Felix Leiter is a fictional American CIA intelligence operative. Based on the literary character created by Ian Fleming, Leiter appears for the first time in EON Productions' 1962 James Bond film Dr. No and was portrayed by the late American actor Jack Lord. He was the first of seven men to play the iconic role of Leiter officially on screen.
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In the film, upon his arrival at Kingston Airport James Bond is shadowed by a mysterious man in sunglasses. Bond goes to interview Quarrel at the Kingston docks, but finds the suspicious Cayman Islander to be uncooperative. Persisting with his questions in a local bar, Bond finally persuades his subject to talk in a back storeroom. There, however, the agent is jumped by Quarrel and the bar owner. Bond rapidly subdues them in a brief fight, only to be held at gunpoint by the mystery man from the airport. He reveals himself to be CIA agent Felix Leiter, and that not only are the two agents on the same mission, but Quarrel is helping Leiter. The CIA has traced the mysterious radio jamming of American rockets to the Jamaica vicinity, but aerial photography cannot pinpoint the exact location of its origin. Leiter is Bond's contact who supplies him with information on the case.
Behind the scenes
Jack Lord was the first Felix Leiter, appointed into the role for the first Bond film, Dr. No. EON Productions started filming the series out of the order written by Fleming (Fleming had started with Casino Royale, with Dr. No being the sixth novel). Leiter was not present in the Fleming novel, but the writers added the character to the film. Bond scholars Smith and Lavington consider Leiter to offer negligible help to Bond, largely because there is no role for him in the novel, a point with which continuation Bond author Raymond Benson agrees, noting that he is "extraneous to the dramatic action". Jeremy Black agrees, although points out that the inclusion of Leiter was a sign of American influence in the Caribbean.
When the role of Leiter was brought back for the third Bond film, Goldfinger, in 1964, Lord was again approached to play Leiter; according to screenwriter Richard Maibaum, Lord demanded co-star billing with Sean Connery, a bigger role and more money to reprise the role. The producers instead decided to recast the role.
Lord's version of the story, which he told to a friend, was that he was offered a contract by Broccoli's company, which Lord called a "no-bread contract." That meant that for seven years, he could not do any other work except for the Bond films, "not even a TV commercial or play," he remarked. He would get paid, but the salary was not much, and there was no guarantee they would ever cast him in any Bond film made during that period. He could have been collecting the meager pay, not be cast in a Bond film at all, and not be able to do any other work. Lord turned it down. Barbara Broccoli, when asked about it, said they don't have records from that time that mention this contract and she does not have any firsthand knowledge of it but - she added - if Lord himself said it, it has to be true.
Lord played Leiter in a "swaggering" fashion, according to Smith and Lavington, and they considered him "excellent, an effective American version of James Bond." Bond scholars Pfeiffer and Worrall agree, stating that Lord's was "one of the most satisfying portrayals of Leiter".