With a thrill for danger and a licence to kill, Ian Fleming’s James Bond is one of cinema’s most iconic characters, depicted by some of the finest British thespians ever to grace the silver screen.
Sean Connery’s Bond is often regarded as the ‘golden era’ of the character, with films like Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever establishing many iconic features that now define the genre, whilst Daniel Craig heralded in a totally new era for 007, one typified by grit and brutality.
The era between arguably the two best depictions of the character, was one of transition, from Connery’s smart sophistication to Craig’s no-nonsense approach. George Lazenby and Roger Moore celebrated the more whimsical qualities of the character, whilst Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan flirted with sincerity, the results are mixed.
Though one thing that remains constant from one Bond to the next is the appreciation for a high-stakes action set piece, whether it’s the skiing pursuit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or even the invisible car chase in the dire Die Another Day. It was however the era of Roger Moore’s 007 that produced the most, or at least the most eccentric stunts, with one particular set-piece in 1973s Live and Let Die resulting in 193 stitches for the stunt man Ross Katanga.
Perhaps best known for its soundtrack, performed by Linda and Paul McCartney, the film followed Bond in his mission to stop a heroin magnate in the fictional island of San Monique in the Caribbean sea. Toward the end of the film, Bond finds himself captured by criminals who leave the secret agent to be eaten by crocodiles on a small rock in the middle of an infested lake.
Step out Hollywood actor Roger Moore, and step in Ross Katanga, crocodile farm owner and stunt man who would be completing the forthcoming stunt, wherein James Bond would escape from the lake by using several crocodiles as stepping stones. “Kanaga was the only man who would try the stunt,” commented screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, recalling the now-famous set-piece, with Katanga succeeding only on his fifth attempt.
As you can see in the classic behind-the-scenes video, the crocodiles begin to recognise Katanga’s desperate sprint, so begin to act in anticipation, as Mankiewicz recalls, “they’d seen the act twice, so they’re waiting for him to jump again”. Desperately snapping at the stunt man, the reptiles manage at one point to snatch at Katanga’s heel, ripping his trousers, though luckily he walked away relatively unscathed, beside the triple-digit stitches.
Check out the extraordinary footage of the stunt below: