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Stranger Than Fiction: Fictional Spies And The Real People That Inspired Them

08/10/2015 12:00 EDT | Updated 08/11/2015 12:59 EDT
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From James Bond, to Get Smart, to the original Man From U.N.C.L.E., pop culture has enjoyed decades of entertaining spy stories in print and on film and TV. But every great story has a kernel of truth inside of it, from Ian Fleming’s autobiographical elements in the 007 series and many others. We take a quick and fascinating look at our favourite spies and the true (and equally amazing) stories that led to their creation.

James Bond

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Source: Wikimedia

The most famous fictional spy in the world has access to the best gadgets and has enemies all around the world. He's dashing, intelligent and gets all the ladies. For decades, the popular assumption is that he was based on his creator, Ian Fleming.

Bond was inspired by more than just Fleming. Fleming, when he was naming his character, wanted an extremely boring name. He saw a book, Birds of the West Indies by American orinthologist, James Bond. He thought the name was perfect for his 'blunt instrument' and James Bond, international superspy, got his name.

James Bond, orinthologist, wasn't the only inspiration. The people Fleming worked with while he was at the Naval Intelligence Division also formed the character. Some allegedly included Peter Fleming, Sidney Cotton, and Sandy Glen. Bond's habits were based on Fleming's. These included the smoking, golf handicap, and the use of the same brand of toiletries.

The Americans

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Source: FX

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are deep-cover Soviet spies who live in Virginia, D.C. in the popular FX series The Americans. They hide in the shadows as they recruit, blackmail and gather information for the Motherland. It sounds improbable, but during the Cold War, there were legitimate concerns that Soviet spies were living in the United States — and it was true. A Russian ring was busted by the FBI in 2010.

There were 10 spies living in the United States trying to befriend and recruit academics and people involved in government. The FBI came to the conclusion that the spies didn't get any vital information and released them back to Russia in a prisoner exchange.

Bill Haydon in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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Source: The Telegraph

Pretty much anything John Le Carré writes is based off his experiences working for British Intelligence. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the movie based on Le Carré's novel, was based on the events that happened in British Intelligence during the 1950s and 1960s. In the novel and movie, Bill Haydon is a member of British Intelligence who ends up being a spy for the Russians.

Haydon's character was based on Kim Philby, an intelligence officer who spied for the Russians. He was one of the Cambridge Five — Donald Duart Maclean, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and allegedly John Cairncross. They were recruited from Cambridge, worked their way up the British Intelligence and sold secrets to the Russians for 20 years. When they were discovered, Maclean, Philby and Burgess defected to Russian. Blunt remained in England and was stripped of his knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.

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