Why James Bond Recast Felix Leiter In Goldfinger

Modern audiences will be much more familiar with Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter, who by the end of Daniel Craig’s run as Bond in “No Time To Die” had become about as close a friend as 007 has ever had. Appearing three times as Bond’s CIA comrade — more than any other actor in Bond history — Wright has come to somewhat define a role that previously handed off to six different actors, starting with Guy Hamilton’s recasting of Leiter in “Goldfinger.”

So what started this lesser known Bond tradition? Well, it depends on who you ask. In the book “Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films,” Bond scholars Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury write:

“Jack Lord, who had played Felix Leiter in ‘Dr. No,’ was scheduled to reprise the role [in ‘Goldfinger’]. Lord had signed a two-picture deal with Broccoli and Saltzman in January 1963 but, according to his agent, wanted ‘more money and co-star billing’.” Lord did not reprise his role as Leiter.”

But that wasn’t the end of the whole debacle. As Field and Chowdhury recall, Austin Willis was initially cast to replace Lord as Leiter, while Cec Linder was brought in to portray Mr. Simmons, a Gin Rummy player who’s being hustled by Gert Fröbe’s Auric Goldfinger during the film’s early Miami scenes. However, at the last minute Linder and Willis were told to swap roles, with Linder quoted in the book as stating, “[Willis] had a right to be upset. He got a few days on the picture, but I ended up with 12 weeks.” Unfortunately for Linder he, too, would be replaced, with Rik Van Nutter appearing as Leiter the following year in 1965’s “Thunderball.”

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