Batman has the Joker, Harry Potter has Lord Voldemort, and in the world of James Bond one archenemy reigns supreme: Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The head of a global crime syndicate known as SPECTRE, Blofeld appears in three of the original Ian Fleming novels and six of Eon Productions’ Bond films. Last seen falling to his apparent death in “For Your Eyes Only,” the supervillain and the nefarious SPECTRE have been absent from the screen for 33 years due to a legal battle over character rights. With the case now settled, the latest film in the series “Spectre” opens Nov. 6, setting the stage for the return of Blofeld himself. As fans await the next 007 movie, here’s a look at some of the most memorable adversaries Bond has faced over the past 52 years.
Joseph Wiseman, whose onstage intensity earned him praise as “the spookiest actor in the American theater,” portrayed the titular mastermind in the first official Bond film in 1962. A variation on Sax Rohmer’s infamous Fu Manchu, the diabolical Doctor No is instantly recognizable for his bizarre metallic hands, described as claw-like pinchers in the novel. Despite his place in spy cinema history, Wiseman reportedly viewed the role with great disdain.
Sporting ginger hair, piercing eyes and a tanned, muscular physique, this cunning assassin is one of the most realistically menacing adversaries 007 ever faced. Played by Robert Shaw in 1963’s “From Russia with Love,” the twisted character is described by Fleming as an amoral, apolitical psychopath whose compulsive urge to kill coincides with the phases of the moon. His brutal battle with Bond on the Orient Express is a series highlight.
By far the jolliest villain who ever threatened the world, professional gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger was originally to be played by Orson Welles, but his exorbitant fee was deemed too high. German actor Gert Fröbe was eventually cast in the role, but spoke his lines phonetically due to a difficulty with English and was later dubbed by another actor. The greedy character’s signature quip, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” does not appear in the source novel.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
The most notable versions of Blofel were portrayed by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas and Charles Gray. Of the three, Pleasence’s interpretation in “You Only Live Twice” is most familiar to audiences, thanks to the Austin Powers comedies that spoofed his bald head and facial scar.
Yaphet Kotto pulled double-duty as the antagonist in 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” portraying the corrupt Caribbean dictator Dr. Kananga as well as his drug pushing alter ego Mr. Big. Described in the novel as a monstrously obese kingpin with yellow eyes, gray skin and a head twice the size of a normal man, Kotto’s dapper version of the character dispensed with the physical grotesqueries and added a charismatic dose of stylish villainy. His death by over-inflation is a fan favorite.
Having gained fame as Count Dracula, Christopher Lee gave Roger Moore a run for his money in 1974’s “The Man with the Golden Gun,” playing an erudite hitman whose weapon of choice is a gleaming 24-carat pistol. The son of circus parents, Lee’s Scaramanga is recognizable for his third nipple, as well as his penchant for making love before murder. A skilled mafia thug in the novel, the character’s plan for world domination is greatly increased in the film adaptation.
Though technically a henchman rather than a full-fledged villain, this towering killer is decidedly more memorable than Karl Stromberg, his evil employer in 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Played by 7’2” Richard Kiel, the gleaming-toothed Jaws proved so popular that he returned two years later in “Moonraker.” Plans to bring the character back for a third time in “For Your Eyes Only” were eventually scrapped when producers chose a more down-to-earth storyline.
Legendary British star James Mason was initially approached to play the wealthy industrialist Sir Hugo Drax in the 11th Bond adventure “Moonraker,” but when the film became an Anglo-French co-production, Parisian-born Michael Lonsdale assumed the role to comply with financing rules. A far cry from the red-haired, ape-like vulgarian in the novel, Lonsdale’s soft-spoken Drax suggests an arrogant aristocrat with a vampiric disdain for humanity.
Christopher Walken has played a long list of cold-blooded psychos, but perhaps none is more offbeat than the platinum-haired madman he portrayed in 1985’s “A View to a Kill.” Born of a Nazi eugenics experiment gone wrong, Zorin’s plan to destroy Silicon Valley fuels the plot of the 14th Bond film. Though the role was initially offered to David Bowie, it’s hard to imagine anyone else mowing down their own men with a machine gun as gleefully as Walken does here.
Known for portraying cinematic heavies, Robert Davi positively dripped evil as 007’s nemesis in 1989’s brutally violent “License to Kill.” In preparation for the part, Davi researched the inner workings of the Columbian drug cartels and stayed deeply in character, both on and off set. Crafting his performance to resemble a morally decayed mirror-image of Bond, Davi’s Sanchez is not without his quirky charm. Case in point: his pet iguana sports a sparkling diamond collar.
After Sean Bean’s rather understated antagonist in “GoldenEye,” Jonathan Pryce camped it up as the conniving head of a global media empire intent on starting the next world war in 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies.” In a role that was initially offered to Anthony Hopkins, Pryce practically wrings his hands with depraved excitement at the prospect of killing Bond and his cohorts. Skirting the edge of cartoonishness, his Elliot Carver is a welcome return to retro-villainy.
A rare female villain in the Bond series, French actress Sophie Marceau spends at least half of 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” playing 007’s love interest. When her wicked motives are finally revealed, it takes the secret agent, and possibly some of the audience, by surprise. Combining kinky sex with even kinkier violence, the sequence where Elektra straddles Bond on an antique torture chair and slowly cuts off his air supply is one of the cruelest of the Brosnan era.
With his ink-black hair, gaunt pallor and blood-leaking eye, the terrorist financier who challenges Bond to cards in “Casino Royale” resembles a corpse as much as he does a man. Played with suave menace by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, the mysterious Le Chiffre pushes 007 to his limits when he methodically tortures him for information. Imbuing the role with an air of sadism, it’s little surprise that Mikkelsen was cast as Hannibal Lecter on the NBC series.
Javier Bardem pulled out all the stops as a vengeful cyberterrorist with a grudge against MI6 in 2012’s blockbuster “Skyfall.” Whether orchestrating a subway crash, laying siege to Bond’s ancestral home, or killing his beloved boss M, Bardem’s Silva is always one step ahead of the heroes. In preparation for the role, the actor had the script translated into his native Spanish to better understand the character.