Trivia - You Only Live Twice


The novel of "You Only Live Twice" was the last Ian Fleming James Bond novel published during his lifetime. Released on 16 March 1964, it was the twelfth novel in the series. For the first time in the James Bond film series, the screen story bared little resemblance to the source novel. Some characters and the Japanese setting remain intact, but, other than that, the two stories are radically different.

While scouting for locations in Japan, the chief production team was nearly killed. On 5 March 1966, Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, Director Lewis Gilbert, Cinematographer Freddie Young and Production Designer Ken Adam were booked to leave Japan on BOAC flight 911 departing Tokyo for Hong Kong and London. Two hours before their Boeing 707 flight departed, the team were invited to an unexpected ninja demonstration and so missed their plane. Their flight took off as scheduled and twenty five minutes after take-off the plane disintegrated over Mt Fuji, killing everybody on board. The incident brought with it an unsettling reality to the meaning of the title "You Only Live Twice".

Director Lewis Gilbert originally turned down the directing job on this movie.

Bond producer Barbara Broccoli grew up in the behind-the-scenes world of James Bond and as a child during location shooting in Japan for this movie she caught a fever from the Japanese custom of sleeping on the floor. James Bond star Sean Connery's star status provided him with a comfortable bed and he generously relinquished it so she could properly fight her illness.

The budget was the then astronomic sum of $9,500,000 ($1,000,000 of of which was spent by Ken Adam in his crater set). The crater set was so large that crew members kept misreading Adam's dimensions as being in feet when they were supposed to be meters.

In the novel, Ian Fleming describes Blofeld's hide-out as being a castle on the coast. Ken Adam discovered that this could never be. The Japanese never built their castles directly on the coast for fear of typhoons. Hence the creation of the elaborate volcano set.

Ken Adam's volcano set was constructed at Pinewood Studios outside London and consisted of a movable helicopter platform, a working monorail system, a launch pad and a full scale rocket mock-up that could simulate lift-off. 700 tonnes of structural steel and 200 miles of tubular steel were used. Adam once said that the set used more steel than that used for the London Hilton Hotel. The set also used 200 tonnes of plaster, 500,000 tubular couplings and over 250,000 square yards of canvas.

While in Japan, Sean Connery and his wife Diane Cilento were hounded by the international press. During news conferences the press insisted on referring to Connery as James Bond. Local newsmen attempted to photograph him in a rest room. Thirty extra private security guards were hired to combat the excess noise and hindrance but even the guards started to take photos. Connery was allegedly photographed on a toilet and the picture published in a Tokyo newspaper. To ease the tension the producers removed his contractual obligation to do one more 007 movie, despite being offered $1 million.

Sean Connery caused quite a commotion with the Japanese press when he revealed that he didn't find Japanese women sexy. This later turned out to be a misinterpretation due to incorrect translation, and took place on a day when Connery was exhausted after an intensive day's filming. Never overly keen on doing interviews, Connery didn't go out of his way to be too personable with the interviewer who was aghast that the actor showed up in a casual T-shirt with baggy trousers and sandals. "Is this how James Bond dresses?" he asked, to which Connery replied tersely "I'm not James Bond, I'm Sean Connery, a man who likes to dress comfortably."

Filming was a chaotic affair largely due to the production being continually mobbed by eager Japanese onlookers. The attention was sufficient for Sean Connery to announce halfway through that he would not be returning as James Bond.

Reportedly, the noise made during the shooting of the film's grand finale on the volcano set scared Blofeld's white cat that it ran away. It wasn't found for days and it was eventually discovered hiding in some of the set's rafters. Apparently, footage of the scared cat wound up in the finished movie when Blofeld's security shutters are enforced.

Due to a heightened fanatic interest in the James Bond movie franchise and in particular star Sean Connery, cameras frequently had to be hidden whilst shooting on location so the production schedule would not get seriously delayed.

Local Japanese girls cast as extras refused to wear bikinis in publicity photo shoots. On the intervention of producer Albert R. Broccoli, consent was able to be achieved.

Eon productions considered hiring Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's production company - the company that made their Supermarionation shows such as "Stingray" (1964), "Thunderbirds" (1965), and "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons" (1967) - to help out with the film's SFX work; it would not be until The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) that Derek Meddings, chief FX technician for the Andersons, would go to work on a Bond film.

In an interview with Playboy magazine, writer Roald Dahl claimed that he assembled his script to a formula already established in the previous films in the series, and that he never took the script seriously.

In order to gain some measure of authenticity for the team of stuntmen who would double as Ninja in the climactic battle in the volcano, the producers enlisted the help of Japan's only practicing Ninja master, 34-year-old Masaaki Hatsumi who had inherited the tradition from his then retired teacher Toshitsugu Takamatsu. Both Takamatsu and Hatsumi had advised during the production of the first two of the Japanese "Shinobi No Mono" Ninja Assassins series of films produced in Japan between 1962 and 1966, and not only did the film provide an opportunity for Hatsumi to give more credibility to the Ninja characters, but also allowed him a few brief moments of screen time aboard Tiger Tanaka's private train, as he interrupts Bond and Tanakas Sake discussion to announce that the photographs are ready for viewing.

Retired US Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Russhon acted as a technical advisor, military liaison, helped set up a product-placement deal with Sony, attended the location scout, assisted with obtaining important transportation means and advised on the logistics for working in Japan.

The producers were not happy with the first cut of the film, and pleaded with Peter Hunt to return to his earlier role as editor late on. He did this on the condition that he could direct the next Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

The title of "You Only Live Twice" comes from a haiku (or poem) included in the Ian Fleming novel on which the film is based. It goes: "You only live twice. Once when you are born. And once when you look death in the face." In the novel, the poem is written by James Bond for his friend Tiger Tanaka. Due to a badly-worded attribution at the front of the novel, the poem is sometimes incorrectly believed to have been written by a Japanese poet called Matsuo Basho (See: Bashô Matsuo.) It is clarified in the novel that is should not be considered a haiku at all i.e. it is a poor attempt at writing poetry by Bond after being taught how to do so. The novel and it's epigraph explain that the haiku is "after Basho" i.e. written in the style of the famous 17th Century Japanese poet.

The title song sung by Nancy Sinatra charted in the USA on 24 June 1967 and went to the No. #44 spot. In the UK, it peaked at No. #11 on their charts.

The literal translations of some of this film's foreign language titles include One Doesn't Live More Than Twice (France); It Only Lives Twice (Latin America); 007 Dies Twice (Japan); One Only Lives Twice / A Man Doesn't Live More Than Twice (Germany); James Bond In Japan (Norway & Greece); Kept Merely Twice (Finland); With 007 You Only Live Twice (Brazil & Portugal) and 007 Seized The Rocket Base (China).

Cast & Characters

Kissy was never known by her full name Kissy Suzuki in this movie as she was in the source original Ian Fleming novel. She is only ever called Kissy.

Akiko Wakabayashi and Mie Hama did not know any English before this film. Wakabayashi was cast as Kissy and Hama as Aki and both were tutored in English. Hama was originally dropped from the film because she was having too much difficulty with English until the suggestion came that the two actresses swap roles to give Hama fewer lines.

Akiko Wakabayashi playing Aki could not drive a motor-vehicle so six stuntmen created the illusion of her driving the white Toyota 2000GT convertible by attaching a cable and pulling it from outside frame.

Despite being a major character in this film, Kissy Suzuki's name is never mentioned once on screen. Nor do we learn Aki's last name. Both situations are unique among major Bond film characters.

Eva Renzi turned down the role of Bond-Girl Helga Brandt which finally went to Karin Dor.

Actor Tetsuro Tamba (Tanaka) later became a religious leader in Japan.

The female leads Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi both appeared in Kingu Kongu tai Gojira (1962) (English title: King Kong vs. Godzilla).

After it was discovered that both Mie Hama playing Kissy Suzuki couldn't swim, Sean Connery's then wife, actress Diane Cilento, doubled for her in her swimming scenes wearing a black wig. Some reports claims that Hama could not do them because of stomach cramps.

A number of actors were asked to play Blofield before Donald Pleasence but all stage or TV commitments which made them unable on accept the role.

Jan Werich was supposed to play Blofeld and even posed for publicity photos in character. But after five days on set shooting a few scenes, the filmmakers felt that he didn't look menacing enough to play an arch villain and brought in Donald Pleasence as a last-minute replacement. Some reports claim that he left due to ill-health.

Charles Gray (Henderson) appears as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Tsai Chin, who played Bond's playmate in the opening pre-credit sequence, returned to the Bond franchise nearly 40 years later when she played one of the players in Le Chiffre's big poker match in Casino Royale (2006).

Teru Shimada, who plays Mr Osato, was working as a caretaker when he was cast in the role.

A number of the villains in the movie who work for SPECTRE had an Agent Number assigned to them. Ernst Stavro Blofeld was SPECTRE Agent #1; Helga Brandt was SPECTRE Agent #11 ; two control room technicians in SPECTRE's Japanese headquarters were credited as SPECTRE Agents #3 and #4; whilst Mr. Osato, Head of Osato Chemicals did not have an assigned number.

Last Bond film to make extensive use of voice dubbing. In this film and most of those made previously, many of Bond's leading ladies and villains were overdubbed by other actors. This practice rarely occurred in future Bond films. Tiger Tanaka's voice was dubbed by another actor, but one line remains in his own voice - he speaks Japanese to the girls bathing him and Bond. Robert Rietty re-voiced Tiger Tanaka. He previously had re-voiced Adolfo Celi in Thunderball (1965). Burt Kwouk as SPECTRE Agent No. #3 is dubbed. Kwouk had previously played Mr. Ling in the earlier James Bond movie Goldfinger (1964).

In the German-dubbed version Spectre is called Spectre for the first time; it had the name Phantom in the previous movies.


Two 2000GTs were remodeled to convertibles and featured in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice. One is displayed at Toyota's headquarters today while the other is in a private collection of a Toyota executive. (When the Encore movie channel aired James Bond films in early 2005, a 2000GT convertible which was located in South Africa was in the process of a restoration for the Cars of the Stars museum.)

The Toyota 2000GT was a sports car produced between 1967 and 1970 in very limited numbers, (approximately 351) by Toyota in Japan. The only convertibles ever built were for You Only Live Twice (1967). Toyota entered the 2000GT in competition at home, coming third in the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix and winning the Fuji 24-Hour Race in 1967. In addition, the car set several world records for speed and endurance in a 72-hour test. The few surviving examples are very expensive collectibles.

The primary reason for converting the Toyota 2000GT coupes into convertibles was Sean Connery's height; he was simply too tall to fit into the GT which was notoriously too small for anyone over 5'8". Connery's height was 6'2".

Little Nellie is based on the real-life Wallis Autogyro. Its inventor, Wing Commander Ken Wallis (See: K.H. Wallis), actually flew Little Nellie in the film. The machine was incorporated into the plot after production designer Ken Adam heard Wallis in a radio interview discussing his invention. Wallis had to log 85 flights in total to film the sequence.

Little Nellie was equipped with the following gadgets: flame gun; pair of smoke ejectors; aerial mines for ground targets; twin front end machine guns with a 100 metre firing range and twin forward-firing rocket launchers equipped with heat-seeking air-to-air missiles which fire at a rate of 60 per second. It weighed 113 kg (250 lb) and had a maximum speed of 208 km/h (130 mph). It could fly for two and half hours without refuelling, reach a top height of 4000 m (13,500 ft) and could be packed up and transported in four large leather cases.

The gyrocopter shown being assembled is not the one that is shown flying. The "kit" machine was a mock-up made strictly for the assembly sequence. The WA-118 gyrocopter was flown by its owner, Wing Commander K.H. Wallis during all the action sequences.

Other vehicles featured included Tiger Tanaka's Japanese edition of the Boeing-Vertol Sea Knight, a twin-blade Boeing Kawasaki KV-107 II helicopter fitted with a super electro-magnet; a black Toyota Crown 2300, a Bond pursuing vehicle; a 1964 Dodge Polara; a Kawasaki/Bell 47G-3; a Japanese taxi car; a Meyers 200D; a Brantley B2; the Bird 1 SPECTRE space rocket; an Aerospatiale Alouette 316B; and a M1 British submarine for Bond's burial at sea.

The license plate number of Aki's white Toyota 2000GT convertible was 20-00.

The type of instrument that James Bond cuts Helga Brandt's dress lace with was a dermatone.

Story & Bond Lore

Before the title sequence there is an outdoor shot of a Russian radar station, where US and Soviet leaders are having a crisis meeting. This was in fact filmed at Magerø in the Oslo fjord in Norway (uncredited), to get a Nordic winter light feel to the footage. The dome-shaped radar station is still in operation today, run - as it was then - by the Norwegian military.

Footage of the US Jupiter spacecraft in the film is actually film of the real Gemini spacecraft which flew between 1965 and 1966. The Gemini spacecraft were used for testing of such activities as EVA and docking for the Apollo space project which was to follow. Ironically, the Soviet spacecraft in the film were called Gemini (the name of the real life US spacecraft) and their designs were based on inaccurate UK perceptions of what the Russian Voskhod and Vostok spacecraft looked like, something which was not known until 1967 after the film had wrapped shooting.

The type of champagne that Helga Brandt offered to James Bond was a Dom Perignon '59.

The name of the cave was Rosaki Cave. The name of the gas found in it was Phosgene Gas.

The code name for a potential nuclear attack on Russia by the USA was called Imminent. The code name to halt a potential American nuclear attack on Russia was called Not Imminent.

James Bond participates in a Japanese wedding ceremony in the film. Mercifully, he uses a false name, otherwise this would mean he would have been still married under Japanese law when he wed Tracy di Vincenzo in the next film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

James Bond does not drive a car in this film. This is the only EON Productions James Bond film to date in which James Bond does not drive a vehicle.

The name of the book that Miss Moneypenny throws to James Bond in her office was "Instant Japanese: A Pocketful of Useful Phrases" by Masahiro Watanbe and Kei Nagashima, first published in 1964.

The name of the island appearing in the photograph obtained by James Bond from Osato's safe was one the isles of Matsu (or Mazu), located off the People's Republic of China's south-eastern coast.

A song composed by Robbie Williams extensively sampled the title theme from You Only Live Twice (1967). The song called "Millenium" was composed sampling the main string sample from the John Barry original theme. It was the first solo UK number one hit for Williams on 19 September 1998. Also, its music video included a number of James Bond 007 iconography and imagery.

Tiger Tanaka's nickname for James Bond was Zero Zero. The name of Mr Osato's company was the Osato Chemical & Engineering Company Limited.

The headline on the London Evening Standard newspaper announcing James Bond's alleged death read: "BRITISH NAVAL COMMANDER MURDERED"

The drink that James Bond has whilst cracking the safe was a Siamese Vodka.

The name of the SPECTRE Space Rocket was Intruder. Its code name was Bird One. It captured spaceships by opening its mouth and it was a full scale rocket which could actually take off with a limited launch capacity.

First Bond film in which 007 does not begin his mission in England (or in fact visits Britain at all). It is also the first film not to have Bond's briefing occur in M's London office. For the first time it establishes that M and Miss Moneypenny and their offices can be portable - a gimmick also utilized in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Moonraker (1979) and The Living Daylights (1987).

First film to show James Bond in his Royal Navy uniform and to clearly indicate that he holds the rank of Commander.

The outside scenes at Osato Chemicals is taken at Hotel New Otani, Tokyo.

The ship from which 007 was buried at sea was the Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Tenby (F65). The scene was filmed in the winter, which didn't go over too well with the crew, who had to wear tropical gear for the scene. It was shot several times as the "body" didn't sink the first time.

John Jordan ("Aerial Unit Camera") lost his leg while working on the film.

Was promoted in America with an NBC-TV special entitled Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (1967) (TV) the title being taken from Tanaka's first line in the film. The line was also a tagline for the movie. The special featured clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with the cast..

Only Bond film in which 007 refers to Miss Moneypenny by the nickname "Penny". This nickname was also used on occasion in the original Ian Fleming novel series.

The combination of the safe, at the Osato building, according to the electronic device that Bond uses, to crack it, is 4-6-8-3-1.

The name of the Osato Chemical & Engineering Company's freighter was the Ningpo.

The code name for Cape Canaveral was Cape Com.

James Bond's alias he used in Japan was as Mr Fisher from the Empire Chemicals Company.

The fake labels on the Osato Chemical containers read Synthetic Turpentine. They really contained the rocket propellant LOX. LOX stood for Liquid Oxygen.

The secret password used by the Japanese SIS to communicate with James Bond was "I Love You".