service MI6 faces threats—from Cold War cliffhangers in the Caribbean to mass-media manipulation in the 1990s—that seem fantastic at the time, but sometimes foreshadow future headlines.
In Bond’s flamboyant adventures, he tantalizingly deploys techniques and technologies that genuine spies use—or will, when fact catches up with cinematic imagination. His onscreen gadgets are said to have inspired innovations in disguise and communications technologies by real intelligence agency technical services units.
Experts and former intelligence officers explore the intersecting powers of James Bond in fiction and fact in this series, presented in conjunction with the International Spy Museum’s exhibition Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains. They place Bond and his nemeses in historical context, exploring how the evildoers and their plots have changed to reflect their times.
When Ian Fleming created James Bond in 1953, he drew on his own espionage career with British naval intelligence during WWII. Explore the roots of Fleming and Bond with Alexis Albion, an intelligence historian who served as a guest co-curator of Exquisitely Evil and is a former 9/11 Commission staff member. Learn how the Bond of Fleming’s novels evolved to become the suave superspy universally known for his impeccable taste, quick wit, and incredible physicality. Albion is joined by Burton Gerber, a former CIA Clandestine Service Officer and Station Chief in critical Cold War hotspots, who uncovers the realities of operating behind the Iron Curtain.
Bond’s fictional world changed after the fall of Communism—just as the collapse of the Soviet Union brought the western intelligence community a range of challenges, from the absence of a major adversary to slashed funding. Hear from the International Spy Museum’s Executive Director Peter Earnest, a former CIA Clandestine Service Officer, on the transition from the Cold War to the post-Soviet era, and how Bond’s adventures mirror the real-world issues and villains of the late-20th century. Jack Platt, a former CIA Clandestine Service Officer, provides some chilling firsthand observations of the fall of the USSR, the decline of the Russian economy and way of life, and the growth of syndicated crime and corruption in the country.
The museum’s former Historian and Exquisitely Evil co-curator Mark Stout, a former CIA intelligence analyst, brings you up to speed on the latest Bond villains and their connections to reality. How does Skyfall’s Raoul Silva reflect Julian Assange of Wikileaks? How has radicalism and terrorism altered both Bond plotlines and our approach to intelligence? Cindy Storer, a former CIA officer in the Counterterrorism Center, adds perspective on how the intelligence business has changed in response to terrorism.
The museum’s Adult Programs Director Amanda Ohlke explores the role of women in Bond’s universe, from beautiful-but-deadly villains like Elektra King to Judi Dench’s impressive take on spy boss M. Former CIA Officer Melissa Mahle discusses what it was like to undertake an espionage career in the shadow of the femme fatale. Did the Bond girl mystique help or hinder her career? She shares how she took control of the stereotypes and turned them upside down.
In collaboration with the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program.