Ian Fleming Estate Issues Response To James Bond Books Being Edited To Cut Offensive Language

Over 60 years of history, the James Bond movies have changed with the times. Shifting in terms of how it presented its villains, women and even 007 himself, a natural evolution has kept the franchise moving forward cinematically. It looks like that same sort of forward thinking will be applied to the books, though to a lesser extent, as the Ian Fleming Estate has issued a statement about forthcoming edits to cut offensive language. 

As part of the 70th anniversary celebration of Casino Royale’s publication kicking things off in 1953, it’s been announced that new editions of the Fleming texts are going to be in print. Every book will now be re-released under Ian Fleming Publications, Ltd., which has regained the publishing rights to the source novels as of last year.

Part of the statement made by Ian Fleming’s estate, as seen below, explained the thought process behind these alterations. Assured that these changes are in line with what the late author would have wanted, here’s what brought upon the creation of these new editions: 

With that decision came a discussion. As the author's literary estate and now publishers, what responsibility did we have, if any, to review the original texts? We consulted with a number of external parties, but ultimately decided that, rather than make changes in line with their advice, it was instead most appropriate to look for guidance from the author himself. ... We took that as our starting point, but felt strongly that it was not our role to comb out every word or phrase that had the potential to offend. We thus decided to apply the sensibilities of the original US edition of Live and Let Die consistently, across all the texts. Some racial words likely to cause great offense now, and detract from a reader's enjoyment, have been altered, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and period.

Referring to the 1955 edition of Live and Let Die that published a text that was edited on some of those very grounds mentioned above, the Fleming family have a template as to how they want to move forward. The full text of the Ian Fleming Estate’s message goes on to note that in some cases, like in Casino Royale, the books “remain completely unaltered.”

Publications like The Independent have actually started collecting what has, and what hasn’t, been changed in the new printings, and it’s definitely not a full cleanse. Again, the focus seems to be on softening the language rather than completely replacing it. This explains how some of Fleming's more colorful passages, like that "sweet tang of rape" mentioned in Casino Royale, have survived this new initiative. 

Strangely enough, this comes at a time when even James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has mentioned that the next 007 will be a “reinvention” of the character and franchise. At the moment, there’s no script or casting currently in play for Bond 26, news that was also handed down by Broccoli herself.

The recent run of films are certainly lightyears ahead of the social and sexual politics that surrounded the Sean Connery era of James Bond, as well as the books that inspired them. At the same time, this new development will more than likely put extra focus on balancing the classic Bondian charm with modern filmmaking. That is especially true as fans of the books and films are rather mixed, trending towards negative about the Ian Fleming Estate’s decision. 

On the bright side, should EON Productions want to enter the business of remaking the entire catalog of Fleming novels into faithful adaptations, these changes might help modernize things a bit. That is, if the new edits to the bedrock 007 canon are extensive enough to be noticed. We’ll have to wait and see, as Casino Royale and its literary successors will be released again starting in April or May, depending on where you live in the world.

For those of you looking to celebrate the 70th anniversary of James Bond in print, April 13th is the day to keep in mind. In the meantime, if you want to revisit several Bond movies, like Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, you can currently do so with an HBO Max subscription

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.