MI6 looks back at the seven actors who have each
portrayed James Bond's deadliest villain - Ernst Stavro
The Actors Who Played Blofeld
31st July 2005
From the beginning, there are certain elements
that have made the world of James Bond fascinating, and
have brought fans back time and again: fast cars, sexy girls,
cool gadgets, plenty of martinis (shaken, not stirred),
and, of course, insanely over-the-top villains!
Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s one megalomaniac dominated
the underworld of the James Bond universe – Ernst
Seen first as the head of the evil organization known as
SPECTRE (The SPecial
Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge,
Extortion), and then apparently striking out on his own,
Blofeld or his minions faced off against James Bond more
times than any other villain.
Now MI6 looks back at the actors who shaped the Blofeld
Although Dr. No introduced filmgoers
to SPECTRE in 1962, it was a year later before fans met “Number
One” (Blofeld). In From Russia
With Love, the role of Blofeld was portrayed by two actors.
Anthony Dawson was shown on camera stroking a white Angora cat,
but it was Eric Pohlman who provided the chilling voice of the
Anthony Dawson was born 18 October 1916 in
Edinburgh, Scotland. He began acting in the 1940s, and was often
cast as sadistic characters. Bond fans first saw Anthony Dawson
as Professor Dent
in Dr. No, but since Dawson’s face was not shown during
From Russia With Love, he was able to fool audiences, and the
credit even listed “Ernst Blofeld” as being played
by “?” in an attempt to make the character that much
more mysterious. Dawson would again reprise his role as the figure
of Blofeld two years later in Thunderball,
but again it was not his voice that audiences heard.
Beyond Bond: After Bond, Dawson’s
career never fully flourished. He did several Italian films,
including a 1967 film called OK Connery (a.k.a. Operation
Double 007 or Operation Kid Brother), which, coincidentally,
starred Sean Connery’s younger brother, Neil, along
with several other actors who appeared in Bond films, including
Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Celi, Bernard Lee, and Lois Maxwell.
Dawson continued acting all his life, last appearing in
the miniseries “Selling Hitler” in 1991. Dawson
finally died of cancer in Sussex, England on 8 January 1992.
Eric Pohlmann, who provided the voice for Blofeld
in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, was born 18 July 1913
in Vienna, Austria. Pohlmann studied at Max Reinhard School before
becoming a stage entertainer in the 1930s. He met his wife, Liselotte
Goettinger, on stage, and they were married after escaping to
London in 1939. Pohlmann appeared often on stage and in television
throughout his career, and began doing films in the late 1940s.
He also guest starred in a few episodes of “The Saint”
(starring Roger Moore), and one episode of “The Avengers”
(which among other Bond-related names, starred Honor Blackman
and Diana Rigg).
Beyond Bond: Pohlmann’s love appeared to be for the stage,
and he returned to Germany and Austria for several stage performances
throughout the years after 1965. Sadly, his wife, Liselotte, died
of a heart attack in September 1968. Pohlmann continued doing
stage, TV, and film appearances, though, and most notably landed
roles in Inspector Clouseau (1968) and The Return of the Pink
Panther (1975). Then, like his wife, Eric Pohlmann suffered a
fatal heart attack on 25 July 1979, during final rehearsals for
his 2nd appearance at the Salzburg Festival in Bavaria, Germany.
Leading up to the release of You
Only Live Twice, Bond producers announced that audiences
would finally get to see the face of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
But the face fans saw in the film was not the face originally
cast for the role. Czech actor Jan Werich
was originally cast as Blofeld.
Some sources claim that Werich became ill at the time of
shooting, and had to retire from the picture because of
this illness. Other sources – including director Lewis
Gilbert – claim that the filmmakers simply realized
that Werich was not right for the part. Regardless of the
reason, Werich shot scenes as Blofeld for only five days
before he was replaced by Donald Pleasence.
was born 5 October 1919 in Worksop,
England. Pleasence took public speaking classes as a child, and
began his acting career in a 1939 production of Wuthering Heights.
He took a break from acting, however, when he joined the Royal Air
Force during WWII. His plane was shot down, and he spent a year
in a German POW camp. After the war, Pleasance returned to acting,
and became one of Britain’s most popular actors, doing numerous
stage and television performances, and acting in 145 films over
the span of his career.
Beyond Bond: Donald Pleasance was married
four times and had five daughters (two by his first wife,
two by his second wife, one by his third wife, and no children
by his fourth wife).
Besides his appearance as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice,
Donald Pleasance is most recognized for his recurring role
as Dr. Sam Loomis in the famed Halloween series.
Pleasance died on 2 February 1995 in St. Paul de Vence,
France, after complications from heart-valve replacement
In On Her Majesty’s Secret
Service, producers wanted to have a more active Blofeld,
so they cast American actor Telly Savalas in the role. Telly
Savalas was born on 21 January 1924 in Garden City, New
York. His birth name was Aristotelis Savalas. Savalas studied
psychology at Columbia University before he dropped out to serve
in WWII. He was injured in the line of duty, and received a Purple
Heart upon discharge. In the 1950s, Savalas hosted his own talk
show for ABC Radio before finally turning to acting at the age
Beyond Bond: Savalas played several villainous
characters over the years, but besides his role as Blofeld
in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Telly Savalas
is perhaps best known as Lt. Theo Kojak, appearing in the
TV movie, The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973).
This movie launched the TV series “Kojak”,
which ran from 1973 to 1978, and spawned seven more Kojak
TV movies. Unfortunately, Savalas contracted bladder cancer
in the ‘90s, and he died in Universal City, California
on 22 January 1994, just one day after his 70th birthday.
In 1971, Blofeld got
a makeover when he was portrayed by Charles Gray
in Diamonds Are Forever. Charles
Gray had been previously introduced to Bond fans as Dikko
Henderson, one of Bond’s allies who had been killed
by one of Blofeld’s men in You Only Live Twice. This makes
Gray one of the few actors who have played both an ally and a
villain in the James Bond universe. Although Gray’s Blofeld
bore little physical resemblance to previous Blofeld incarnations,
Bond instantly recognized the villain with the white Angora cat,
and Blofeld’s evil plot was just as devious as ever.
Beyond Bond: Charles Gray was born 29 August
1928 in Bournemouth, Dorset, England. His birth name was
Donald Marshall Gray, but when he left his job as a clerk
for a real-estate agent to become a Shakespearean stage
actor at the age of 24, Gray had a difficult time making
a name for himself. There was already a well-known British
actor named Donald Gray, so he performed briefly under the
name “Oliver Gray”, and was sometimes credited
as “Charles D. Gray” (to avoid confusion with
American actor Charles H. Gray) before settling on “Charles
Over the years, Charles Gray found his niche, though, often playing
authority figures and villains. Besides Blodeld, Gray was best known
for his roles as Mycroft Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1978)
and as the criminologist/narrator in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
(1975). Gray continued acting, and was last seen in the made-for-TV
movie, Longitude (2000). Charles Gray died of cancer on 7 March
2000 in London, England.
After Diamonds Are Forever, legal issues between Eon Productions
and Kevin McClory, who worked on the original script for Thunderball
with Ian Fleming in the 1950s, forced Blofeld to retire from the
official series. Blofeld made an unofficial return to the Eon
series ten years later, though, in the opening sequences of For
Your Eyes Only in 1981, when John Hollis
portrayed a faceless, wheelchair-bound, bald man with a white
Angora cat. It is clear that this character was intended to be
Blofeld – the technique of hiding the character’s
face evokes memories of Blofeld’s early appearances, and
the wheelchair is an allusion to the events of OHMSS – but
for legal reasons, his name was never mentioned in the film, nor
was it listed in the film’s credits.
Beyond Bond: John Hollis was born in 1935
in London, England. Not much is known about his personal
life, but in addition to James Bond, Hollis has also made
appearances in the Superman and Star Wars franchises, and
also made an uncredited appearance in 1967’s unofficial
Bond film, Casino Royale.
Using his rights to Thunderball, Kevin McClory made the
unofficial Bond film, Never Say Never Again, starring Sean
Connery, in 1983. McClory’s version of Ernst Stavro
Blofeld was played by Swedish legend, Max von Sydow.
Again, the white cat was present, but this time, Blofeld’s
appearance is reminiscent of the version first intended
with Jan Werich, with grey hair and a goatee.
Max von Sydow was born 29 April 1929 in
Lund, Sweden. As a teenager, von Sydow and some of his friends
founded an amateur theatre company, and later he attended
The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.
In 1955, he moved to Malmö, where he met and began
working with Ingmar Bergman, and his career really began
to take off as he starred in Oscar-winning films produced
Von Sydow went on to since star in such classics as The
Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and The Exorcist (1973),
and more recently in blockbusters like Judge Dredd (1995)
and Minority Report (2002).
Beyond Bond: Bond producers originally asked Max von Sydow to
play Dr. No, but he declined that offer. But besides portraying
Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Never Say Never Again, Max von Sydow also
has the distinction of having worked alongside at least two previous
Blofeld actors. First, he played alongside John Hollis in Flash
Gordon (1980), and then he worked with Telly Savalas in the made-for-TV
movie, Kojak: The Belarus File (1985)
Anthony Dawson –1963, 1965
Eric Pohlman – 1963, 1965
Donald Pleasence – 1967
Telly Savalas – 1969
Charles Gray – 1971
John Hollis – 1981
Max von Sydow – 1983
Anthony Dawson – 47, 49
Eric Pohlman – 50, 52
Donald Pleasence – 48
Telly Savalas – 45
Charles Gray – 43
John Hollis – 50
Max von Sydow – 54
Did You Know?
Ian Fleming shares his birthday with his creation Ernst Stavro
Blofeld - 28th May 1908.