O’Donnell has said that he had Michael Caine in mind when he created Willie Garvin, and would have liked to see him portray him, but this never happened.
Willie Garvin has been portrayed on film on a couple of occasions.
Terence Stamp portrayed Willie Garvin in the 1966 film version of Modesty Blaise, a year after the publication of the first novel. In this film, Willie is portrayed as slightly psychotic when he first appears on screen. Later, the writers of the film choose to break O’Donnell’s anti-romance taboo and have Willie and Modesty fall in love and even talk about getting married.
Willie Garvin next appeared on screen in the 1982 television pilot Modesty Blaise with Ann Turkel as the title character, which was not made into a television series. In this version, Willie is portrayed by Lewis Van Bergen.
Also in the early 1980s, John Thaw recorded an audio adaptation of I Had a Date with Lady Janet which he performed in character as Willie Garvin.
One of the Modesty Blaise novels, Last Day in Limbo, was adapted as a BBC World Service radio drama in 1978 with James Bolam as Willie.
Carl Prekopp played Willie in a 2012 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of A Taste for Death. In the 2014 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Modesty Blaise, he was played by Neil Maskell.
The 2003 film My Name Is Modesty was produced as a prequel to the comic strip and novels; as such it is the only Modesty Blaise adventure in which Willie Garvin does not appear.