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Bond by Bond: a history of 007

Analise Lipari | Tuesday, November 18, 2008

He’s a government agent, a member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and one of Britain’s finest. He’s been Scottish, English and Irish. His women have ranged from Pussy Galore to Vesper Lynd, and he’s been a womanizer long before Britney Spears ever brandished the epithet. His weapons have run the technological gamut, as have his many gadgets. His classic ride? An Aston-Martin, darling.Who is he? Bond. James Bond.Through the years, the movies have seen Ian Fleming’s literary hero jump from page to screen in multiple incarnations and over 20 films. In honor of the latest Bond flick, “Quantam of Solace,” Scene takes a closer look at each portrayal of Bond in his over 40-year long film legacy: Bond by Bond.

Sean Connery (1962-1971)For many, the definitive Bond, Connery and his Scottish accent delivered Bond’s quips and quibbles with ease. Connery’s smoking, smoldering Bond was featured in seven films, ranging from the first Bond adaptation, 1962’s “Dr. No,” to his appearance in 1971’s “Diamond’s Are Forever.” His arguably quintessential performance as 007 was 1964’s “Goldfinger,” a hallmark of the franchise for its wit, style and intrigue. Author Fleming’s original preference for the role was British actor David Niven, but particularly in “Goldfinger” Connery makes the character his own. According to the Web site 007.info, Connery’s Bond was nicknamed Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Italian moviegoers, a nickname that undoubtedly fits his smart, sexy portrayal of this cinematic icon.

George Lazenby (1969)Australian actor George Lazenby’s turn as James Bond was a brief one, but his film was often cited as a success among Bond experts and die-hards for its close resemblance to its source material. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is based on Fleming’s 1963 novel, and features, among other elements, Bond’s marriage to Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg of “The Avengers”). Lazenby’s approach to the role was less than popular at the time, and critic Leonard Maltin has remarked that, were Connery to have played the role in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” it might have been the greatest of the films.

Roger Moore (1973-1985)After Connery’s brief return in 1971, Roger Moore took the reins as Britain’s favorite MI6 agent. Moore’s Bond has a more light-hearted humor than Connery’s, often calling a self-conscious attention to the borderline cheese factor that his one-liners might betray. In “Live and Let Die,” Moore romances Jane Seymour in her pre-Dr. Quinn days through Jamaica, all the while imitating the conventions of popular blaxploitation films. “Moonraker” saw 007 in the midst of intrigue on the final frontier – the untapped landscape of outer space. Moore’s Bond expanded the boundaries of the genre while indulging in tongue-in-cheek humor and some good, old-fashioned womanizing. The Bond of the 70s and 80s vacillates between playboy and detective in a way that endeared Moore to fans of the series and new viewers alike.

Timothy Dalton (1987-1994)While Dalton’s two Bond films were released in 1987 and 1989, he was officially considered as Bond until Pierce Brosnan assumed the role in 1995. While Dalton’s run was also short, the choice to cast him reflected a desire to move Bond back towards a more Connery-like portrayal; less cheese, more muscle. Dalton’s grittier, more vengeful Bond ultimately, however, didn’t last very long.

Pierce Brosnan (1995-2002)Brosnan’s Bond has an Irish lilt to manage the suave smoothness he brought to the role. Beginning with 1995’s smash hit “GoldenEye” and continuing through “Die Another Day,” Brosnan took the role and ran with it into the 21st century. His Bond was immediately popular; “GoldenEye” grossed over $350 million worldwide, and later spawned an extremely popular video game title of the same name. His costars are well-known to today’s entertainment scene, from Denise Richards to Halle Berry. Brosnan’s Bond was also moving beyond the Cold War conflicts of his earlier days and into the modern context of an increasingly globalized world. In “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Bond teams up with a Chinese agent to take down his baddie; in “GoldenEye,” 007 is working to prevent a global financial crisis; and in “Die Another Day,” Bond leads a mission to North Korea. Admittedly, a portion of Brits felt their hero had been altered by his Irish portrayer, with some reportedly calling him “James O’Bond.”

Daniel Craig (2005-present)While still a fledgling Bond, the first blond actor to inhabit the role is definitely holding his own. Craig’s Bond shot new life into the series in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” portraying 007 as a “blunt instrument” that needs training and experience to hone his skills as an MI6. “Casino Royale” was Fleming’s first Bond novel, and the film works successfully to rejuvenate the series by starting its story all over again. Who knows how successful or how long Craig’s run will be, but there is no doubt that Bond will live on.