Who is your favorite James Bond?
"Bond, James Bond". The three words uttered that would identify an icon that is inseparable from a franchise that spans over 50 years and 23 movies. While having an appearance in a Bond film, whether as a person or an inanimate object, is sure to shoot one's profile to international fame, it has never been easy to be the man to carry the Walther PPK. Rightfully so, as it is not every man deserves to carry the code name of 007, and there has only been six actors who are worthy to pledge their service to the Secret Service.
With the possibility that "Spectre" would be the last outing of Daniel Craig as James Bond (and perhaps we would see a black James Bond?), we look back on the actors who have played as the world's most recognised spy.
While it is impossible to imagine of there being a James Bond without Sean Connery, his casting as the first 007 was met with many resistance at first.
When Eon Productions was ready to make its first Bond film, they held a contest to find the perfect man who will be James Bond. When Ian Fleming had created the character, he already had in mind what the character represented; bred from the upper class, was refined and educated, and most importantly English. By the end of the contest, producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and creator Ian Fleming had chosen a 28-year old model named Peter Anthony as the winner, who had the looks but did not have any acting experience to carry the character. So they had to start over again.
Then, after watching a screening of 1959's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People", Broccoli came back suggesting that actor Sean Connery should be given the role after being impressed by his fight scene at the climax, and his wife had agreed that he had the sex appeal that was intrinsic to James Bond. However, the choice of Connery did not go so well with Fleming, who had "North by Northwest" star Cary Grant in mind for the role, because Connery was almost the antithesis of the Bond that Fleming had envisioned. For one, Connery came from the working class, was rugged and for the worst part; had Scottish ancestry. This disagreement was also echoed by United Artist, but it was later retracted. In the end, the producers went through to have Connery put on the suit as James Bond.
Standing at above 6'2'' as the tallest man to play as James Bond to this day, Connery not only gave out a tough-looking demeanor to James Bond, but was also agile and graceful in his movements. By the time "Dr. No" hit screens in 1960, Connery had embrace the character so well that it changed Ian Fleming's mind about his initial casting, saying that he was ideal, and Fleming himself even went so far as to giving Bond some Scottish blood in his later literary works ("On Her Majesty's Service").
After five appearances as the character that has become synonymous with him, Sean Connery temporarily turned in his Walther PPK after "You Only Live Twice" in 1967, before making a comeback for 1971's "Diamonds are Forever". Although Connery's spy career with Eon Productions ended after that, he would reprise the role of Bond once more a decade later in the unofficial "Never Say Never Again" in 1983, making his total appearances as Bond up to seven.
Despite having no real acting experience, an Australian model by the name of George Lazenby spent his last pennies to acquire a suit made by Sean Connery's tailor, a Rolex watch, and a haircut at the salon where Sean Connery got his, in order to get the part of James Bond. Fortunately by a fateful stroke of luck, producer Albert Broccoli was present at the time when Lazenby went to get his shave, and Broccoli made a mental note on Lazenby's efforts for the role. After a string of successful screen tests, interviews and audition footage later, Eon Productions had found their replacement for Sean Connery, and their second 007 agent.
Being 29 at the time when "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" started filming, Lazenby remains to this day as the youngest actor (who had only done commercials by that point) to take on the role of 007. The producers had initially thought of having a scene explaining that the 'old' James Bond had to go through plastic surgery to look like the 'younger' James Bond, but decided not to make any explicit remarks about it, less to draw attention on the switch of actors.
Although Lazenby was offered to make at least seven appearances as James Bond, 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was the first and last time we would see George Lazenby as the spy. Among the reasons that were later revealed for his departure; there were tensions on set between Lazenby, the producers and the director, saddled with bad press against the film before it was released, and Lazenby's own lack of faith that the franchise would survive into the 70s.
While those may be the truth, but we liked to believe it was because Lazenby's was the first Bond to shed a tear on screen, which didn't sit well with everyone, especially with director Peter Hunt who demanded the scene to be re-shot, because 'Bond does not cry'. It was because of Lazenby's premature retirement as Bond that Sean Connery was called back to serve in the following installment "Diamonds are Forever".
After losing their James Bond so soon right after "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", Eon Productions was out to find a new 007. To avoid making the same mistake of casting a young (and often described to be arrogant) actor as the next 007, the producers had set their sights on British actor Roger Moore, who had made a splash in the television series "The Saint". However, Moore was just starting to make headway into American television with a new series called "The Persuaders!", and was to be unavailable for any spy missions. Just as the producers were about to take their second pick after Moore, a chap named Michael Billington, as their new Bond, "The Persuaders!" ended up being a flop and the show was cancelled, freeing up Moore to be of service to the British intelligence service.
Cast at the age of 45, Moore was the direct opposite to George Lazenby; becoming the oldest actor to take up the role. As for differentiating the third Bond from his predecessors, the producers deliberately decided that Moore's Bond would do things differently from previous Bonds, such as drinking bourbon whiskey instead of the shaken Martini, smoking cigars instead of cigarettes, and using a two-grip stance instead of the one-handed pose during the opening gun-barrel sequence. That didn't bother anyone though, as even the original James Bond himself, Sean Connery, gave Moore his personal of approval of inheriting the role.
Since "Live and Let Die" in 1973, Moore would make another six more appearances in the role, making him the longest serving 007 in the Eon canon and retiring from MI6 after "A View to a Kill" in 1985. In fact, "A View to a Kill" may have been his one too many appearance, when he was already 57 by then. Moore himself would later admit that part of the reason for his departure was that he was too embarrassed to do love scenes with actresses who had mothers who were younger than him.
Timothy Dalton's name has been thrown around to be the next Bond several times long before he appeared in "The Living Daylights" in 1987. In fact, it goes as far back as the 1960s when they were looking for a replacement for Sean Connery. Dalton had even tested for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (which eventually went to George Lazenby), but had turned down the role stating that he was too young.
He would say the same thing again for 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever", which had to drag Sean Connery back to be James Bond. During Roger Moore's tenure from the 70s to the 80s, Dalton was again offered the role, when Moore's return for "For Your Eyes Only" was in doubt, but he declined since there wasn't a script then. He would be forced to say no to two more offers ("Octopussy" and "A View to a Kill") after that due to schedule clashes.
Finally, after Roger Moore announced his retirement from Bond in 1985 after "A View to a Kill", Timothy Dalton agreed to become the new James Bond for "The Living Daylights" in 1986, but even then it was a close shave as the role would have gone to Pierce Brosnan before it eventually went back to Dalton. Although Dalton only made two appearances as Bond, his contrasting interpretation of the character to Moore's more playful Bond, is often cited as the most faithful portrayal of the character from the source material, which had darker and colder tones rather than Moore's light-hearted and sometimes humorous Bond.
After "Licence to Kill" in 1989, no word of his next Bond film came because of legal disputes, and by the time "Goldeneye" was ready to head into production, Dalton had announced that he wouldn't be starring in it, which is time to bring in a new Bond.
Before Timothy Dalton would finally be the next Bond for "The Living Daylights", Pierce Brosnan was among the candidates that would have been Bond, if it wasn't for an ironic and tragic twist of schedules. At the time, Brosnan was contracted to star for seven seasons in an NBC television series, "Remington Steele", but was freed to become the next Bond after the series was to be cancelled after four seasons.
However, NBC changed its mind and wanted to continue with a fifth season, which meant that Brosnan would not be able to commit to both the series and the Bond movie at the same time. Despite trying to negotiate with Eon Productions to allow Brosnan to appear as both Bond and Steele for NBC, producer Albert Broccoli's infamous reply to NBC was: "James Bond will not be Remington Steele and Remington Steele will not be James Bond". So Brosnan had to stay for the fifth season of "Remington Steele", which was eventually cancelled just six episodes later.
Brosnan would have to wait until the franchise had legally untangle itself after "Licence to Kill", and plans for the next Bond movie was in place. On 8 June 1994, Brosnan was announced as the replacement of Dolton as the new James Bond for "Goldeneye", that was released a year later. Contracted for four movies, Brosnan fulfilled them all for playing as Bond in "Goldeneye" (1995), "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), "The World is Not Enough" (1999) and "Die Another Day" (2002). Despite doing brisk business as Bond in all four movies, many compared Brosnan's Bond as being the odd duck among the others, trapped in a time when the franchise is still trying to find its legs into the 21st century. Brosnan himself described his Bond days as: "I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger [Moore] and Sean [Connery]. It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me. The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable. It was quite tame, and the characterization didn't have a follow-through of reality, it was surface."
When talks for the next Bond film after "Die Another Day" came around, the producers decided not to renew their contract with Brosnan for a fifth appearance, in favour of looking for a new Bond. This made Brosnan the first actor to retire from the franchise involuntarily.
How Craig came to be the next Bond started when new full-fledged producer Barbara Broccoli saw Craig's performance in Steven Spielberg's "Munich" and Matthew Vaughn's "Layer Cake". While Craig was shopping for groceries, he received a call from Broccoli who said to him: "Over to you, kiddo.". Receiving the good news, Craig left his groceries and proceeded to celebrate his new role with a few Martinis. When the announcement came on 14 October 2005 (the same day as Roger Moore's 78th birthday) that Daniel Craig was to be the next James Bond for "Casino Royale", it was not entirely met with warm approval.
Standing at less than 6 feet and a natural blond, Daniel Craig's is often seen as a break from the tradition of tall and dark-haired Bonds, but his casting was supported by all the previous Bond actors, all the way to Sean Connery himself. As the sixth Bond, Craig is interestingly the first actor who is younger than the franchise when it started, and Craig fondly remembers "Let and Live Die" (starring Roger Moore) as his first Bond movie.
Despite the low expectations, Daniel Craig made his first Bond appearance in 2006's "Casino Royale" (the third but official adaptation of the novel), and had quickly won over the approval of doubters worldwide from the brutal opening scene in the restroom. It was his performance in "Casino Royale" that earned Bond his first nomination at the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and gave Craig a membership into the Academy. After decades of gloss and glamour, Craig's Bond is all about grit and gloom; a closer resemblance to TImothy Dalton than Sean Connery.
Daniel Craig has so far been Bond for three movies, with 2012's "Skyfall" becoming not only the highest grossing Bond film ever, but also the highest grossing British movie of all time in the U.K. He is signed on to appear in four more instalments (potentially making him the longest serving 007 since Roger Moore), but there are signs showing that "Spectre" may be his last outing when all the questions about Quantum and Mr. White will be answered once and for all.
"James Bond: Spectre" comes to cinemas this 5 November in Malaysia and 6 November in Singapore.
Cinema Online, 28 September 2015