Day 2 of my Bond Blogging Binge! Today I’m focusing on the six actors who have played James Bond in the “official” Eon films. Each one has brought something different to the role – for better or worse!
1. Sean Connery: the original and far-and-away the best. Connery’s Bond interpretation brought a delicate balance between soft and hard, between serious and funny. As a former Mr. Universe he also had a convincing Bond fitness level (by 1960s standards) compared to some of the other pasty Brits. What makes Connery unassailable as the top Bond, though, is the ultimate confidence, poise, and je ne sais quoi he added to the character. Ian Fleming was so compelled by Connery’s performance that he began adapting the novel Bond to Connery in the later books. Connery solidified his command over other Bonds with not one but two reprises, first after the George Lazenby debacle and then again 20 years later in the non-Eon Never Say Never Again.
2. Daniel Craig: the icy Bond. Craig’s interpretation is much more on the hard side of Bond: gritty, physical, and – for the first time in the film series – fallible. The reboot has not only modernized Bond but humanized him as well. Craig hasn’t been helped by great scripts/plots in two out of his three movies so far, but he’s still been up to the task of carrying the film by himself. A great physical actor who can still pull off a midnight blue dinner jacket with aplomb, Craig is the real deal.
3. Pierce Brosnan: the suave Bond. If Craig is all hard, Brosnan is all soft. The definition of debonair, Brosnan wore the Bond mantle well, especially in GoldenEye. His subsequent three movies became such blatant vehicles for product placement that it distracted from his performance a bit, but he hung in there, adding the little touches that really resonate with me like straightening his tie while taking a boat on a high-speed chase. Brosnan loses points for being unable to convince me that he would ever win a fist fight.
4. Roger Moore: the slapstick Bond. Moore had a significant challenge in reinventing Bond after Connery had so firmly entrenched his interpretation. He created a much more light-hearted Bond: still brimming with confidence but never short of a zany one-liner. Despite occasional flashes of brilliance (e.g. The Spy Who Loved Me), I didn’t like this version of Bond as it lost all the gravitas of the role. And, as with Brosnan, Moore never impressed me physically.
5. Timothy Dalton: the brooding Bond. If Moore was all funny, Dalton was all serious. He only had two movies, but they were both heavy and dark. While this is well in line with some aspects of the Bond from Fleming’s novels, I didn’t love it – and I didn’t love his butt chin either.
6. George Lazenby: the non-Bond. After re-watching On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby’s only movie, I don’t think he was actually that bad per se, and he may have had potential if he had continued in the role. But he didn’t. So I judge him based on that one movie and I judge him severely.
The story of the Bond actors has been one of pendulum shifts: from Connery the original to Lazenby the new guy desperately back to Connery for one more film to save face to light hearted Moore all the way back to ultra dark Dalton when it was time for a change to soft Brosnan and then all the way back to hard Craig. At the end of the day, Connery created the delicate balance of all of those factors for the best Bond.