There can be no denying that James Bond is one of the most iconic fictional characters ever created. Since he first appeared in Ian Fleming's debut novel Casino Royale 70 years ago, the sharp-dressing, Martini-drinking, Aston-Martin-driving secret agent has starred in numerous books and 25 films, each drawing a huge amount of publicity.


But given the character instantly calls to mind a certain degree of glamour and exhilaration, it's easy to forget that the name itself is actually rather ordinary – one shared by hundreds of regular people around the world. This is something that Australian writer-director Matthew Bauer was keen to explore in his new documentary feature The Other Fellow, which arrives in select UK cinemas this weekend and profiles a wide range of people from very different backgrounds – all named Bond, James Bond.

The film is framed by the real story of how Fleming first chose the name for his spy – taken from a leading ornithologist whose book the author had been reading when he sat down to write his maiden novel – but the roots of the project actually stem from an idea Bauer had while using Facebook a number of years ago.

"In the early days of Facebook, you'd have all these weird groups that would pop up, and I was a member of a group called the Matthew Bauer Appreciation Society," the director explains during an exclusive interview with

"It was all the Matthew Bauers on Facebook, and we made a group where we would talk about stuff like who's got, who's got, that kind of stuff. And through that I went: 'What if that but James Bond?'"

More like this

It was also through social media that Bauer first started reaching out to the world's various James Bonds to gauge interest in the project, although the early stages of his search threw up a couple of unexpected logistical challenges.

"If you try and join Facebook as James Bond, it says you're using a false identity," he explains. "Or it assumes you're making a fan page. So on Facebook, they're all called Bond James or JB Bond or something. [But] LinkedIn is really good for finding them because it has the real name."

Read more:

After his initial research, Bauer sent a "spam kind of letter" to all of the James Bonds he had discovered to ask if they might be interested in taking part in his documentary – and it became apparent almost as soon as he started receiving replies that the project was going to take him down some very interesting paths.

"The final James Bond you meet in the final scene of the film was actually the very first one who wrote back to me," he reveals. "And he told me this crazy story about how he'd become James Bond, which involved his whole family and a lot of police and all this kind of thing.

"And I was like, 'Oh, wow, I was expecting Aston Martin jokes, and you've just told me this!' And that was kind of the impetus for going, 'I think there's a lot more to this than I thought.'"

Although some of the James Bonds hardly needed to think twice about agreeing to the project, there were others who were a little tricker to convince. According to Bauer, this distinction largely fell along international lines.

"When you go to Americans and say, 'Would you like to be in a documentary?' they say yes almost like it's their civic duty," he laughs. "There's a thing in that country of wanting to be on television, which you don't have in Europe and the UK – probably wisely.

James Bond who had been on trial for murder
This James Bond had been on trial for murder.

"So the ones here in the UK, it took a bit more convincing: because one of them is using James Bond kind of as a smokescreen to hide, and the other one had such a hard time with the name that he changed it from James Bond to James Hart. So he took some convincing as well, but I think his attitude was that this film might help kids out there who are having a hard time.

"But then in America, there was a James Bond on trial for murder. And I wrote to him in prison, and said, 'Hey, I know you're going through quite a hard time right now, but I'm making a film about men named James Bond...' and he was like 'yes, absolutely!' So it was very geographical with that."

Of course, not all of Bauer's attempts to reach out to James Bonds were successful, and there were a number of potential participants he was unable to convince – including a few that he describes as "well-established James Bonds". For example, one of Chicago's most famous cinema projectionists, who was often mentioned by revered film critic Roger Ebert, is named James Bond, but he was very quick to rule himself out.

"We went to him to be in the film because we thought he could give some great insights into cinema and that kind of thing," Bauer explains. "And he was like 'not a chance'. He knows the world of film too well to want to be in a film like this.

"Then there's a clothing company in Los Angeles called Undefeated, and that's actually run by a James Bond – they just did a clothing line with David Beckham called Beckham X Bond. [But] he's managed to succeed in life despite this name and doesn't want to know about it."

Perhaps the James Bond that Bauer was most disappointed about not securing was a British army veteran who had been working in Gibraltar when Eon were filming the opening title sequence for The Living Daylights in 1987. This Bond had actually had his photo taken with Timothy Dalton, and Bauer became obsessed with the idea of including the James Bond who had met James Bond. Eventually, he was able to track down the veteran's address through the military, and when he didn't respond to any of his initial letters he took matters into his own hands by driving to his house himself.

"I knocked on his door and said, 'Hi, I'm making this documentary' and his wife chased me off the property, pretty much," he recalls. [She said] 'Leave me and my family alone, please. We've been dealing with this for years.'

"And what became clear when she calmed down a bit, [was that] they'd been harassed by the British media about this for 30 years since that photo was taken because everyone who had seen that photo wanted to do the article. A million other people have tried to do to speak to the guy called James Bond who met James Bond, so I was just the last in a long line of people they've been annoyed by in the media!"

One of the things that quickly becomes very apparent while watching the documentary is that many of the James Bonds have reacted in wildly different ways to having such a famous name. While some of them embrace it whole-heartedly, others, including a New York theatre director who appears prominently in the film, see it as a constant source of irritation. So, was Bauer surprised that of all the Bonds he profiled, only one had decided to change their name?

James Hart
James Hart, who changed his name from James Bond.

"Changing your name is a really hard thing to do!" he replies. "You know what it's like when you move house, and you just have to change your address? Changing your name is an absolute nightmare, and people who are like 'Just change your name', it's like saying to overweight people 'just lose 100 kilos'. And so I don't think that's really an option for these people – I mean, it's a weirdly quite secret agent thing to do, to change your identity.

"But the second thing is, I think even the ones who say they hate it... it's such a part of their identity. Like, it's such a part of who they are that I think they probably wouldn't know themselves without it – they've been so formed by this. And yes, there's kind of a joke that it helps them get laid and that kind of thing, and there are some advantages there as like an icebreaker, but also think of them as people. I mean, when you grew up with this name, it defines who you are."

What was especially interesting to Bauer was that the only person who actually had changed his name was the one who had the most in common with the Fleming character: a straight, white, London-based, public school-educated man.

"I originally wanted to go for the people who are the opposite of James Bond because that creates the most sort of dramatic tension," he explains. "So we wanted to have a black James Bond, we wanted to have a gay James Bond – because of that difference from James Bond 007.

"But I realised making it that at least those guys can go, 'Well I'm nothing like him because I'm gay,' they can have that point of difference. So I think it's telling that the guy who found it the hardest and did change his name was [James Hart] because all the comparisons that people make between him and James Bond I think are somehow more difficult."

Intriguingly, while there are no further examples in the film of people who changed their name from James Bond, there are several participants who changed their name to James Bond. There are many varied reasons why people did this: for example, one Bond who appears briefly is a Polish immigrant to America whose birth name was Jaroslaw Przygodinski. He changed his name because he was having a difficult time finding work in the US – due to what Bauer refers to as "name xenophobia."

Gunnar James Bond Schäfer
Gunnar James Bond Schäfer.

But perhaps the most eccentric person to appear in the documentary is a Swedish man who goes by the name of Gunnar James Bond Schäfer. Schäfer's reasons for adopting his new name were very different from the aforementioned Polish immigrant: he simply wanted to transform himself into 007. Indeed not only did he change his name, but he also styles himself after Pierce Brosnan's Bond, drives an Aston Martin, and has even created his own James Bond museum in his hometown of Nybro.

Bauer was initially skeptical about including Schäfer in the film, describing him as "what we were trying to avoid", but he was soon won over by his enthusiasm and positivity – so much so that he now considers him a friend.

"We got to the point where [we thought] there's a lot of complaining in this film, whereas we actually wanted someone who loves James Bond and loved having the name. And so I'd only seen Gunnar James Bond Schäfer on the internet, where often in the Swedish media they really make fun of him and kind of treat him as this sort of national joke.

"So I actually went to stay with him, and I was like: 'Oh, God, I'm going to go and live with a crazy person for a week.' But actually, we've kind of become probably the best friends out of me and any of the Bonds in the film – and I kind of saw I think from a more outsider perspective, that this guy was actually quite magical, and actually quite special.

"And I got to the point where I thought he was so crazy that he almost became sane again. I quite like his outlook on life – I mean, you have these things with crazy people where it's like who is crazy? He has turned himself into James Bond, and he's led this remarkable life because of it – he travels the world as James Bond to go to these really cool places, he's got a really hot girlfriend, he has an Aston Martin, he gets to be in movies, he goes to all of these events as James Bond.

"So a lot of the normal people laugh at him and go, 'Oh, look at this freak.' But who's the idiot? You know, I found it quite inspirational, actually!"

James Bond from Indiana
James Bond from Indiana.

One of the other rewarding things for Bauer about making the film was connecting the various James Bonds with each other. One particularly intriguing scene comes when two James Bonds from the same part of Indiana – the aforementioned man who had been on trial for murder and another who is a Trump-supporting gun advocate – get together in a cafe to discuss their experiences.

"These two guys have different skin colours, different religions, very different political persuasions," Bauer explains. "But still, these people who have nothing in common were able to come together and form a bond – and I don't mean that as a pun – over the shared name.

"Everything else went out the window, and they just sat there joking with each other. I always love it when two meet, because you'd think they'd go easy on each other, but they're actually worse! They'll be like 'So do you drive an Aston Martin?' It's like finally they've got to do it to somebody else!"

He adds: "For most of these guys called James Bond, it's a very isolating and completely bizarre psychological place that they find themselves in. And some of them have described this film as like doing therapy – they actually are all friends now on Facebook and that kind of thing. And some of them, like the Swedish James Bond and the American preacher James Bond, are really good friends now and call each other all the time. So I think it has been kind of like a support group sort of environment.

"I had a lot of problems with addiction in my past, and I found myself in a lot of those kinds of support groups that you see at the end of the film, and as bizarre as it is, it kind of made sense to do like a James Bond anonymous support group – they've actually got a lot of kind of relief I think out of knowing each other!"

Meanwhile, Bauer himself also got a lot out of the experience of making the film, not least the fact that the address book on his phone has become "quite a fun place" when it gets to the letter B.

"I met and became friends with truck drivers, doctors, lawyers, Guyanese politicians, a Swedish man who's turned himself into James Bond – it's given me this really bizarre selection of friends around the world, " he says. "I always kind of joke that if ever I need a doctor or a lawyer, or even if I need someone shot, I've got a James Bond out there I can call."

The Other Fellow is showing in select UK cinemas and on digital download from Friday 19th May 2023. Visit our Film hub for the latest news and features, or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.