James Bond Actors2010-08-19
Who are the James Bond Actors is a surprisingly common refrain despite the overall popularity of the James Bond film franchise. Ian Fleming may have created James Bond and our favorite James Bond characters, but the iconic cinematic hero is most associated with a small cadre of select actors who have given shape, form, and voice to the many deeds and conquests of 007. And it isn’t just Bond himself who’s captured our imaginations over what is now a decades-old franchise: it also includes several villains and vixens who (at times) threatened to overshadow Bond himself! Read on to learn more about the legacy of our favorite James Bond actors.
Sean Connery: What can we say about the man who is perhaps the most iconic of all the Bond actors? Sean Connery is as suave, dapper, and gallant today (at the age of 79) as he was when he first appeared as 007 in 1962’s Dr. No. Contemporary audiences may know him better for the hilarious caricature delivered regularly by Darryl Hammond on Saturday Night Live (you know, the guy who constantly torments Alex Trebek during those endless rounds of Celebrity Jeopardy…) but Bond fans the world over have Connery to thank for making the film hero a cinematic institution.
George Lazenby: Lazenby is arguably the least known of all the actors who have played Bond over the years. He only played Bond in one film: On Her Majesty’s Service (1969). What is perhaps better known than Lazenby’s performance as 007 is the story of how he won the part. After Sean Connery had retired the role and both Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore declined to take it up, producer Albert Broccoli offered Lazneby an audition after seeing him in a commercial. What eventually clinched the part for Lazenby, however, was a knockout punch he delivered to a stunt coordinator on the film, demonstrating to the film makers that Lazenby had what it took to enact the part of a sleek but strong Casanova.
Roger Moore: Roger Moore is a bit of a mixed bag to most diehard Bond fans, mostly because it is generally agreed that he overstayed his welcome while playing 007 in a record seven films. Why the judgment? Blame it on ageism. Moore was 45 when he debuted as Bond – and 58 when he finally retired the role. Still, many fans and critics alike appreciate the lighthearted tone he brought to the role, making Bond less of a mystery and more of a charmer to audiences worldwide.
Timothy Dalton: Dalton had been on the producers’ wish list to play Bond for quite some time when he finally accepted the role. And grateful they must have been as his first outing as 007 in The Living Daylights (1987) was a super smash at the box office, outgrossing such monster blockbusters as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. Though he was contracted to star in three Bond films, he ultimately made two as a protracted legal battle between the film’s producers and MGM convinced him that he no longer wanted to play the role. (What we want to know is if training for two bond movies gives Timothy Dalton enough skills to kick Mel Gibson's ass.)
- Pierce Brosnan: If ever there was a smooth Bond, he was it. Cool, calm and completely collected, Brosnan made Bond’s exploits as a spy and womanizer look as effortless as breathing. It is all the more ironic, then, to learn how he won the part. Brosnan was initially considered for 007 primarily because his wife had been cast in For Your Eyes Only. By the time GoldenEye had reached the final stages of development, Brosnan had secured the part, largely because Timothy Dalton (for whom the part was written) no longer wished to play 007. The rest, as they say, is history: to contemporary filmgoers, Brosnan is the definitive James Bond.
- Daniel Craig: The latest Brit to play Bond, Craig initially received a mixed (some would say even downright hostile) reaction to the news of his casting as 007. Why the undeserved scorn? Many Hollywood “insiders” predicted that Craig would be a disaster as Bond because he had neither the smooth masculinity nor the pin up appeal of the previous five actors who had played the character (it seems they were rooting for Clive Owen to win the role). But ‘different’ is exactly what the producers wanted. They wanted to take the franchise in a completely different direction, electing to cast a “proper” actor in the role for the first time. Their gamble paid off: when Casino Royale was released, critics unanimously praised the film not just for the ingenuity of its narrative, but for Craig’s ability to bring depth and complexity to the role of 007. It also certainly helps that Craig has now starred in the highest grossing Bond film ever. Expect him to stay in the role for a while.
- Halle Berry: Before she became Catwoman, Halle Berry played Jinx Johnson, a tough, take no prisoners NSA agent who helps Bond in his quest against the evil Zao in Die Another Day. Though the character has been voted the fourth toughest screen heroine in an ITV news poll, she is best remembered for her hotter than hot bikini shot (emerging slowly form the water, of course) which the filmmakers intended as a homage to Honey Rider in the very first Bond film. Homage or not, it certainly helped add an extra dimension to Berry’s already sexy and glamorous appeal.
- Teri Hatcher: Long before she moved to Wisteria Lane, Teri Hatcher played Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies. Paris is a former lover of Bond’s who is now married to a media baron. When Mr. Carver catches her in the arms of 007, her fate is sealed. Hatcher is not often associated with the Bond films, perhaps because of the brevity of the role. If anything, her character is remembered primarily for looking great in a black silk dress.
- Christopher Walken: Hollywood’s resident offbeat villain, Christopher Walken, played the dastardly Max Zorin in A View to a Kill (1985) opposite Roger Moore. Though it’s not one of his iconic roles, Walken is remembered for altering his appearance for the role, notably by bleaching his hair blonde in accordance with the character’s history as a Nazi experiment. He was, of course, also trained by the KGB. A double threat for double-o-seven.
- Jonathan Pryce: Though he’s not exactly a household name, Jonathan Pryce is instantly recognizable as 007’s arch nemesis-villain Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies. If he seems familiar, it’s likely because the character was modeled on Fox and News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch: Carver is more than a bit insane and perhaps totally psychotic. But he is also an unforgettable screen creation, largely due to the talents of Pryce who plays him with a cool and finesse rivaled by only Bond himself.