Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Nationaal Archief)

Film

The reason why Sean Connery is not in the first James Bond gun barrel sequence

@TylerGolsen

Dr. No was the start of a number of beloved hallmarks for the James Bond film series, as well as the home to a number of repeated trademarks that would become synonymous with 007. From the introduction of the main character as “Bond, James Bond” to the inclusion of beautiful Bond girls and dastardly evil-doers and their collection of henchmen, Dr. No has everything that audiences have come to expect from Bond over the last 60 years, including the series’ famous opening gun barrel sequence. 

With only a few exceptions, every single James Bond film has opened the same way: our intrepid secret agent walks across a blank white background, caught in the gun barrel of an unseen assassin. As the audience watches from inside the gun barrel, Bond stops and shoots the assailant, gunning them down as the scene fades into the movie proper. A signature flourish of the Bond series, the gun barrel sequence was the first shot that audiences saw when they sat down to watch the very first Bond film in 1962.

Upon rewatch, however, something strange was noticed about the sequence: the figure being focused on in the sequence was not Sean Connery. Although it appeared obvious that the person being targeted was James Bond himself, the actor that originated the role wasn’t actually featured in the opening sequence. 

According to title designer Maurice Binder, who also conceived the gun barrel sequence, the pre-title introduction was hastily fleshed out in roughly 20 minutes. “That was something I did in a hurry, because I had to get to a meeting with the producers in 20 minutes,” Binder recalled in 1991. “I just happened to have little white, price tag stickers and I thought I’d use them as gun shots across the screen. We’d have James Bond walk through and fire, at which point blood comes down onscreen. That was about a twenty-minute storyboard I did, and they said, ‘This looks great!’”

With relatively little consideration for how big the Bond series would eventually become, Binder opted to use stuntman Bob Simmons as Bond instead. Simmons was considered for the role of Bond and acted as Connery’s stunt double while becoming the Bond series’ go-to stunt coordinator in its early years. Binder purposefully shot the sequence with Bond in silhouette to obscure the fact that it wasn’t Connery.

Strangely, even after the success of Dr. No when Connery became inextricably linked with 007, Eon Productions opted to continue using the original sequence with Simmons in the next two Bond films, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. It was only when the standard aspect ratio of the films changed for Thunderball that a new gun barrel sequence was shot, this time with Connery assuming the role of Bond. From that point on, each actor who portrayed the series’ central spy appeared in their own gun barrel sequence.

Check out the original gun barrel sequence from Dr. No down below.