I was 49 when I legally changed my name to James Bond

A gif of three men called James Bond

Bond. James Bond.

It’s an iconic catchphrase from one of the highest grossing film franchises in the world – not to mention acclaimed books, TV shows, comics and even radio broadcasts.

But imagine hearing it almost every day whenever someone finds out what your full name is. That’s the reality for three men named James Bond that Metro.co.uk spoke to on the back of film, The Other Fellow, that all three star in.

Here, they talk about what it’s like to navigate life in the shadow of the most famous British Secret Service agent in the world.

Bond James Bond, 65

Sometimes when I get mail in the post, I cry.

It’s not because of the content of the letters though, it’s because I see the name that it’s addressed to and I get emotional.

My name is literally: ‘Bond James Bond’. I legally changed it from Gunnar Schäfer to that in 2007 because the fictional international spy means so much to me.

In fact, I consider James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, a father figure. It feels like he’s been there for me throughout my life when my own biological dad left me and my family two years after I was born.

I have absolutely no memories of my dad. He abandoned my mother, two older brothers and I one day but didn’t tell anyone. To this day, no one knows where he ended up, but an Interpol search later declared him dead by 1969.

It was really hard for my mother raising three children alone. She did her best, but I always felt lost without a paternal figure to look up to.

Then, my big brothers took me to watch Goldfinger in 1965 at the age of eight. I was immediately drawn to Sean Connery as James Bond, who played the character as this tough, harder guy getting among all the action.

I was hooked on the franchise after that. I actually got a little toy Aston Martin with an ejector seat at the time, which I still have today.

From that moment on, I consumed anything and everything related to James Bond. I went to my local library and read all of Fleming’s books, which weren’t all that different to each other – but I couldn’t get enough.

I have followed the author’s life – and the wider franchise – very closely throughout my own. I’ve seen every film, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. Besides the nostalgia of 1964’s Goldfinger, one of my other favourites is actually Daniel Craig’s Skyfall (2012) because I feel like there are similarities with my own story.

James Bond visits Skyfall Lodge, his ancestral home where his parents lived before their untimely deaths. I felt like I was watching myself on screen trying to figure out what happened to my own father.

On top of consuming all the films, TV shows and films, I also started collecting memorabilia too. In fact, I had so many artefacts that I opened a museum in 2002 – the same year Die Another Day came out – called the James Bond 007 Museum, Nybro, in Sweden.

In it, I have my vast collection of cars, clothes, film set props, toys and even vodkas. Some of it can be quite expensive, but to me, it’s priceless.

I love the motorcycles I have from No Time To Die and the hovercraft from Die Another Day. But one of my absolute favourites is the motorised 12 metre-long gondola I got from 1979’s Moonraker.

In the film, Roger Moore is chased through the canals of Venice and I just thought that was so cool. It actually took me 10 years before I got approved by the government there to buy it and to take it with me back to Sweden.

Changing my name in 2007 felt like a full circle moment to honour the impact of both the franchise and Ian Fleming on my life. It means the world to me to have the same name as my idol.

People ask if I regret it, and the truth is, not at all. James Bond comforted and helped me while I was growing up, it feels right that I’ve devoted my life to it.

I have travelled the world to see as much as I can in relation to this life-changing spy and actually, it’s brought many people to me in Sweden too. I’ve met enthusiasts from all over the world – from places like New York, Jamaica, New Zealand and France.

That’s the power of James Bond – he connects us to each other. And I’ll forever be grateful to Ian Fleming for transporting me into this world.

A few years ago, I visited the author’s grave in Swindon and was overcome with emotion. It was very calm and peaceful to visit but all I could think was: ‘This is the closest I can get to my dad.’

James Neal Bond, 70

As I stopped at a red light in the bus I was driving, I noticed the taxi in front of me had completely broken down.

The front end of the vehicle collapsed, a bang rang out and sparks were flying everywhere while it slid through the red light and onto the busy intersection.

Suddenly, four men in suits popped out of the car and looked around desperately. They waved their arms at me, so I ushered them over to jump in the back of my shuttle bus.

They were on their way to the airport and I was happy to take them after their heinous ordeal. A few minutes into the trip, one of them suddenly burst into riotous laughter.

He pointed at a sign in my car, which read: ‘Thank you for riding the Super Shuttle, your driver is James Bond.’

Then he said: ‘Imagine our luck being rescued by James Bond!’ Everyone cracked up laughing. That man was so appreciative that he bought the sign in my bus for $100 (£80) and told me he’d be hanging it in his office.

That’s just one of the times being named James Bond has felt completely surreal.

I was actually born in 1953, the same year Ian Fleming’s first James Bond book, Casino Royale, was published. I didn’t know it existed then though.

Having my name wasn’t an issue until I was about 12 years old in junior high, which is when the first James Bond film, Dr No came to my town in Texas – two years after its initial release.

My history teacher actually called me ‘00’ (short for ‘007’) that same week, but I had no idea what he was talking about. That nickname stuck from that point on, which I was very happy about. It was a welcome change from ‘Big Foot’ – all because I was wearing a size 13 shoe by the sixth grade.

When I eventually went to see the film, I didn’t really relate to the spy protagonist because I was a big nerd in school and not very masculine at all. That didn’t stop me from writing ‘007’ at the top of my homework, which my teachers found very funny.

That’s not the only time I leant into it. I had the number plate ‘007’ on my first car, as well as numerous Avon colognes of the same number.

There were downsides too, including people like police officers thinking I was showing them a fake ID.

After a while, I started go by ‘Jimmy’ because I felt like I was losing my own identity. This wouldn’t stop people from asking me about my relation to the spy when they saw my last name paired with my nickname though.

In my early 20s, I got married and had two children. My dad really wanted me to call my first son ‘James Bond’ too as a namesake, but I wasn’t so sure. In the end, we ended up naming him after my late-wife’s father instead.

When my second son was born, I gave into my father’s pressure and called him James Andrew Bond, but he often prefers to go by ‘Andy’.

So, my dad was James Lee Bond – before Ian Fleming even published his first novel – I’m James Neal Bond, my son is James Andrew Bond and my grandson is James Cesar Bond. 

There’s one major difference I have with James Bond though – I’m gay.

I came out to myself at 27, but it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I sat down with family and friends. I was 31 when I came out to my dad, who said he’d always known.

At the time, I was actually a pastor for a church, who fired me because of my sexuality. I don’t regret a thing though.

In fact, being called James Bond has worked really well in gay bars – people buy me drinks all the time. I’m not the biggest martini fan though, even if you ask me whether I want it shaken or stirred.

Do I think my life would be different if I was named something else? I couldn’t say, because all I know is the hand I’ve been dealt with.

At the end of the day, 007 has been with me for my whole life – and I wouldn’t change it.

James Cesar Bond, 18

‘Hi, I’m Bond. James Bond – and I’ll be your server today.’

For the first month or two in my role as a waiter, that’s how I started introducing myself to diners at the restaurant.

‘I’ll have a martini – shaken, not stirred,’ some replied. While others opted for a cheeky: ‘Can I take your car keys?’

Each time, I simply responded by giving the fakest laugh I could muster. Why? Because my name is a great conversation starter, but it’s even better for tips.

Someone once gave me a $300 (£240) tip on a $700 (£550) bill, which I’d like to think was because I was so charming, but my name probably had a part to play in it. I’ve even had a woman offer to pay me $20 for my name tag, so I agreed and just replaced it for $5.

Growing up, I didn’t really know that I shared a name with the famous international spy. For a long time – to me – it was just my name. I even recall playing GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 and still not clocking.

In elementary school, teachers would laugh their heads off when they’d call out my name, but I had no idea what they were talking about. In fact, I was given the number seven on my jersey when I started playing peewee football.

It wasn’t until sixth or seventh grade that I got in on the joke. I’d have people come up to me in the school halls and say they’ve wanted to meet me for a while – or introduce their sister, who was in my grade. It’s a little creepy because I wouldn’t know who they were but they would know about me.

As I grew up, maybe I’ve seen more of the films, but I only really remember 2012’s Skyfall with Daniel Craig. I just recall thinking how much of a badass he was – and that it was pretty cool to share a name with him. I loved that he was great with the ladies too.

I’m the fourth generation James Bond in my family, so my great grandfather was actually called it before Ian Fleming even created it.

To me, they’re just Dad, Grandpa and Grandad, but we all have nicknames – I’m JC (James Cesar), my dad is Andy because his middle name is Andrew, then there’s Jamie and Jimmy.

Before my great grandad’s death, there were moments where we were all in the same room for things like Thanksgiving, but it didn’t really feel like a big deal at the time.

That’s the thing – I’ve always been fairly nonchalant about my name. I don’t think it’s really a leg up and I don’t want to base my entire life or personality on it.

All I know is that I’d probably have a little less money – thanks to the tips – if I was called something else.

The Other Fellow – a documentary drama that explores the lives of real men around the world who are named James Bond – is available to rent and buy now on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Youtube, Sky Store and other platforms.

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