This Is Why James Bond Would Have Made a Terrible Spy in Real Life

Because it takes more than a perfectly tailored tuxedo to make a secret agent

Pierce Brosnan BondDanjaq/EON/UA/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

James Bond may have more than 60 years of experience saving the world from notorious villains, but he’d have a tough time getting a job in MI6 today, says Alex Younger, chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, in the Guardian. Apparently, there’s more to being an SIS officer than expensive cars, martinis, and tuxedos. Find out who inspired the James Bond character, and 9 other real-life counterparts of iconic characters.

Even if Bond’s appreciation for the finer things in life were qualification enough, his recklessness on the job would likely cut his career short. “The violence, mayhem, and death that seem to follow Bond wherever he goes are certainly one thing that would have gotten him early retirement from any reputable intelligence service long ago,” says Alexis Albion, the International Spy Museum‘s lead curator. “Also, his tendency to use his own name, lack of communication with headquarters, wanton waste of government resources, lack of discretion in his sexual dalliances . . . the list goes on.” In other words, James Bond would make a terrible spy. (But would Burt Reynolds have made a wonderful James Bond?)

Think about it. It’s hard to be effective at espionage when everybody knows who you are. Agent 007 is the most famous spy in the world, yet he rarely wears a disguise and almost always uses his real name. Even if “Bond, James Bond” is actually a code name, why use it over and over again?

There’s also Bond’s inability to stay under the radar. Real-life spies go out of their way not to draw attention to themselves. Bond, meanwhile, is a magnet for attention. Just look at the types of luxury vehicles he drives: Aston Martins, Audis, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces. They’re way too eye-catching, and probably too fast; Bond’s need for speed is yet another problem. To quote Q in GoldenEye, “Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic laws.” How would other fictional spies fare in the real world? Rewatch 12 of the greatest spy movies and see how they stack up against Bond.

Then there’s the simple fact that Bond is an alcoholic. British researchers report that 007’s weekly alcohol consumption is over four times the recommended limit for an adult male. They also suspect that Bond suffers from alcohol-induced hand tremors as a result of all that drinking. That could explain his preference that his vodka martinis be “shaken, not stirred,” when, in fact, they should be stirred, not shaken.

Finally, 007 has a pretty terrible track record of getting captured by his enemies. Alec Trevelyan—aka Janus, from GoldenEye—even captured him twice! And how many times do you have to drink a poisoned beverage to learn that you shouldn’t consume anything given to you by your enemy? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool Bond twice, shame on 007. Check out 22 surprising movie-trivia facts, including one about Sean Connery as James Bond.

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PJ Feinstein
PJ Feinstein is a communications professional with 15 years of writing, editing, marketing, public relations, and digital content experience. She specializes in developing engaging, easy-to-read, and on-brand content for websites, blogs, social media, and newsletters. An editorially-minded writer, she has covered a broad range of topics such as beauty, home decor, parenting, pop culture, and technology for a variety of outlets. In addition to managing her own personal lifestyle blog for nearly a decade, PJ has contributed to sites like Better Homes & Gardens, Brides, Cool Mom Picks, Glitter Guide, Oriental Trading, Artfully Walls, and others. PJ has had the privilege of speaking twice at Alt Summit, a premier business conference for bloggers, has been interviewed on Sirius XM radio, and once had a fashion question printed (and answered!) in Lucky Magazine.