Hey all you super spy fans out there…hopefully you’re enjoying Bond Week. For this newest piece, I’d like to focus on the character and the actors who have played him. From ‘Dr. No’ all the way to this year’s ‘Skyfall’, the character of James Bond has gone through his changes, almost always a result of the actor inhabiting the role at that given moment. What started with (and doubled back to) the likes of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, as well as George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and now Daniel Craig, there’s been a constant of Bond being interpreted differently depending on who was playing him. Some have been widely admired while some have been widely derided, but each of them definitely left their mark on 007. This article isn’t about who was the best/worst, but merely about how they put a stamp on the character, which I think in some ways is the even more interesting thing to look at, especially with another likely reinterpretation of the character coming in the next decade or so. Well now, why don’t we dive right in and take a look at how Bond has evolved from Connery all the way up to Craig!
Sean Connery– Even to this day no one else is more clearly recognized as James Bond than this man. Connery was the first to the role (no, I’m not counting David Niven in this piece, so just keep that in mind), and he made 007 iconic. His confidence, his swagger, they way he just looked and felt like a real man, those were the initial defining traits of the character. Connery also established the dark humor of Bond, which subsequent actors would tinker with. Keeping in mind that Connery was also there at the start, he has the added benefit of really being the “only” Bond for those who watched his initial 5 outings as the spy. There would be still 2 more to come, but that first grouping is really where he made Bond into, well…Bond. Connery created the iconic character in the movies that everyone else who has taken on the mantle (and will ever take on the mantle) has to recognize, struggle with, and ultimately honor.
George Lazenby– Taking over for someone like Sean Connery was going to be a challenge for any actor, but when the franchise producers chose a model instead of an actor in Lazenby. Now, I like him as Bond a little more than most, partly due to how good the one film he did play the role in was, but he’s still no Connery. What did he bring to the role though? Well, he brought a presumed increase of sexuality, and honestly a bit more of a metrosexuality to the part, which was a definite change from Connery and his alpha male projection. Lazenby isn’t highly regarded for this portrayal of 007, but his increase in sexuality and his somewhat unheard of vulnerability as Bond are definitely worth remembering when we get to talking about the current interpretation of James Bond.
Roger Moore– After Connery came back for 2 additional films, the producers cast the man they would stick with for a while, and that man was Moore. Especially notable about his 007 movies, besides Bond looking older than he ever has before, especially towards the end of Moore’s run, is that the character got funnier, and yes, even a bit goofy. Moore brought humor to the part in a broader way than Connery did with his dark jokes. This was damn near a buffoon at times, though oddly enough it worked. Moore’s films vary more wildly in quality than any other, but he clearly made people see him as Bond during his 7 outings in a way that Lazenby couldn’t with is 1. Audiences still preferred Connery, but the lighthearted Moore was no slouch to them either. Roger Moore was very much a Bond for the 1970’s, for better or worse.
Timothy Dalton– Producers had been after Dalton to play the role for some time, but after Moore left they finally got their wish. Emphasizing a return to seriousness for the character, Dalton’s actually was the darkest interpretation up to that point. Some fans thanked him for getting away from the silliness of the past films, but others thought that the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction. Dalton wasn’t as widely dismissed as Lazenby, but he was clearly looked at as a second class Bond. The quality of his 2 movies didn’t help too much, but the franchise was clearly in need of a new direction, which wasn’t Dalton’s fault. Still, he’s for many a Bond that they don’t look back on with too much fondness.
Pierce Brosnan– When legal troubles cancelled a third Dalton movie, it was time for Brosnan to take over the part. He looked to bridge the gap between Bonds in many ways, emphasizing some of the sexuality from Lazenby while modernizing it with a swagger that still would have made Connery’s character proud. It was a hybrid sort of interpretation that led many to embrace him as 007, perhaps in a way that nobody other than Connery has been able to achieve. His films became huge spectacles, but he kept the character grounded in what we love about him. He’s also one of the only Bonds so far to leave the part before he had outstayed his welcome. Connery and especially Moore were past their prime when they last played the spy, and Lazenby/Dalton just weren’t wanted, though Lazenby supposedly quit the part as well. Brosnan brought Bond into the 21st century with style.
Daniel Craig– When it became clear that Brosnan was done and another new James Bond was needed, fans clamored for someone like Clive Owen and were incredibly mixed in their response when it was the blonde-haired (gasp) Craig that was chosen instead. Criticism of him as Bond continued pretty much up until the moment that people first started seeing his initial outing, and then it was silenced. Craig had completely reinvented the character and was slowly building him back up in a unique way. The thing is, despite a small minority claiming that this was of taking on the character “wasn’t Bond”, audiences loved it, and every single moment that shows him slowly becoming the Bond we all know and love was just icing on the cake. 3 films in now, Craig has made the role his own and not only has made 007 the type of character people want to see, he’s added both an increase in brutality and vulnerability to the part. Only now in his most recent film has he stopped the mourning process, and with this brilliantly well rounded take on the character ready to move in a new direction, it’s exciting to see where Craig will take the part next!
-Of course, this article isn’t complete without hearing what all 007 fans have to say, so I want to leave this to you: what do you think of when you think of each of these actors in the role of Bond? Do you have someone already in mind to play the next version of the character? Whatever you have to say, let it be known, as we’re all ears…
–Thoughts? Discus in the comments!