Le Chiffre

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Le Chiffre
James Bond character
Le Chiffre by Mads Mikkelsen.jpg
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre in the 2006 film Casino Royale
Created byIan Fleming
Portrayed by
OccupationPaymaster for the Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace (novel)
Terrorist banker (film)

Le Chiffre (French: [lə ʃifʁ], "The Cypher" or "The Number") is a fictional character appearing in Ian Fleming's 1953 first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. On screen Le Chiffre has been portrayed by Peter Lorre in the 1954 television adaptation of the novel for CBS's Climax! television series, by Orson Welles in the 1967 spoof of the novel and Bond film series, and by Mads Mikkelsen in the 2006 film version of Fleming's novel.

Fleming based the character on occultist Aleister Crowley.[2]

Novel biography[edit]

Le Chiffre, alias "Die Nummer", "Mr. Number", "Herr Ziffer" and other translations of "The Number," "The Numeral," "The Figure," "The Cipher," or "The Code" in various languages, is the paymaster of the "Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace" (French for "Alsatian Workmen's Union"), a SMERSH-controlled trade union.

He is first encountered as an inmate of the Dachau displaced persons camp in the US zone of Germany in June 1945 and transferred to Alsace-Lorraine and Strasbourg three months later on a stateless passport. There he adopts the name Le Chiffre because as he claims, he is "only a number on a passport". Not much else is really known about Le Chiffre's background or where he comes from, except for educated guesses based on his description:

Height 5 ft. 8 in. Weight 18 stone.

Complexion very pale. Clean-shaven. Hair red- brown, 'en brosse.' Eyes very dark brown with whites showing all round iris. Small, rather feminine mouth. False teeth of expensive quality. Ears small, with large lobes, indicating some Jewish blood. Hands small, well-tended, hirsute. Feet small. Racially, subject is probably a mixture of Mediterranean with Prussian or Polish strains. Dresses well and meticulously, generally in dark double-breasted suits. Smokes incessantly Caporals, using a denicotinizing holder. At frequent intervals inhales from benzedrine inhaler. Voice soft and even. Bilingual in French and English. Good German. Traces of Marseillais accent. Smiles infrequently. Does not laugh.

Habits: Mostly expensive, but discreet. Large sexual appetites. Flagellant. Expert driver of fast cars. Adept with small arms and other forms of personal combat, including knives. Carries three Eversharp razor blades, in hatband, heel of left shoe, and cigarette case. Knowledge of accountancy and mathematics. Fine gambler.

In the novel, he makes a major investment in a string of brothels with money belonging to SMERSH. The investment fails after a bill is signed into law banning prostitution. Le Chiffre then goes to the casino Royale-les-Eaux in an attempt to replace his lost funds. MI6 sends Bond, an expert baccarat player, to the casino to bankrupt Le Chiffre and force him to take refuge with the British government and inform on SMERSH. Bond bests Le Chiffre in a game of Chemin de Fer, taking all of his money. Le Chiffre kidnaps Bond's love interest, Vesper Lynd, to lure Bond into a trap and get back his money. The trap works, and Le Chiffre tortures Bond to get him to give up the money. He is interrupted by a SMERSH agent, however, who shoots him between the eyes with a silenced TT pistol as punishment for losing the money.

Le Chiffre's death is seen by the Soviet government as an embarrassment, which in addition to the death and defeat of Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, leads to the events of From Russia, with Love.

Novel henchmen[edit]

  • Basil – bodyguard and martial arts expert who takes pleasure in roughing up Bond. He is later killed by a SMERSH agent.
  • Kratt - Le Chiffre's Corsican bodyguard who wields a walking-stick gun with which he threatens to cripple Bond at the gaming table. He is later killed by a SMERSH agent.

1967 film biography[edit]

Orson Welles as Le Chiffre in the 1967 film Casino Royale.

Le Chiffre is a secondary villain in the 1967 satire and appears in one of the few segments of the film actually adapted from Fleming's book. As in the novel, Le Chiffre is charged with recovering a large sum of money for SMERSH after he loses it at the baccarat table. He first attempts to raise the funds by holding an auction of embarrassing photographs of military and political leaders from China, the US and the USSR, but this is foiled by Sir James Bond's daughter, Mata Bond. With no other option, he returns to the baccarat table to try to win back the money. Later, he encounters baccarat Master Evelyn Tremble, who has been recruited by Bond to stop Le Chiffre from raising the money. Le Chiffre attempts to distract Tremble by performing elaborate magic tricks, but fails to prevent Tremble from winning. Afterwards, he arranges for Tremble to be kidnapped and subjects the agent to psychedelic torture in order to get back the money. The torture session is interrupted when his SMERSH masters, led by the film's main villain, Dr. Noah, shoot him dead.

2006 film biography[edit]

Le Chiffre is the main villain of the official 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale, portrayed by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. Believed by MI6 to be Albanian and officially stateless, Le Chiffre is a private banker who finances international terrorism. M implies that Le Chiffre conspired with al-Qaeda in orchestrating 9/11, or at least deliberately profiteering from the attacks by short selling large quantities of airline stocks beforehand. In the video game version of Quantum of Solace, it is said that his birth name is "Jean Duran", in the MI6 mission briefings. A mathematical genius and a chess prodigy, his abilities enable him to earn large sums of money on games of chance and probabilities, and he likes to show off by playing poker. He suffers from haemolacria, which causes him to weep blood out of a damaged vessel in his left eye. As in Fleming's novel, he dresses in immaculate black suits and uses a Salbutamol inhaler, here plated with platinum.

Le Chiffre is contacted by Mr. White, a representative of an elite criminal organisation later revealed to be Quantum (and, later still, Spectre, a new depiction of the classical organisation). White introduces Steven Obanno, a leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, to Le Chiffre, and arranges to bank several briefcases full of cash for Obanno. Le Chiffre invests the money along with his other creditors' funds in the aircraft manufacturer SkyFleet. Though SkyFleet's shares have been skyrocketing, he plans to short the company by purchasing put options, and ordering the destruction of the company's new prototype airliner, set to make its first flight out of Miami International Airport. Bond intervenes and foils the plan by killing the person Le Chiffre hired to destroy the plane. Le Chiffre finds out he lost millions and realises leaked information about his plans.

In order to win the money back, Le Chiffre sets up and enters a high-stakes Texas hold 'em tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro in an attempt to recoup his losses before his clients find out that their money has been misappropriated. Bond is sent to make sure that Le Chiffre does not win back the money; if Le Chiffre is bankrupt, he will be forced to turn to MI6 for asylum, in exchange for information on his creditors and employers.

During the tournament, an irate Obanno and his lieutenant break into Le Chiffre's hotel room, restrain his girlfriend Valenka, and strangles him with a cord. Le Chiffre asks for, and is granted one last chance to win their money back. He offers not one word of objection to Obanno's feigned amputation of Valenka's arm, leading the ruthless warlord to advise her to find a new partner. As Obanno leaves the room, his bodyguard spots Bond and hears Valenka's cries coming from Bond's earpiece. Bond kills the bodyguard by throwing him over a railing, then chokes Obanno to death after relieving Obanno of his machete. Rene Mathis arranges the blame to be placed on Le Chiffre's bodyguard Leo.

During the tournament, Le Chiffre initially outwits and bankrupts Bond, who cannot get additional funding from HM Treasury accountant Vesper Lynd, who has accompanied Bond to make sure the money is used properly. However, Felix Leiter, a CIA agent sent to participate in the game, also in hopes of bankrupting Le Chiffre, agrees to bankroll Bond, on the condition that CIA is allowed to take Le Chiffre in afterwards. Desperate, Le Chiffre has Valenka spike Bond's drink. Bond almost dies, but, thanks to an antitoxin kit in his car, a defibrillator, and Vesper's timely interference, he is revived at the last moment and returns to the game. During the final round, Le Chiffre's full house bests the hands of the two players preceding him, but loses to Bond's straight flush.

Le Chiffre kidnaps Vesper, forcing Bond to give chase, and leads him straight into a trap. Le Chiffre leaves Vesper, bound at the feet and hands, in the middle of the road, and Bond is forced to swerve to avoid hitting her and crashes his car.

Semiconscious, Bond is stripped naked and bound to a chair with the seat removed. Le Chiffre proceeds to whip Bond in the testicles repeatedly with the knotted end of a ship's lanyard, each time demanding the password for the account into which the tournament winnings will be transferred. Bond refuses to give in, telling him that no matter what torture he is subjected to, he won't give up the password and that Le Chiffre's clients will track him down and "cut you into tiny pieces of meat while you're still breathing". He further states that if the banker ends his life, he'll have nowhere hide. Le Chiffre fires back that Bond is wrong, and that even after "I slaughter you and your little girlfriend" MI6 will still give him sanctuary in return for crucial information. When Bond continues to defy him, Le Chiffre brandishes a knife and is about to castrate him when he hears gunshots from outside. Seconds later, Mr. White bursts into the room brandishing a handgun. Le Chiffre pleads for his life and promises to recover the lost revenue, but Mr. White coldly replies that Le Chiffre can no longer be trusted, and shoots him dead. To date, he is the only main Bond villain to die before the film's final act.

Le Chiffre is mentioned in the direct sequel, Quantum of Solace and is also seen in a background image inside MI6.

Le Chiffre is referenced again in Spectre; it is revealed that he was an associate of the titular criminal organization and its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld states that Bond's interference in his world led him to destroy Bond's, and that it wasn't a coincidence that all the women in his life ended up dead. The implication being that, because Bond foiled Le Chiffre's short-selling scheme and Dominic Greene's Tierra Project, he orchestrated the deaths of Vesper Lynd, Strawberry Fields, Sevérine, and M.


Eon films[edit]

Non-Eon productions[edit]

2006 film henchmen[edit]

  • Alex Dimitrios - stabbed by Bond with his own knife
  • Carlos Nikolic - accidentally blew himself up, courtesy of Bond
  • Mollaka - shot by Bond
  • Leo - arrested
  • Bobbie
  • Jochum
  • Kratt - shot by Mr. White
  • Valenka - shot by Mr. White
  • General Grafin von Wallenstein
  • Madame Wu
  • Sheriff Tomelli
  • Lionel
  • Ison

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Breznican, Anthony (4 April 2008). "James Bond series takes a 'Quantum' leap". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved 4 April 2008.
  2. ^ Macintyre, Ben (5 April 2008). "Was Ian Fleming the real 007?". The Times. London, England: News UK. Retrieved 8 April 2008.