In the scene where Major Amasova couldn't drive stick, Barbara Bach, Anya's actress, actually couldn't drive stick: Roger Moore's snarky responses were unscripted!
Roger Moore decided at the last minute it would be much more dramatic if he was sitting in the chair instead of standing behind it when the gun underneath the dining table was fired. The special effects team had only reinforced the back of the chair for the original planned shot, which meant Moore risked serious injury if he didn't leap away in time. Moore himself has mentioned that despite pulling off the shot, he still got injured by the explosion.
According to production designer Ken Adam, that was a look of real panic on Barbara Bach's face in the scene where the tunnels of Atlantis are flooding because she didn't expect such a powerful deluge of water.
Fake Russian: Russian secret agent Anya is played by Barbara Bach, an American actress. Incidentally, this movie almost single-handedly changed Americans' views of Russian women as Sensual Slavs. Before it came out, all Russian women were assumed by Americans to be outright Gonks, to the point that American comedians (and especially the hugely influential Johnny Carson) could count on getting cheap and easy laughs by poking fun at the purported hideousness of Russian women. Carson admitted during a visit by Roger Moore that the movie had ruined "half his jokes". (Evidently viewers had by this time forgotten Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love.)
Fatal Method Acting: Averted. In his audio-commentary, Roger Moore comments on the opening parachute ski-jump that could have gone horribly wrong for stuntman Rick Sylvester. After the jump, a disengaged ski clipped the unopened chute as it was falling. The ski could could easily have prevented the chute from opening. It can still be seen in the final footage when the ski clips the about-to-open parachute.
In-Name-Only: Enforced. Fleming realized the book was not going to be considered one of his best works, so he sold the rights on the condition that any feature film using the title film would NOT be an adaptation. The one thing that's kept is the villain with steel-capped teeth. Still, in the book Sol Horowitz (aka Sol Horror) is described as thin and lizardlike, whereas Jaws is...well, Jaws. (Horowitz's partner Sluggsy would eventually be repurposed, taking a tiny role in Moonraker paired up with Jaws.)
Production Nickname: The set for Stromberg's supertanker was named "the Jonah Set", in reference to the Biblical story of Jonah, who is swallowed by a whale. In the film, the tanker swallows submarines.
Real-Life Relative: When Bond drives the Wet Nellie up onto the beach, a small boy points to the car in the water. This is Richard Kiel's son, Richard George Kiel.
From the beginning the movie was fraught with problems, being developed and released in the midst of a falling-out between producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and EON Productions nearly going into liquidation. Spy was rushed into production after another producer, Kevin McClory, decided to create a rival Bond film (which would eventually become Never Say Never Again).
The original script treatment was rejected, and a new screenplay was commissioned that prominently featured Bond's archnemesis Blofeld. Unfortunately, McClory still held the rights to the Blofeld character, forcing the screenwriters to pop in a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the form of Stromberg. Several writers, including Anthony Burgess, John Landis and Gerry Anderson, worked on the script at different times.
The producers cast about for a director and settled on Steven Spielberg, who was still finishing Jaws (itself famously troubled) at that point; he decided to wait and see how that turned out for him instead. Guy Hamilton, who had directed the previous three Bonds, then got the job but left to direct Superman: The Movie.note which he ultimately lost to Richard Donner So it ultimately fell to Lewis Gilbert, who had directed You Only Live Twice, of which the film is essentially a remake.
To accommodate the set for the interior of the supertanker, a completely new stage had to be built at Pinewood Studios outside London, along with a giant water tank. It was so huge that cinematographer Claude Renoir,note Nephew of director Jean Renoir, and grandson of Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. who was losing his sight to begin with, couldn't figure out how to light it and had to secretly bring in Stanley Kubrick for help.
To film the opening stunt, the second unit traveled all the way to Mount Asgard near the northern tip of Canada's Baffin Island. The fall and parachute jump cost $500,000—the most expensive stunt at that timenote Until the opening of the very next Bond film, Moonraker, with a long aerial sequence in free fall.
Shell offered to loan the production a tanker, but between the insurance costs and the very real safety risks it was too expensive to use and miniatures had to be built instead. Miniatures were also used for the scenes in Giza when the pyramids proved too large to light effectively.
During filming in Egypt, the cast and crew were upset with the poor quality of food being served to them. So, Producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli was able to get a refrigerated truck to bring in food from England. Unfortunately, by the time the truck made it to Egypt, all the food was either spoiled or stolen. But, Broccoli came through in the clutch. He sent assistants out to round up tomatoes, cheese, bread, and imported pasta from Cairo. Then Cubby (something of an amateur chef in his free time) cooked up a massive spaghetti feast for the cast and crew. In his honor, the mess hall at the studio was renamed "Trattoria Broccoli" and many involved remember the makeshift pasta night as one of the high points of filming.
Thankfully, the film was critically well-received, and is still considered one of the franchise's high points.
Uncredited Role: The eyesight of cinematographer Claude Renoir was failing at the time of this film, and he could not see to the end of the massive supertanker set. As a result, he could not supervise the lighting. Ken Adam turned to his friend Stanley Kubrick, who — under the condition of complete secrecy — supervised the lighting. He suggested the use of floodlights. In addition, Kubrick's stepdaughter Katharina designed the dentures that Richard Kiel wore in the film.
Stromberg was originally going to be Blofeld before the legal rights squashed that idea.
Reportedly, one script draft featured the arrival of a "new" SPECTRE, comprised of former members of various real life terrorist groups. The film would've opened with the new group raiding SPECTRE HQ and killing off the organization's old guard before taking over.
One of the first directors to be considered was Steven Spielberg. There was some worry about his inexperience as he was caught up on an extremely lengthy pre-production schedule for a little film he was making at the time called Jaws, which ironically would provide inspiration for a major character in this film.
James Mason was considered to star as Stromberg, which may have invited comparisons between Stromberg and Captain Nemo; he was ironically considered for Drax in the next film as well.
Albert R. Broccoli wanted Lois Chiles to star as Anya, but she was taking a break from acting at the time. She would star as Holly Goodhead in the next movie Moonraker.
Catherine Deneuve wanted to play Anya, so much that she was willing to take a huge salary cut to do so. But it was still too much for Broccoli.
A fight sequence was originally envisaged in this movie for the Mummy Room of the Cairo Museum of Antiquities. This was scrapped but the sequence resurface in the next Bond movie Moonraker as the fight between Chang and Bond in the Venini glass showroom.
The producers thought of bringing Anya Amasova back in A View to a Kill. After Barbara Bach declined, the part was rewritten into another female KGB agent, Pola Ivanova.
After The Man with the Golden Gun and prior to work beginning on this film, writer Kingsley Amis, who had written a follow-up Bond novel, Colonel Sun, under the pen name Robert Markham, tried to interest EON Productions in adapting his novel next. No one was interested and it wasn't until the Brosnan era that the slightest hints of Amis' book were borrowed for the films.
An alternate ending where Jaws died was filmed (Bond would use the magnet to drop him into a fire). Until the preview screening, Richard Kiel had no idea which one had ended up being used.
Creator Backlash: Fleming hated the book to the point of only selling the title to the producers. He successfully prevented its paperback publication in the UK (but not the US) until several years after his death.
Creator's Oddball: The novel is the only Bond story from Fleming that is written from a woman's point of view.
Old Shame: Fleming saw the book as a failed experiment. Averted in recent years by those who have come to appreciate the experiment, including the aspect of the novel offering a female narrative voice in an otherwise male-dominated franchise.