During my state-funded enforced vacation earlier this year, I started watching James Bond movies. The BBC ran all the Connery movies at the beginning of the year, except You Only Live Twice. TBS had a run on the Brosnan Bonds. USA is running all the Moores and Daltons with the exception of Live and Let Die. So where’s Daniel Craig in all this? I got Quantum of Solace from the library along with my DVD of Casino Royale and tested out AJ’s new big screen TV while he was at school. Casino Royale on 42 inches rocks!
During all of this, I also watched the questionable Connery effort Never Say Never Again and the rarely screened parody Casino Royale, the original with David Niven, not the Daniel Craig franchise reboot. So, having seen all the Bonds but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s George Lazenby in action, how do they rank?
Here now is one of those obnoxious lists everyone thinks makes great Internet content.
Number 6: Roger Moore
Don’t get me wrong. I like some of the Moore movies. For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me are some of the best Bonds ever. And Moore was smart to play Bond more low-key and comedic than Sean Connery. But six actors have played James Bond, seven if you count Niven. Just as somebody has to be first in a list like this, someone has to go last. Roger Moore was funny and charming as James Bond, but he most certainly wasn’t playing a spy created by Ian Fleming named James Bond. He behaved more like The Saint or Beau Maverick.
A little trivia: It’s well known that Moore was considered for the original Bond movie, Doctor No. What’s not well known was that Maverick producers wanted to cast an Englishman as a new Maverick, cousin Beau. Moore took the job, but another British actor turned down the role. His name was Sean Connery.
Number 5: George Lazenby
Of all the Bonds, former skier George Lazenby looks the most like Bond (An argument could also be made for Timothy Dalton). His movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was the closest to its source, almost a scene-for-scene shoot of the novel (one of Fleming’s best efforts). Had Lazenby had a competent agent, he would have had Moore’s run as James Bond. Alas, while Lazenby manages to play James Bond, he’s not quite the actor of his other five counterparts and maybe hamstrings his rank on this list by turning down a multi-film deal. Certainly, he’s a more logical successor to Connery than Roger Moore, which puts him ahead of Moore on the list, but he’s not the same caliber of actor. Too bad. Lazenby’s best moment, his grieving over Tracy Bond’s murder, might have provided an excellent lead-in to Bond’s almost murderous rampage at the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever. I totally would have bought the man who wept over his dead wife trotting the globe in a rage growling “Where’s Blofeld!”
Number 4: Pierce Brosnan
Now here’s an actor who should have been Bond a lot sooner. Producers discovered him during the filming of For Your Eyes Only, around the time Moore started talking about leaving the franchise. When Kevin McLory made his ill-advised Never Say Never Again with Connery, producers panicked, whipped up Octopussy, and brought back Moore to compete. After Moore retired, they approached Brosnan again for The Living Daylights, but NBC screwed Brosnan over, making him do one more season of Remington Steele. Too bad, because Brosnan’s personality would have provided some continuity from Moore’s tenure while getting Bond back to his intense Connery days. Brosnan himself was the perfect Bond, cool under fire, delivering those trademark quips perfectly, yet showing more emotion than previous Bonds. Still, after the strong start that was Goldeneye, the Brosnan Bond movies started to fall in quality. Tomorrow Never Dies rode roughshod over its own plot. The World Is Not Enough was better suited for a novel than a movie. And Die Another Day, the end of the original Bond storyline, went a little too over the top. Still, it would be better to watch it with Brosnan than a lot of other actors.
Number 3: Timothy Dalton
At last, a Bond who looks and acts like the James Bond Ian Fleming wrote about. Dalton is one intense actor, and his Bond might crack wise, but you can tell he’s covering up the stress he’s under. Dalton was approached after Connery originally quit, but Dalton considered himself too young. Again, he was approached around the time of For Your Eyes Only, but like Brosnan, was discounted for Octopussy when producers freaked over Sean Connery’s return in a rival Bond film. Dalton’s Bond is intense, yet can turn on the charm at the drop of a hat. Dalton’s performance was so intense that he stayed in character for promotions, chain smoking cigarettes and moving about parties like a tightly coiled spring. This was the blunt instrument M called upon to save Britain.
Number 2: Daniel Craig
In order to reboot the Bond storyline, you need an actor who can be the Bond that Ian Fleming wrote about. Craig is intense, arrogant, and cold compared to the other Bonds. Never mind that he’s a blond while his predecessors were all dark-haired (even Niven, who’s not on this list.) Daniel Craig’s Bond is cocky and a loose cannon, a younger Bond than we knew over the years between Doctor No and Die Another Day. M doesn’t trust him, and there’s no Moneypenny or Q to back him up behind the scenes. This is Bond before he becomes Bond, and you could make an argument that he’s even better than Sean Connery. You could, but I wouldn’t advise it.
Number 1: Sean Connery
Are you even surprised? The man invented the movie incarnation of Bond, and it is Connery to whom all Bonds are compared. While Moore tried to be different from Connery, the other actors had to incorporate Connery’s persona into their Bond to make it work. Connery invented the way Bond quips, the cool under pressure, the suave moves and ways with the ladies. A number of other actors were considered for Doctor No, and had any of them been cast, James Bond as we know him would not exist. Connery is so ingrained in the Bond legend that producers paid him huge sums to return for Diamonds Are Forever, and Kevin McLory cast him in his Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again.