The atmosphere during the production was reportedly chilly. Sean Connery had grown bored with the Bond role and frustrated with the public fascination with the franchise. The You Only Live Twice (1967) film posters declaring that "Sean Connery IS James Bond" didn't help. Furthermore, Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell were appearing in the James Bond knock-off Operation Kid Brother (1967) with Neil Connery, Sean Connery's younger brother, and the eldest Connery let them know he was not happy about it.
While scouting locations in Japan, the chief production team narrowly escaped death. On 5 March 1966, Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, Director Lewis Gilbert, Cinematographer Freddie Young and Production Designer Ken Adam were booked to leave Japan on BOAC flight 911 departing Tokyo for Hong Kong and London. Two hours before their Boeing 707 flight departed, the team were invited to an unexpected ninja demonstration and so missed their plane. Their flight took off as scheduled and twenty five minutes after take-off the plane disintegrated over Mt Fuji, killing all aboard. The incident lent an unsettling reality to the meaning of "You Only Live Twice".
Tsai Chin, who played Bond's playmate in the opening pre-credit sequence, returned to the Bond series nearly 40 years later when she played one of the players in Le Chiffre's big poker match in Casino Royale (2006).
While in Japan, Sean Connery and his wife Diane Cilento were hounded by the international press. During news conferences the press insisted on referring to Connery as James Bond. Local newsmen attempted to photograph him in a rest room. Thirty extra private security guards were hired to combat the excess noise and hindrance but even the guards started to take photos. Connery was allegedly photographed on a toilet and the picture published in a Tokyo newspaper. Halfway through filming, Connery announced he would not be returning as James Bond. To ease the tension the producers removed his contractual obligation to do one more 007 movie, despite being offered $1 million. After the film wrapped, Connery was reportedly asked whether he found Japanese women attractive to which he allegedly replied, "No," causing many Japanese to call him bad names. This faux pas turned out to be based on a mistranslation on a day when Connery was exhausted after an intensive day's filming. Connery didn't go out of his way to be too personable with the interviewer who was aghast that the actor showed up in a casual T-shirt with baggy trousers and sandals, and not wearing a toupee. "Is this how James Bond dresses?" he asked, to which Connery replied tersely "I'm not James Bond, I'm Sean Connery, a man who likes to dress comfortably."
The rocket pistol, and cigarette rocket, were real-life weapons that were featured after the manufacturer paid for the product placement. It was hoped they would become standard military and intelligence equipment; however, they proved to be too expensive (ammunition cost three times as much as normal ammo), clumsy (useless at any distance under 15 yards), and unreliable (horribly inaccurate and tended to start fires), and ceased production in 1969.
After it was discovered that Mie Hama playing Kissy Suzuki couldn't swim, Sean Connery's then wife, actress Diane Cilento, doubled for her in her swimming scenes wearing a black wig. Some reports claims that Hama could not do them because of stomach cramps.
The Toyota 2000GTs used in this film were not convertibles. They had no roofs at all. As stated previously, Sean Connery would not have fitted into any putative 2000GT with the roof up, so the roofs were removed entirely and not replaced with soft tops.
In the novel, Ian Fleming describes Blofeld's hide-out as being a castle on the coast. Ken Adam discovered that this could never be. The Japanese never built their castles directly on the coast for fear of typhoons. Hence the creation of the elaborate volcano set.
In order to gain some measure of authenticity for the team of stuntmen who would double as Ninja in the climactic battle in the volcano, the producers enlisted the help of Japan's only practicing Ninja master, 34-year-old Masaaki Hatsumi who had inherited the tradition from his then retired teacher Toshitsugu Takamatsu. Both Takamatsu and Hatsumi had advised during the production of the first two of the Japanese "Shinobi No Mono" Ninja Assassins series of films produced in Japan between 1962 and 1966, and not only did the film provide an opportunity for Hatsumi to give more credibility to the Ninja characters, but also allowed him a few brief moments of screen time aboard Tiger Tanaka's private train, as he interrupts Bond and Tanakas Sake discussion to announce that the photographs are ready for viewing.
The "Little Nellie" gyrocopter shown being assembled is not the one that is shown flying. The "kit" machine was a mockup made strictly for the assembly sequence. The WA-118 gyrocopter was flown by its owner Wing Commander K.H. Wallis during all the action sequences.
Out of simple courtesy on Bond's part, this is the only film in which he accepts a Martini (from Henderson) that is stirred, not shaken. This is an intentional joke by the producers, not a mistake by either of the actors.
The face of Ernst Stavro Blofeld is shown for the first time in a movie. Of all the many actors who have played Blofeld, it is the interpretation by Donald Pleasence in this film which is the source for the Mike Myers parody of the character as Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movie spoofs. Blofeld appeared in later Bond movies, played by a different actor each time.
The primary reason for converting the Toyota 2000GT coupes into convertibles was Sean Connery's height; he was simply too tall to fit into the GT which was notoriously too small for anyone over 5'8". Connery's height was 6'2".
The film was released two months after Casino Royale (1967). This was the first of two times that two "James Bond" films were released in the same year. It occurred again sixteen years later with Octopussy (1983) and Never Say Never Again (1983).
Last Bond film to make extensive use of voice dubbing. In this film and most of those made previously, many of Bond's leading ladies and villains were overdubbed by other actors. This practice rarely occurred in future Bond films.
The title of "You Only Live Twice" comes from a haiku (or poem) included in the Ian Fleming novel on which the film is based. It goes: "You only live twice. Once when you are born. And once when you look death in the face." In the novel, the poem is written by James Bond for his friend Tiger Tanaka. Due to a badly-worded attribution at the front of the novel, the poem is sometimes incorrectly believed to have been written by a Japanese poet called Matsuo Basho (See: Bashô Matsuo.) It is clarified in the novel that it should not be considered a haiku at all i.e. it is a poor attempt at writing poetry by Bond after being taught how to do so. The novel and its epigraph explain that the haiku is "after Basho" i.e. written in the style of the famous 17th Century Japanese poet.
Reportedly, the noise made during the shooting of the film's grand finale on the volcano set scared Blofeld's white cat that it ran away. It wasn't found for days and it was eventually discovered hiding in some of the set's rafters. Apparently, footage of the scaredy cat wound up in the finished movie when Blofeld's security shutters are enforced.
Little Nellie is based on the real-life Wallis Autogyro. Its inventor, Wing Commander K.H. Wallis, actually flew Little Nellie in the film. The machine was incorporated into the plot after production designer Ken Adam heard Wallis in a radio interview discussing his invention. Wallis had to log 85 flights in total to film the sequence. It was all filmed outside of Japan because Japanese Law forbade the firing of rockets in the air.
Ken Adam's volcano set was constructed at Pinewood Studios outside London and consisted of a movable helicopter platform, a working monorail system, a launch pad and a full scale rocket mock-up that could simulate lift-off. 700 tonnes of structural steel and 200 miles of tubular steel were used. Adam once said that the set used more steel than that used for the London Hilton Hotel. The set also used 200 tonnes of plaster, 500,000 tubular couplings, 8,000 railway ties for the monorail and over 250,000 square yards of canvas to protect the set from the weather were all employed in the construction of the set which cost just over $1 million.
The female leads Mie Hama and Akiko Wakabayashi both appeared in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) (English title: King Kong vs. Godzilla), and Key of Keys (1965) (English title: What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)). The latter was a James Bond movie imitation which attracted them to the producers of genuine James Bond movies. A flaw was soon discovered: neither actress knew any English. Wakabayashi was cast as Kissy and Hama as Aki and both were tutored in English. Hama was having too much difficulty with English, so the two actresses swapped roles to give her the role of Kissy, which had fewer lines.
Was promoted in America with an NBC-TV special entitled Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (1967) the title being taken from Tanaka's first line in the film. The line was also a tagline for the movie. The special featured clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with the cast.
Actor and Stuntman Joe Robinson instructed Sean Connery in the art of Judo for the scene where Bond has to fight with Blofeld's giant bodyguard Hans near the end of the film. Robinson also doubled the actor Ronald Rich who portrayed Hans. He would later appear as diamond smuggler Peter Franks in 1971's Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
Footage of the US Jupiter spacecraft in the film is actually film of the real Gemini spacecraft which flew between 1965 and 1966. The Gemini spacecraft were used for testing of such activities as EVA and docking for the Apollo space project which was to follow. Ironically, the Soviet spacecraft in the film were called Gemini (the name of the real life US spacecraft) and their designs were based on inaccurate UK perceptions of what the Russian Voskhod and Vostok spacecraft looked like, something which was not known until 1967 after the film had wrapped shooting.
A number of actors were asked to play Blofeld before Donald Pleasence, but all has stage or TV commitments which made them unable on accept the role. Producer Harry Saltzman, who had an eccentric choice for actors to play villains, had originally hired the fabled Czech actor Jan Werich to play Blofeld. Werich was the personification of sophisticated intellectual humor in Czech theater and film, and was known as the "Wise Clown". Casting a clown as a demonic villain backfired during production: It was felt that Werich looked too much like Father Christmas to be menacing and he was released after a week's shooting.
James Bond participates in a Japanese wedding ceremony in the film. Mercifully, he uses a false name, otherwise this would mean he would have been still married under Japanese law when he wed Tracy di Vincenzo in the next film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Before the title sequence there is an outdoor shot of a Russian radar station, where US and Soviet leaders are having a crisis meeting. This was in fact filmed at Magerø in the Oslo fjord in Norway (uncredited), to get a Nordic winter light feel to the footage. The dome-shaped radar station is still in operation today, run - as it was then - by the Norwegian military.
The Toyota 2000GT was a sports car produced between 1967 and 1970 in very limited numbers, (approximately 351) by Toyota in Japan. The only convertibles ever built were for You Only Live Twice (1967). Toyota entered the 2000GT in competition at home, coming third in the 1966 Japanese Grand Prix and winning the Fuji 24-Hour Race in 1967. In addition, the car set several world records for speed and endurance in a 72-hour test. The few surviving examples are very expensive collectibles.
Akiko Wakabayashi playing Aki could not drive a motor-vehicle so six stuntmen created the illusion of her driving the white Toyota 2000GT convertible by attaching a cable and pulling it from outside frame.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld was named after Tom Blofeld with whom James Bond creator Ian Fleming went to school at Eton. His son is cricket commentator Henry Blofeld. Blofeld's birth-date as given in the novel is the same date as Ian Fleming's birthday which is 28 May 1908.
The Gyrojet Rocket Guns had one major flaw: the projectile had to build velocity to be lethal. In tests, the projectile could not penetrate a sheet or ordinary cardboard, when pressed against the muzzle. The weapon was rejected by the military and soon discontinued.
In the article "The Oriental Beauties of You Only Live Twice", published with a pictorial in the June 1967 issue of "Playboy" Magazine, screenwriter Roald Dahl claimed that he assembled his script to a formula already established in the previous films in the series, and that he never took the script seriously. In fact, he said that the formula was strictly enforced by the producers, who would broach no deviation. This was not the first connection of the film with the magazine: An excerpt of Ian Fleming's original novel had appeared in the April 1964 issue of "Playboy".
A cover version of the film's title song "You Only Live Twice" was recorded by Björk for David Arnold's Bond song compilation album, "Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project". However, the song was not included on the compilation album.
Bond producer Barbara Broccoli grew up in the behind-the-scenes world of James Bond and as a child during location shooting in Japan for this movie she caught a fever from the Japanese custom of sleeping on the floor. James Bond star Sean Connery's star status provided him with a comfortable bed and he generously relinquished it so she could properly fight her illness.
Peter R. Hunt was the original editor. The producers were not happy with the film, and pleaded with Hunt to return as editor. He did this on the condition that he could direct the next Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
The novel of "You Only Live Twice" was the last Ian Fleming James Bond novel published during his lifetime. Released on 16 March 1964, it was the twelfth novel in the series. For the first time in the James Bond film series, the screen story bore little resemblance to the source novel. Some characters and the Japanese setting remain intact, as do several minor details (the oubliette, and the man wearing a face mask, etc.), but the two stories are radically different.
The ship from which 007 was buried at sea was the Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Tenby (F65). The scene was filmed in the winter, which didn't go over too well with the crew, who had to wear tropical gear for the scene. It was shot several times as the "body" didn't sink the first time.
Vehicles featured included the Wallis WA-116 auto-gyro, affectionately known as the "Little Nellie" gyro-copter; Aki's white Toyota 2000 GT convertible with gadget control panel and Sony TV monitor; Tiger Tanaka's Japanese edition of the Boeing-Vertol Sea Knight; a twin-blade Boeing Kawasaki-Vertol KV-107 11 tandem-rotor helicopter fitted with a super electro-magnet; Tiger Tanaka's private underground train; a black Toyota Crown 2300, a Bond pursuing vehicle; the ship Ning-Po; a Toyota Crown S40; the US Jupiter 16 two-man spacecraft; a 1964 Dodge Polara; four black Kawasaki/Bell 47G-3 helicopters that attack Little Nellie; a Japanese taxi car; a single-engine Meyers 200A plane that Helga Brandt traps Bond in; a Brantley B2; the two-man spacecraft Bird 1 SPECTRE two-stage space rocket; an Aerospatiale Alouette 316B helicopter that takes 007 to the Ninja School; a monorail in Blofeld's Volcano lair; an inflatable round yellow lifeboat; and an M1 British diesel-electric submarine for both Bond's burial and rescue at sea.
Product placements, brand integrations and promotional tie-ins for this movie include Toyota, particularly the Toyota 2000GT; Stolichnaya Vodka; Sony Electronics, a Sony TV monitor is seen in the Toyota 2000GT; Jack Daniel's Whiskey; Suntory Old Whisky; Rolex Watches, James Bond wears a Rolex Submariner; Dom Perignon Champagne, particularly a Dom Perignon '59; and Martini & Rossi Vermouth.
Tanaka's ninja training grounds are near the famous Himeji Castle in western Japan. The original fortification dates back to 1333, and successive warlords built ever-larger castle complexes on the site.
Two 2000GTs were remodeled to convertibles and featured in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice (1967). One is displayed at Toyota's headquarters while the other is in a private collection of a Toyota executive. (When the Encore movie channel aired James Bond films in early 2005, a 2000GT which was located in South Africa was in the process of a restoration as a replica convertible at Cars of the Stars Motor Museum, featuring actual control panel used in the film.)
The 2002 James Bond novel "The Man With The Red Tattoo" written by Raymond Benson is also set in Japan. Benson also wrote a direct sequel to the Ian Fleming "You Only Live Twice" novel entitled "Blast From The Past". It's a short-story which was first published in January 1997 in "Playboy" magazine. This story was cut by about a third and the uncut version was released for the first time in October 2008 in Pegasus Books' Benson omnibus "The Union Trilogy".
In the German-dubbed version Spectre is called Spectre for the first time; it had the name G.O.F.T.E.R (Geheimorganisation Für Terrorismus, Erpressung und Rache) in 'Dr. No' and Phantom in 'From Russia with love' and 'Thunderball'.
Retired US Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Russhon acted as a technical advisor, military liaison, helped set up a product-placement deal with Sony, attended the location scout, assisted with obtaining important transportation means and advised on the logistics for working in Japan.
The film's Royal World Premiere was held on 12th June 1967 at the Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square, London and was attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. The Gala Charity Premiere Benefit was sponsored by the Variety Club of Great Britain and was held in aid of two charities, the YMCA and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
The epaulettes (shoulder boards) on M's Royal Navy uniform denote the rank of Rear Admiral. This is the old style, in 2001 the design changed from one large pip to two small pips. In Ian Fleming's novels, M is a Vice Admiral and the character was based on Admiral John Godfrey, Fleming's boss in the Naval Intelligence Division during WWII.
Miss Moneypenny wears the uniform of a Second Officer in the Women's Royal Naval Service, similar to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy but with blue insignia instead of gold. The WRNS (known as the Wrens) was disbanded in 1993 and all its female members went into the regular Royal Navy.
In a rather curious train of events, Robbie Williams famously sampled the intro to this title song (as sung by Nancy Sinatra) for his no. 1 hit song "Millennium" (1998). After You Only Live Twice (1967) wrapped, Sinatra and father Frank Sinatra duetted on the song "Somethin' Stupid" topping the US and UK charts in April 1967. Thirty four years later Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman duetted on the same song topping the UK charts (2001).
A song composed by Robbie Williams extensively sampled the title theme from You Only Live Twice (1967). The song called "Millenium" was composed sampling the main string sample from the John Barry original theme. It was the first solo UK number one hit for Williams on 19 September 1998. Also, its music video included a number of James Bond 007 iconography and imagery.
The film's CD Soundtrack sleeve notes state that the "You Only Live Twice" song sung by Nancy Sinatra charted in the USA on 24 June 1967 and went to the No. #44 spot. In the UK, it entered the charts on 5 July 1967 and peaked at No. #11. The soundtrack album debuted in the US charts on 15 July 1967 where it peaked at the No. #27 spot.
The literal translations of some of this film's foreign language titles include One Doesn't Live More Than Twice (France); It Only Lives Twice (Latin America); 007 Dies Twice (Japan); One Only Lives Twice (Germany); James Bond In Japan (Norway & Greece); You Live Only Twice (Finland); With 007 You Only Live Twice (Brazil & Portugal) and 007 Seized The Rocket Base (China).
Despite Bond's legacy of traveling around the world to complete his missions, he only visits two locations in this film, the fewest he does in the series. They are the then-British territory of Hong Kong and the nation of Japan where Bond spends most of the film. Thirty years after the release of this film, Hong Kong was handed over to China. This is also the first time that Bond does not visit MI6 headquarters in London; M's offices are set up on a British Navy submarine off the coast of Hong Kong.
The producers had Harold Jack Bloom come to Japan with them to write a screenplay. Bloom's work was ultimately rejected, but since several of his ideas were used in the final script, Bloom was given the credit of "Additional Story Material". Among the elements were the opening with Bond's fake death and burial at sea, and the ninja attack.
The reason why the film is so different from the book is that Roald Dahl hated the book. He called it Ian Fleming's worst book, comparing it to a travelogue. On creating the plot, Dahl said he "didn't know what the hell Bond was going to do" despite having to deliver the first draft in six weeks, and decided to do a basic plot similar to Dr. No (1962).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
As this was anticipated to be Sean Connery's last appearance as Bond, publicity material released in advance of the movie announced Bond would be killed, married and become Japanese. While these events were portrayed in the film, they were actually ruses as part of Bond's undercover activities.