Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


Spies have been featured in fiction for centuries. As the spy fiction genre developed and spying became one of the principal national preoccupations in many countries during the Cold War, spy narratives increased in popularity and were successfully adapted for film. Perhaps the most notable spy films come from Ian Fleming’s James Bond franchise. This study uses the James Bond and Jason Bourne film franchises as models of fictional spy portrayals. The project evaluates the representations of spying in fictional writing and film, comparing these to the actual traits, tasks, and lives of real-life spies. Real-life spies live dramatically different lives from fictional spies. The study cites evidence from interviews with real-life spies and features a case study of a female spy who rose through the ranks of the CIA during the height of the Cold War. This information will provide useful context for students of literature and film as the nature, parameters, and substance of historical intelligence work throw into stark relief the artistic imagination, devices, conventions, and vocabulary applied in fictional approaches to spying.