|“||You know, I never understood all these elaborate tortures. It's the simplest thing... to cause more pain than a man can possibly endure.... And of course, it's not only the immediate agony, but the knowledge... that if you do not yield soon enough... there will be little left to identify you as a man. The only question remains: will you yield, in time?||„|
|~ Le Chiffre, about to torture James Bond.|
Le Chiffre is the main antagonist of the Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, the 1954 television adaptation, and the 1967 and 2006 films of the same name. His alias is French for "The Cipher" or "The Number". Ian Fleming based the character on Aleister Crowley.
In the novel, not much is known about Le Chiffre's origins, except that he was found in the Dachau displaced persons camp in the US zone of Germany in 1945, before being transferred to Alsace-Lorraine and Strasburg three months later with a stateless passport. He adopted his moniker as he considered himself 'only a number on a passport'. He is the paymaster of a French trade union secretly controlled by the Soviet agency SMERSH.
In the 2006 film, Le Chiffre was born Jean Duran and is Albanian by birth (though officially stateless), and his one notable physical feature was a defective tear duct, which causes him to cry blood. He works for a mysterious group called Quantum, and finances terrorist groups by investing millions of dollars and forcing stock market shifts through terrorist acts. It is implied that he profited off the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
In the 1954 television adaption' he was portrayed by the late Peter Lorre, who also played Hans Beckert in M. In the 1967 film, he was portrayed by the late Orson Welles, who also portrayed Harry Lime in The Third Man and Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil. In the 2006 film, he was portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen, who also played Captain Rochefort in The Three Musketeers (2011), Hannibal Lecter in the NBC television series Hannibal, and Kaecilius in Doctor Strange (2016).
Le Chiffre is the paymaster of Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace (Alsatian Workmen's Union), a trade union run by SMERSH. He makes a major investment into a string of brothels with SMERSH's money, which ends badly after prostitution is banned. In order to reclaim his lost funds, Le Chiffre travels to Royale-les-Eaux and hosts a high stakes baccarat game with the goal of earning 50,000,000 francs. Secret Service agent James Bond is sent to take part in the game and bankrupt Le Chiffre. Things do not bode well for 007 when Le Chiffre manages to clean Bond out of his funds, but CIA agent Felix Leiter gives him 32,000,000 francs, putting Bond back in the game. Despite one of Le Chiffre's henchman's attempts to kill Bond, Bond wins the game and costs Le Chiffre 80,000,000 francs belonging to SMERSH.
In a desperate attempt to get the money back, Le Chiffre kidnaps Bond and his love interest, Vesper Lynd, and subjects the former to torture, threatening to kill them both if he is not told the location of the money. When he realizes that Bond will not talk, Le Chiffre prepares to castrate him, only to suddenly be shot by a SMERSH agent for his failure.
Le Chiffre's first scheme presented in the movie is an attempt to make money for Quantum by investing $101,206,000 that Lord's Resistance Army member Steven Obanno had entrusted to Quantum by investing it in an airline company called SkyFleet. His plan was to gamble on the stock by purchasing put options and then ordering the destruction of their new prototype plane. The destruction of the plane was foiled by MI6 agent James Bond, who had come across the plot while investigating what turned out to be some of Le Chiffre's underlings. Le Chiffre lost his total investment, and to save his own skin, he set up a high stakes hold 'em poker tournament at a casino in the Balkan nation of Montenegro to win the money back.
The Poker Tournament
MI6, who knew Le Chiffre was funding terrorism but couldn't prove it, dispatched Bond to Montenegro to compete in the exclusive tournament; his mission was to win the tournament and bankrupt Le Chiffre completely, after which MI6 would offer him asylum from his clients in exchange for the information he had on them. Le Chiffre arrived in Montengro and bribed the Police Chief to protect him. The Police Chief would be found to be corrupt after exposed by MI6 Agent Rene Mathis. During a break in the game, Obanno confronted Le Chiffre about losing the money, at one point threatening Le Chiffre's girlfriend Valenka; when Obanno threatens to cut her arm off, Le Chiffre does nothing to help her. He promises he will get Obanno's money back. On the final day of the poker tournament, Le Chiffre has Valenka poison Bond's drink. However, Vesper revives him with a defibrillator. Bond returned to the game just after Le Chiffre defeated Felix Leiter, a CIA agent, with a similar objective to Bond. Bond defeats Le Chiffre in the poker game, bankrupting him.
In a last act of desperation, Le Chiffre kidnaps Vesper, presumably unaware that she is in fact a reluctant double agent for Quantum. He manages to capture Bond, and takes him to a ship nearby. Le Chiffre needs Bond's account password, so he tortures him by flagellating his testicles with a weight attached to the end of a rope. Bond refuses to give in, taunting Le Chiffre that his clients will hunt him down and kill him for losing their money. However, Le Chiffre gloats that even if he killed Bond and Vesper, MI6 would welcome him with open arms and grant him asylum in return for what he knew, declaring that he would win either way. Bond still refuses to give in, so Le Chiffre threatens to castrate him. At that moment, however, Mr. White, Le Chiffre's immediate superior in Quantum, breaks into the room and shot Le Chiffre in the head because he could no longer be trusted.
In Spectre, it was revealed that Quantum was a subsidiary of SPECTRE, making Le Chiffre an agent of the latter organization.
- Le Chiffre has bichromatic eyes (his right eye is brown, his left eye is blue). This could be attributed to the injury that he sustained in his left eye.
- Le Chiffre is the first Bond villain to die before the climax.
- Although Mr. White was his superior, Le Chiffre served as The Heavy because he was the one driving the plot, which makes Mr. White the Big Bad and the one behind the plot.