Le Chiffre: Terrorist Banker and Poker Savant
Le Chiffre is a banker who finances the world’s terrorist organizations. A mathematical genius, he serves as the main villain in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, and is based on Ian Fleming’s literary character.
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen portrays Le Chiffre in the movie, and Mikkelsen also lends his likeness to the 2008 video game Quantum of Solace and the 2015 film Spectre, where it’s revealed that Le Chiffre is a member of Quantum and its parent organization SPECTRE.
A Banker and Gambler
It’s believed that Le Chiffre has Albanian roots, and was born on November 16, 1970, although this is data from MI6. He holds a notable position as the key financier for global terrorist factions. He’s a mathematical genius and boasts an extraordinary aptitude for chess, which allows him to accumulate substantial wealth through games of chance and probability.
Notably, Le Chiffre exhibits a fascination for poker. A medical condition known as haemolacria prompts him to shed blood from his left eye, and he consistently relies on a platinum-coated benzedrine inhaler.
Shortly before the events of Casino Royale, suspicions around his involvement in, and potential profit from, the infamous September 11th attacks on New York were abound.
In 2006, Le Chiffre receives contact from Mr. White, a spokesperson from an enigmatic terrorist group later unveiled as Quantum. Through Mr. White, he meets Steven Obanno, a feared figurehead within the Lord’s Resistance Army situated in Mbale, Uganda.
Mr. White facilitates a transaction involving several cash-filled briefcases for Obanno, stored securely under Le Chiffre’s watch. As the funds transition into his control, he instructs his financier to short a million shares of Skyfleet stock with the newly acquired funds.
He’s discouraged to go through with this, but Le Chiffre expresses an unwavering intent to reap substantial profits from his daring maneuver. To actualize his plan, he works with Greek intermediary Alex Dimitrios to connect him with a terrorist tasked with destroying the soon-to-be-released Skyfleet aircraft prototype at Miami International Airport.
While anticipating the unveiling, Le Chiffre engages in a poker game with a high-ranking military official aboard his yacht in Montenegro. As the game reaches its climax, he accurately anticipates the officer’s hand, inciting frustration.
Shortly after, Kratt, Le Chiffre’s right-hand man, pulls him aside to let him know of the death of the assassin, he hired to carry out the Skyfleet prototype by a British secret agent in Madagascar.
In search of a replacement, he heads to the Bahamas on his yacht, where he rendezvous with Dimitrios. Although the Greek intermediary absolves himself of responsibility for the prior assassin’s death, he informs Le Chiffre that a new candidate, known as Carlos, is readily available, contingent on approval and payment.
Later, Carlos attempts to destroy the Skyfleet prototype at Miami, but his mission fails thanks to the intervention of James Bond, and the aircraft prototype successfully completes its inaugural flight.
Shortly after, a distressed call from his financier let him know of a staggering loss of over $100m. Realizing he’s lost Obanno’s money, Le Chiffre suspects a traitor, and given that Dimitrios and Carlos are dead, his henchmen interrogate Dimitrios’ wife Solange, and kill her.
High Stakes Poker Game
In a bid to recoup his significant losses without alerting Mr. White or Obanno to the failed Skyfleet operation, Le Chiffre organizes and partakes in a high-stakes Texas hold ’em tournament at the famed Casino Royale in Montenegro.
MI6, however, dispatches Bond, an expert poker player, to prevent Le Chiffre from regaining the lost money. The strategy is to compel him to seek MI6’s protection, trading crucial intel about his debtors and employers for safety.
To monitor Le Chiffre’s movements, Bond implants a surveillance device in his inhaler at the start of the tournament.
During a break in the tournament, an irate Obanno and his henchman storm into Le Chiffre’s hotel room, threatening him and his girlfriend, Valenka. Despite the looming danger of Valenka’s forearm being amputated, Le Chiffre remains composed, asking for one final opportunity to regain their money.
As Obanno leaves the hotel room, his bodyguard notices Bond and notices Bond’s earpiece. A chaotic melee ensues, resulting in 007 neutralizing both Obanno and his henchman. René Mathis cleverly directs suspicion towards Le Chiffre’s bodyguard, Leo, by placing the bodies in the trunk of Leo’s car. Observing from his window, Le Chiffre releases a joyous cry, free from the threat of Obanno.
The tournament proves to be a nerve-wracking event. Initially, Le Chiffre outsmarts and financially ruins Bond, who’s unable to secure additional funds from Vesper Lynd. However, a fortuitous encounter with another card player, Felix Leiter, who agrees to finance Bond.
In response, Le Chiffre instructs Valenka to poison Bond’s drink with Digitalis poison. Although Bond comes dangerously close to death, he miraculously recovers just in time to return to the game. In the final round, despite Le Chiffre’s impressive full house, he is bested by Bond’s straight flush, resulting in Bond taking the tournament and all its winnings.
Le Chiffre’s Revenge and Death
Fueled by the bitterness of his defeat, Le Chiffre kidnaps Vesper, inciting a pursuit by Bond that leads him directly into his carefully laid trap. He then abandons Vesper, hands and feet bound, leaving her in the middle of the road, causing Bond to swerve dramatically and crash his vehicle.
Le Chiffre and his henchmen take Bond and Vesper to a deserted barge situated south of Petrovac. When Bond comes around, he finds himself disrobed and restrained to a seatless chair. Standing before him, Le Chiffre taunts Bond with a snide remark about the physical condition of his body before beginning his brutal interrogation.
Using a thick rope with a large knot at the end, Le Chiffre tortures Bond, striking his groin repeatedly while attempting to extract the password that would grant him access to the tournament winnings. Despite the excruciating torment, Bond resolutely denies him the information, exploiting his captor’s fears of retaliation from the clients he failed.
In a fit of rage, Le Chiffre brandishes a knife, threatening to mutilate Bond further. He also assures that even if both Bond and Vesper were to perish, MI6 would still offer him asylum. This revelation is abruptly cut short by the sound of gunfire, as Mr. White barges into the room, killing Kratt, Valenka, and the remaining henchmen.
Le Chiffre pleads for mercy, but to no avail. Mr. White coldly states, “money isn’t as valuable to our organization as knowing who to trust,” before executing Le Chiffre with a silenced gunshot to the forehead.
Mr. White’s intervention saves both Bond and Vesper, but they were spared, because they’re the only ones who can access the tournament winnings.
Almost ten years later, in 2015, it’s revealed that Quantum functions as a subsidiary of SPECTRE, therefore marking him as an operative of the larger organization.
Le Chiffre, along with Mr. White, Dominic Greene, and Raoul Silva, are disclosed to have been manipulated like chess pieces by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the leader of SPECTRE, in a grander scheme to psychologically torment Bond and establish global dominance.
Mads Dittmann Mikkelsen, born in Copenhagen, Denmark on November 22, 1965, is a celebrated Danish actor. Trained as a gymnast and dancer, he began his film career in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film Pusher in 1996.
He achieved domestic popularity with roles in Danish films and series, such as the gangster film Flickering Lights, the gay comedy Shake It All About, and the Danish television series Rejseholdet (Unit One).
His international recognition grew when he was cast as villain Le Chiffre in Bond 21, Casino Royale, in 2006. In 2012, Mikkelsen’s performance in The Hunt earned him the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
He also portrayed Hannibal Lecter in NBC’s TV series Hannibal (2013–15). Other notable roles include Kaecilius in Doctor Strange (2016), the lead in Arctic (2018), and the Danish film Another Round (2020), which won an Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and led to his BAFTA Nomination for Best Actor.
In November 2020, Mikkelsen replaced Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts series and joined the cast of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in April 2021.