Seven for 007: Who Was the Best Bond of Them All?
Monday/November/23 2009 Filed in: Entertainment / Media
Scene from Goldfinger (1964):
Bond is strapped to a table. A razor-thin laser beam blazes its way ever closer to Bond. In mere seconds he will be sliced in two, the hard way. Amused and slavering, the evil Goldfinger, the man with the Midas touch - a spider's touch - looks down on it all.
Bond: Do you expect me to talk?!
Goldfinger: No, Meester Bond. I expect you to die!
For some reasons, Bond villains like to call 007, Meester Bond.
It's required. That pseudo-deference somehow makes the bad guys seem more menacing. Try it. Meester Bond. See? You sound scarier already.
Since Ian Fleming first created the character way back in the early 1950s, a number of actors have played Bond on the big screen. Here's our ranking of the seven best, in reverse order.
7 George Lazenby The Forgotten Bond -- On Her Majesty's Secret Service
George seemed like a nice enough guy.
He somehow got caught in the negotiations-crossfire between Sean Connery and the Bond producers and ended up with the job, looking more shaken than stirred.
Connery had just left the role for the first time when George came on board for his single Bond mission, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Connery, afterwards, returned to the franchise for the embarrassing Diamonds are Forever.
George was a little stiff on screen. Maybe if he'd had a longer tenure, he'd have had the chance to loosen up a little.
6 David Niven The Recommended Bond -- Casino Royale (1967)
That 1967's Casino Royale was the worst Bond film ever is an understatement.
This movie may be the most confounding piece of cinema ever. But David Niven's special pedigree earns him a position in this ranking ahead of George Lazenby.
You see, when the character was about to make the leap from the printed page to the big screen, Niven was author/creator Ian Fleming's personal choice for the role. It's even rumored that Fleming developed the character in his novels with David Niven in mind. And if that wasn't enough, two of Fleming's Bond novels actually mention David Niven, as an actor, by name.
Niven's personal blessing from Fleming earns him this ranking position, but in no way excuses this confused, meandering mess of a movie.
5 Roger Moore The Cartoon Bond -- 7 Films
Roger Moore made James Bond more of a caricature than a character.
What Adam West brought to Batman is what Roger Moore brought to James Bond. Connery's replacement spawned the campy, cartoonish era of the series.
But Moore's contribution is not to be overlooked. He sustained the franchise for seven films.
Moore's stuntmen were in their own way more important to those seven films than he was. The Spy Who Loved Me had this iconic chase moment that Moore didn't even need to leave his trailer for:
4 Pierce Brosnan The Madison Avenue Bond -- 4 Films
Pierce Brosnan would have been Bond sooner but couldn't because of his NBC TV show, Remington Steele.
By the time he got the role, the whimsical side of of his TV persona was gone. Brosnan was more realistic in his portrayal and a welcome relief from the tired tenure of Roger Moore, but seemed to be a somewhat detached, walking showcase for dozens of product placements and merchandising tie-ins.
3 Timothy Dalton The Bad-Timing Bond -- 2 Films
Timothy Dalton's problem was timing.
Dalton was actually one of the first actors considered to take over the role the first time Connery walked. He turned down the offer to play 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service because, at only 23 years old, he thought he was too young for a license to kill.
Less gimmicky, more gritty
He was also offered For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy but turned them down, apparently because he didn't like the whimsical direction the franchise had taken. If he was going to play Bond, he wanted the films to be less gimmicky and more gritty.
He got his wish with The Living Daylights, a box office winner. His second Bond movie, Licence to Kill, had a sluggish reaction in the US but did well worldwide. Goldeneye was to be next but a five-year long dispute among production companies held up the project. Dalton got tired of waiting and Pierce Brosnan got the call instead.
2 Sean Connery The Quintessential Bond -- 7 Films
What? Number 2?!
By all rights, Sean Connery should be Numero Uno. After all, he invented single-handedly not just the role but the modern spy genre. For 50 years, every TV and movie spy has been a variation of Connery's theme. Connery made Bond a household name and made 007 everybody's lucky number.
But though Connery starred in arguably the best of the Bond films, like Goldfinger, Thunderball and Dr. No, he was also in Diamonds are Forever, a double-oh-dreck effort as bad as anything Roger Moore ever released.
Toward the end, his boredom with the role was undeniable. It just didn't seem like Sean was having fun anymore. His non-canonical return to the role in Never Say Never Again was a treat for his fans but had a certain I'm-only-doing-this-for-the-money feel to it.
1 Daniel Craig The Rebooted Bond -- 2 Films and Counting...
Back to the Basics
The James Bond that Ian Fleming created wasn't a suave, wise-cracking playboy. He was a hired killer, a blunt instrument designed to inflict a mortal blow as necessary for Queen and country.
The producers were lucky to be able to reboot the franchise with a film based on the novel that launched the Bond books. They used that opportunity to retool 007 in a manner more aligned with the original concept.
Daniel Craig offers a new minimalist take on 007, respectful of the characters roots yet aligned with today's post-Cold War realities.
Ironically, our choice for the best Bond of them all is also the shortest of them all. The actors who have played the role are all over 6 feet tall. Though there are a range of estimates of Craig's height, all register under the 6' mark.
Bond vs Bond: The Connery / Craig Showdown
Other actors had a shot at playing 007. Check out the screen tests for Sam Neill and James Brolin
Now that the Bond series has been rebooted should some of the Fleming books that became Moore movies be remade with Daniel Craig?