x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The men who gave James Bond his golden run

The actors who have made James Bond the most enduring character in movie history, as the super spy celebrates his 50th year on the screen.

Oasis celebrates 50 years of James Bond on film. Illustration by Patrick Morgan for The National
Oasis celebrates 50 years of James Bond on film. Illustration by Patrick Morgan for The National

1. Sean Connery (b 1930)

WHICH ONE? The Scottish Bond

NUMBER OF FILMS Seven, 1962-1983

THE FILE The original and best. Although not an automatic choice for the part, the former milkman, labourer, artist's model and bit-part actor shot to stardom after landing the role. Smooth but rugged, menacing but effortlessly cool, Connery is the only Bond to tick all the boxes. In some scenes when sampling the latest gadget, seducing beautiful girls or felling a villain, Connery looks like he's actually enjoying himself. However, he grew bored with the role, which he considered to be hackneyed and increasingly vacuous. Despite this, after Diamonds Are Forever (1971), he reprised it in the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983). Connery has enjoyed a sterling screen career, and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1987 for The Untouchables.

NOW Largely retired, he can occasionally be seen cheering on the Scottish tennis champion Andy Murray.

 

2. George Lazenby (b 1939)

WHICH ONE? The Australian Bond

NUMBER OF FILMS One, 1969

THE FILE When Lazenby was handed the keys to the Aston Martin after Connery had refused to do On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he had big shoes to fill and knew it. The former used car salesman and model had little acting experience but appeared suave and sophisticated. However, he found himself out of his depth alongside co-stars Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas. In scenes with Rigg, he got the chance to do what he did best - pose - but his inability to deliver lines denuded the film, which was the first to give Bond an emotional element. This was unfortunate, considering OHMSS is one of the best in the series, with that ending. Lazenby quit the role, complaining that producers made him feel "mindless". However, Rigg remarked that Lazenby needed to serve an acting "apprenticeship, quietly and with humility".

NOW He went on to star in mostly forgettable roles and bit parts in television series.

 

3. Roger Moore (b 1927)

WHICH ONE? The English Bond Mk I

NUMBER OF FILMS Seven, 1973-85

THE FILE Unlike his predecessors, Moore came to the role as an established star, with TV hits such as The Saint and The Persuaders. Wisely, he chose to play the role differently, as a debonair but deadly English gentleman with a dry wit and a penchant for pithy punchlines at crucial moments. Under Moore, the Bond producers upped the ante with the gadgets, the girls, exotic locations, over-the-top villains and outlandish schemes. However, towards the end of his tenure, Moore was looking out of place. He had become too old for the role, and donning a clown's outfit in For Your Eyes Only or aping Tarzan in Octopussy lightened the mood but often killed the scenes' impetus. Still, his efforts made more money for the franchise than those of any other Bond.

THE FILE Since quitting the part, he has devoted his time to his charity work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

 

4. Timothy Dalton (b 1944)

WHICH ONE? The Welsh Bond

NUMBER OF FILMS Two, 1987-89

THE FILE  Easily the best actor to play Bond, Dalton had enjoyed an illustrious career in theatre, television and film. Dalton got his hand on the Walther PPK on his own condition that he could play the part as close to Ian Fleming's creation as it gets - an aggressive, charmless, almost sullen secret agent who doesn't really like his job at all and is not an automatic magnet for the ladies. Dalton wanted a more "real" scenario for the film instead of escapist fantasy and gave the part some much-needed gravitas after Moore had overdone his aptitude for one-liners. Although contracted to do a third film, legal issues stalled production and Dalton lost interest by the time they were resolved.

NOW He has continued to work consistently in television and film.

 

5. Pierce Brosnan (b 1953)

WHICH ONE? The Irish Bond

NUMBER OF FILMS Four, 1995-2002

THE FILE Brosnan had been offered the role in 1986, but contractual complications with the US television detective series Remington Steele meant he had to wait nearly 10 years for it. Brosnan is the paint-by-numbers Bond of his predecessors, a jack-of-all trades Bond but a master of none. He could adopt the attitude of Connery, the bon mots of Moore and the destructiveness of Dalton, just not as well as any of them. Lethal but laid-back, charming but ruthless, Brosnan was the most stylish Bond and a transient Bond, the first to work for a female boss (M, played by the peerless Judi Dench) who calls him a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur".

NOW Brosnan has cemented his undoubted acting credentials with a variety of film roles, most notably in Mamma Mia! and The Ghost Writer.

 

6. Daniel Craig (b 1968)

WHICH ONE? The English Bond Mk II

NUMBER OF FILMS Two, 2006 -

THE FILE The first blond Bond, Craig had built an accomplished career, with leading roles in films such as Sylvia and Enduring Love. Despite criticism over his casting, his efforts in Casino Royale earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. The film went on to gross US$594 million (Dh2.1bn)worldwide, the highest in the series to date. Craig wants to bring more "emotional depth" to Bond and is unquestionably the most humourless, not caring a hoot whether his vodka martini is shaken or stirred. Despite a rapport with M, Craig's Bond is the darkest, and the only one who actually looks as if he could pull off all the stunts. His second outing, in Quantam of Solace was tainted by one of the most tepid and lightweight scripts in the series.

NOW Let's hope he can turn things around with Skyfall, to be released in the UAE on October 26.