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Blofeld Jan Werich1

Photo of Werich as Blofeld.

Blofeld Clip01:47

Blofeld Clip

This clip from a Bond documentary details the casting difficulties.

Around 1966, after the success of the previous four movie adaptations of Ian Fleming's James Bond espionage novels, naturally, EON Studios was given the go ahead for the fifth film in the series, You Only Live Twice. For this entry, the screenwriters decided to finally have Bond meet face to face with his arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the villainous head of the terrorist organization, SPECTRE, who had only previously appeared in two movies as a mysterious, partially unseen character.

Numerous character actors were asked to play the role, but all were unavailable, having other commitments at the time. It was then producer Harry Saltzman's unusual idea to have the renowned comedic Czech actor Jan Werich to take the part, which he accepted. However, upon director Lewis Gilbert meeting the actor in producer Cubby Broccoli's office, his kind, grandfatherly, Santa Claus-like appearance, and his struggles with the English language raised doubts in their minds as to whether he could pull off such a menacing role. Gilbert decided to give Werich the benefit of the doubt and shoot with him, although it shortly became apparent that he simply wasn't right for the part and after five days, he was fired and ultimately replaced by the British actor, Donald Pleasance.

No one knows for sure how many scenes were filmed with Werich as Blofeld. There are several behind the scenes still photos which show him in the SPECTRE control room and in the underground cavern from the characters last scenes in the film. No actual footage of Werich's scenes have surfaced and it is uncertain if any still exists.

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