Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Bond Chronicles Part II

Today's 007-centric post will focus on the six actors who have donned the tuxedo to portray James Bond. It is difficult for me to pick a favorite Bond because in my study of the films I can appreciate something about what each actor brought to the role. I know some people are die-hard Connery people, or Roger Moore followers, but after you read this maybe you can re-think your opinions on this group of distinguished actors.

SEAN CONNERY (1962-1967,1971) 6 Films

Connery is the standard by which all Bonds who follow will be measured. Some measure up better than others, but one thing is certain- Connery was a great James Bond and he built the character into a screen icon. He was discovered for the role by Dana Broccoli (Producer Cubby Broccoli's wife) in Darby O'Gill and the Little People and most everyone agreed he would be a good choice. Connery was not as suave as his on-screen counterpart and needed some polishing by Director Terence Young. The results were terrific as he debuted in Dr. No in 1962. Connery went on to make 5 more films, the best of which are From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. Following the release of You Only Live Twice, he retired from the role, saying that he was tired of all the attention and time it took to make a Bond film. He would return, however, in 1971's Diamonds are Forever for one film only. It was nice to see the man back in action, even when it was clear it would be his last official Bond film. I love Connery's work, and I think the best thing he brought to the role of 007 was the balance of wit and cruelty.

GEORGE LAZENBY (1969) 1 Film

The somehwat unknown Bond, George Lazenby had the unenviable task of filling Sean Connery's shoulder holster following his departure in 1967. Lazenby, an Australian, had been a model and T.V. actor, and won the role over thousands of other hopefuls by emulating Sean Connery. The one film in which Lazenby starred is one of the best of the series. On Her Majesty's Secret Service boasts a terrific cast, strong story and great action on the slopes of Switzerland. While not a great actor, Lazenby has some fine moments in the film that make you wonder what kind of Bond he would have blossomed into had he stuck around. Stardom and ego proved to be his downfall, and his constant on-set tantrums soured the producers. I really wish he could have had another film or two because his work in OHMSS, especially in the action and fight scenes, was decent. I do not think it is fair to judge him too harshly because following Sean Connery would be tough for anyone.

ROGER MOORE (1973-1985) 7 Films

In lieu of hiring another unknown to replace Connery, the producers asked well known T.V. actor Roger Moore to play 007 in 1973. Moore, a veteran of spy shows, The Saint and The Pursuaders, was a very solid choice to become Bond, and he showed confidence stepping into the role. While Connery had been a Bond of the 1960's, Moore would be a Bond of the 1970's. Moore's portrayal of Bond was more light and comedic than his predecessors, and it fit his personality well. Some Bond purists say that this interpretation of 007 was not in keeping with Fleming's original creation, but I think it worked for the time in which the films were made. Roger Moore made 7 films as 007, and the quality of his work ranged from excellent and thrilling (For Your Eyes Only, The Spy Who Loved Me) to campy and stupid (Moonraker). I really enjoy what Roger Moore brought to the Bond series, and even though you may not love him, it can at least be said he did it his way and he did not copy Sean Connery.

TIMOTHY DALTON (1987-1989) 2 Films

With Moore's departure in 1985, the producers wanted to go back to a more hard-edged Bond that was truer to the character in the books. When Pierce Brosnan, who was tapped for the role, became unavailable, the part of Bond went to Welsh actor Timothy Dalton. Dalton had auditioned for Bond before, but had felt too young for the part at the time, but now he was ready. In his two films as 007, Dalton shows a vulnerable and harder side- making Bond like a bomb who could go off anytime. Dalton benefitted from what I feel are two of the series' finest scripts, and he carved out a nice niche in my heart with his work. For whatever reason, fans did not embrace him the way they had Moore and Connery, and so his tenure as 007 was short-lived. Also, legal trouble at the studio prevented a film from being made after 1989's Licence to Kill, and so by the time the wrangling was over, it was 1994, and Dalton was no longer interested in playing James Bond. I give kudos to Dalton for his work in grounding Bond in the real world and for the fact that he did many of his own stunts which was a welcome sight after Roger Moore's turn as 007.

PIERCE BROSNAN (1995-2002) 4 Films

It was no surprise in 1995 that Pierce Brosnan was to be the next James Bond. Having lost the role in 1987, Brosnan was eager to take on the role as the world's most famous spy. Brosnan's work was very much a fusion of the Dalton and Moore portrayals. He was good at the witty one liners, as well as the brutality and vulnerability that make Bond dangerous. His best film was his first, Goldeneye. Following his fabulous debut, the stories he was given got more fantastic and over-the-top with each film, so that by his swan song, Die Another Day, Bond had gotten too campy. I credit Brosnan for reinvigorating the franchise, and making Bond a viable character for a new generation. I will never forget seeing Goldeneye in the theatre as a kid, and realizing that I would grow up with Pierce Brosnan as my Bond.

DANIEL CRAIG (2006-Present) 2 Films

I have to admit, like many, I was skeptical when the producers cut Pierce Brosnan loose after Die Another Day, but I was wrong. Daniel Craig became the sixth actor to play 007 amid terrible press and reviews that slammed him as a bad choice and "James Bland." Despite this media onslaught, he turned in what many call the best performance the series had yet seen. I wouldn't necessarily go that far, but Craig's gritty, realistic turn in Casino Royale convinced me that Bond was in good hands. Even though Connery, Dalton and Brosnan showed flashes, Craig's work as 007 is the closest to the original Fleming creation. Following, Casino Royale, Craig again did fine work in Quantum of Solace. I do hope that in the next few films we see a return to some of the humorous aspects of the character, but there is little doubt that Craig is here to stay as James Bond.


1 comment:

  1. You forgot David Niven. That is all.