Hugo Drax (who has the honorary title of "Sir" in the novel) is a fictional character created by author Ian Fleming for the James Bond novel Moonraker. Fleming named him after his friend, Sir Reginald Drax.
For the later film and its novelization, Hugo Drax was almost entirely changed by screenwriter Christopher Wood. In the film, Drax is portrayed by French actor Michael Lonsdale. In both versions of Moonraker, Drax is the main antagonist.
In the novel, Sir Hugo Drax is a famous English hero of the Second World War and a post-war millionaire. He is described as being approximately 6 ft (183 cm) tall, with red hair, a bushy reddish moustache and protruding upper teeth. Half of his face is badly scarred from a German attack during the War, an incident which has also allegedly left him with amnesia. Bond sums him up as "A bullying, boorish, loud-mouthed vulgarian".
Rising from humble beginnings in Liverpool, Drax made a fortune after the war from trading metals in Tangier and was able to start his company, "Drax Metals Ltd", which specialises and has a monopoly in the production of a metal called Columbite. By 1950 he was a multi-millionaire. Returning to England, he donated to Britain his entire holding in Columbite to build the Moonraker - an atomic rocket with a range that would protect Britain from its Cold War enemies. In addition, he provided £10,000,000, the design and the staff to build the weapon. For this he had been given a knighthood.
As it turns out, Sir Hugo Drax is not who he seems; he was born in Germany as "Graf Hugo von der Drache". On account of his mother being English, Drache was educated in England until the age of twelve. Afterwards he moved to Berlin and later Leipzig, where he continued and finished his education. After graduating, he joined the Nazi Party and entered the Wehrmacht as a soldier in the Panzer Brigade 150. At the outset of the Second World War he took part in the Blitzkrieg campaigns in Belgium and France, before becoming a Skorzeny Werwolf commando. After the Ardennes offensive he stayed behind Allied lines operating with his commando group.
On one fateful mission, his group planted a vehicle full of explosives at a farmhouse which was being used by the Allies as a rear headquarters. At the same time, Drache was on a separate mission to kill a British dispatch rider. Disguised as a British soldier, he was accidentally attacked by a German aircraft. The wounded Drache was found by allied troops who mistook him for a British serviceman and they brought him to the farmhouse. It is here that he was caught in the explosion and nearly killed. He was then rescued by the British and nursed back to health, claiming to be a "missing soldier" by the name of Hugo Drax. After being discharged from nursing care, he killed a Jewish businessman in London and escaped to Tangier with £15,000 he stole from him.
As revenge for Germany's defeat, he started the Moonraker missile project under the pretence that he would test fire the missile into the North Sea. Instead of doing so, however, he targeted his missile on London and armed it with an atomic bomb he had received through the Soviets and SMERSH. Drax uses his knowledge of the impending disaster to play the stock market, planning to make a huge profit from his own terrorist act. Bond, with the help of female Special Branch agent Gala Brand, sabotaged Drax's Moonraker missile launch and changed the coordinates of the target back to the North Sea. There the missile detonated, destroying the Soviet submarine carrying the escaping Drax killing him and foiling his plan to continue his Führer Adolf Hitler's legacy.
Behind the scenes
The Moonraker novel involved the idea of the "traitor within" throughout the course of the book. Drax, real name Graf Hugo von der Drache, is a "megalomaniac German Nazi who masquerades as an English gentleman"; his assistant, Krebbs, bears the same name as Hitler's last Chief of Staff. In using a German as the novel's main enemy, "Fleming ... exploits another British cultural antipathy of the 1950s. Germans, in the wake of World War II, made another easy and obvious target for bad press." Moonraker uses two of the foes feared by Fleming, the Nazis and the Soviets, with Drax being German and working for the Soviets; in Moonraker the Soviets were hostile and provided not just the atomic bomb, but support and logistics to Drax.
Fleming used aspects of his private life to create the character Drax: Hugo Drax was named after his acquaintance Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax. Other elements of the plot came from Fleming's knowledge of wartime operations carried out by T-Force, a secret British Army unit formed to continue the work of 30 Assault Unit, itself created by Fleming.
While the film version of Hugo Drax, played by Michael Lonsdale, differed almost entirely from the literary character in terms of both appearance and backstory, the Drax appearing in Christopher Wood's novelisation of the film, James Bond and Moonraker, notably adopts the appearance of Fleming's character almost exactly.