What’s a James Bond film without… well… James Bond? Few franchises offer the ability for more than one or two actors to play the lead role across decades like the Bond franchise. Like Dr. Who, most people remember who their first Bond was, and everyone has their favorite Bond. When a new Bond is selected from a suave slate of (so far) English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, or Australian gentlemen; it’s a big deal.
To date there have been six actors depicting 007 (in the official films): Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. These six actors have gotten us through 24, soon to be 25 films. I spoke a bit about the depictions and eras of these Bonds by some of these different actors in About Bond: Episode 1.
Sean Connery is the original Bond. He first starred in the role with Dr. No in 1962, at age 32. He has been in a total of 7 Bond films. Despite adaptations to how the character is played, Connery set the tone for all his successors. He defined James Bond. While Connery’s acting career dates back to the mid-50s, with a significant slate of roles, his portrayal as 007 solidly established him in film. Connery’s run was interrupted in 1969 when George Lazenby took the role for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (more on this later), but he then came back for the next film, Diamonds Are Forever, which was to be his last… maybe.
George Lazenby is the only Aussie to take the role of Bond, which he did at age 29, making him the youngest actor to portray 007. Lazenby, a model, had never really acted before taking the role for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. All in all he did reasonably well, but is rarely referred to as a favorite. He declined any further Bond films after this experience.
After Connery pinched hit in Diamonds Are Forever for the role that would have still been Lazenby’s, Roger Moore was hired for the role. Roger Moore was a well-established actor prior to Bond, but similar to Connery, he is most noted for the role of 007. Moore picked up the franchise in 1973 with Live and Let Die, at age 45. While he’s one of the most popular Bonds, he was often criticized for being too old for the role, which was painfully evident in action sequences. Moore starred in seven Bond films, interrupted once by the return of Sean Connery, who led 1973’s Never Say Never Again. Moore finished his run in 1985 with A View to A Kill, which I believe to be the first Bond film I had seen in theaters.
Timothy Dalton, of North Wales, took the helm for two films, The Living Daylights and License to Kill, starting at age 40. Dalton’s Bond is reasonably popular, despite playing the role much stiffer and serious than his predecessors. While Dalton had been considered for the role in the past, he took over as 007 for a period of time after Roger Moore had officially retired, although he wasn’t the top pick for the role at this time. Some legal issues over rights of the Bond franchise arose after the release of License to Kill, causing Dalton to bow out of future films.
The top pick for the role of Bond after Moore’s retirement was actually Pierce Brosnan, who could not get out of his contract with the television series Remington Steele, which was actually cancelled a mere six weeks after Dalton was signed for the role (Oddly enough, the ratings of Remington Steele spiked when rumors of the offer to Brosnan for Bond circulated, so the show was briefly renewed). Seven years later, Brosnan began production for his first of four Bond films, 1995’s GoldenEye, which was wildly successful and highly rated. Personally, while I think Brosnan’s films are fun action films with some good spy intrigue, I think they go over the top with action and explosions, and fall short of having that James Bond feel. That said, Brosnan’s Bond is very popular given the time frame of the movies and stepping out of the cold war era, which refreshed both the character and the franchise.
In 2006 Daniel Craig stepped into the role of 007 with Casino Royale. To date, Craig has played the role four times, with his fifth, Bond 25, yet to start production. 2012’s Skyfall is the highest grossing Bond film of the franchise and the fifteenth highest grossing film of all time. Craig’s signing came with significant controversy, as many claimed he did not have the physical (tall, dark, and handsome) attributes to be Bond. Ironically, Craig has provided perhaps one of the most, if not the most popular portrayal of Bond.
While Moore was my first Bond, Daniel Craig is my favorite, although Connery’s Bond is close behind. The differences in personality are significant and lead to a lot of discussion about the traits we are drawn to. Craig’s Bond, to me, is serious about the job and has much more depth than other Bonds, but with a dry sense of humor. To me, his bond is more accessible and relatable. The Bond of previous actors seemed to capitalize on the lavish lifestyle they were able to access as spies, where Craig’s seems to use it as a tool when he’s on the job, seeming otherwise to be much more grounded and practical. I like the balance of action, intrigue, and drama Craig’s Bond offers.
So who is your favorite Bond? Be sure to hit me up on Twitter @quigontimm to let me know who your favorite is.