Willard Whyte is a fictional reclusive American billionaire industrialist whose vast business empire and identity are subsequently stolen by criminal mastermind, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The character appeared in the 1971 James Bond film, Diamonds are Forever, and was portrayed by American actor and singer, Jimmy Dean.
Willard Whyte is an American business magnate whose empire consisted of industries as diverse as explosives, oil, electronics, houses, hotels, and aviation. A recluse for almost five years, three years prior to the film's events Whyte took up residence in the top floor penthouse of his hotel and casino, The Whyte House in Las Vegas, Nevada. At an undisclosed point, Ernst Stavro Blofeld kidnaps and impersonates Whyte using a voice simulator. Operating out of Whyte's hotel penthouse - the nerve center of his empire - and with the industrialist's considerable resources at his disposal, Blofeld set about construction of a laser satellite; with which he intended to blackmail the world's governments - auctioning off nuclear supremacy to the highest bidder. For construction of its weapon he set-up a diamond smuggling pipeline, which transported South African diamonds to Willard Whyte's Techtronics Plant in California.
Rather than kill Whyte, Blofeld holds him hostage at his own summerhouse as an insurance policy against any outside interference with his plans. After British agent James Bond begins to unravel Blofeld's scheme, Blofeld prepares to leave and sends his right-hand man Bert Saxby to execute Whyte, who has outlived his usefulness. Bond reaches the billionaire first, liberating him from his athletic female jailers, Bambi and Thumper. Whyte emerges to see his traitorous former aide, Saxby, shot dead, comically asking 007 to "Tell him, he's 'fired'!" They return to the penthouse in search of Blofeld, discovering scale models of his real estate. When Bond asks about an oil platform in Mexico, Whyte responds that he has no holdings in Baja California. Once the deception is uncovered, Whyte uses his contacts and funds to assist in the destruction of Blofeld's lair. After Bond returns victorious, Whyte joins Felix Leiter at the dock to bid the spy and his romantic interest, Tiffany Case, farewell. As their ship leaves, he jokingly remarks "If you are having a good time, I will have the captain steer the ship in circles!"
Behind the scenes
The character of Willard Whyte was based on eccentric industrialist Howard Hughes, who at the time of filming, was secluded at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. After initial suggestions to introduce the twin brother of Auric Goldfinger were scrapped, a new villain was provided by way of a dream, in which co-producer Albert R. Broccoli dreamed Howard Hughes has been replaced by an impostor. A new writer, Tom Mankiewicz, was subsequently brought in to develop the idea.
- "One morning, he woke and he said, "I had the most fabulous dream. It was about Howard Hughes." He said, "I thought I was outside the penthouse window, and he had his back to me. And I was knocking on the window, and I was saying, 'Sam!'" That was the nickname that his close friends called him. "And when he turned around it wasn't Howard Hughes at all. It was a total stranger. He said "And that's what I've been looking for - this fellow he's kept captive in this penthouse, and everything below is still going on as though he exists.""
- ― Dana Broccoli recounts her late husband's inspiration for Willard Whyte.
Actor and singer Jimmy Dean was working for Howard Hughes at the Desert Inn when he was spotted by Cubby Broccoli, whilst performing his act. Dean would later reminisce on how potentially risky his decision to play the role was; noting that they sent Howard Hughes the first 16mm print of every James Bond movie and he may not have appreciated how he was represented.
- "A peek into the mind of Howard Hughes", Las Vegas Sun, Greenspun Media Group, December 28, 2015. Retrieved on March 13, 2018.
- (2000). Inside Diamonds are Forever: Diamonds are Forever Ultimate Edition, Disc 2 (NTSC, Widescreen, Closed-captioned) [DVD]. MGM/UA Home Video. Retrieved on 07 July 2018. Event occurs at 02:55.
- (2000). Inside Diamonds are Forever: Diamonds are Forever Ultimate Edition, Disc 2 (NTSC, Widescreen, Closed-captioned) [DVD]. MGM/UA Home Video. Retrieved on 07 July 2018. Event occurs at 09:34.