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Who is the Greatest James Bond?
With more news trickling through the media daily on the highly anticipated next James Bond film Skyfall, we thought it time to ask who is the greatest James Bond of all time.
Many are hailing Daniel Craig as the best Bond since Sean Connery, but wasn’t that the same thing we heard when Brosnan was 007 before him?
And what defines a great Bond? Is it the looks? From how Fleming described Bond, he was a ruthless cold killer, with cruel looks and could quite easily be mistaken as a villain – SMERSH study a photo of 007 in From Russia with Love and think of him as a `nasty looking customer.’ In the novel The Spy Who Loved Me, the Bond girl Vivienne Michel immediately thinks Bond is a villain on first sight of him.
Is it the charisma and swagger? This is something more related to the cinematic Bond, defined by Sean Connery. Fleming’s Bond was by no means a prude, and was quite the ladies man, but rather introvert in the novels, almost devoid of any real humour. The cinematic Bond on occasion became almost a parody, with endless one-liners and quips, while drinking his vodka Martini and relying on the latest gadget to get him out of a scrape – something very different from the James Bond that Fleming wrote about.
Here is the case for each actor who donned the tux and stepped into the shoes of 007 that Fleming created, capturing both the cinematic and literature essence that defines the character audiences have grown to love.
Did he fit the Fleming description? – Yes and no, surprisingly. Connery has dark eyes, whereas Fleming’s Bond had ice cold blue eyes, but apart from that he pretty much tallies with the character (regardless of Connery’s working-class roots, light years apart from Fleming’s upper class upbringing). The rough Scottish edge of Connery, with an animal-like panther walk and physically imposing, refined by director Terence Young’s English gentleman guidance, Connery found the perfect blend that would become near on impossible to replace.
Defining moment – The first intro on screen when Connery utters the now immortal line `Bond…James Bond’? Connery’s infamous fight with Robert Shaw in From Russia with Love? Connery ejecting a startled passenger in his DB5? There are too many to mention, but we have chosen a scene which best defines the Connery era, when Bond is tied to a table and watches a laser slowly working its way up to his jaffas. It’s a moment when Connery’s 007 becomes vulnerable, and reflects the more human side of Fleming’s character, showing naked fear at what is about to happen to his manhood! And it includes the now immortal line from Goldfinger, `No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!’
Did he fit the Fleming description? – Again, like Connery, yes and no, this time because the producers were looking for an actor to fit the Connery mould. Lazenby, like Connery has dark eyes, whereas Fleming’s Bond had ice cold blue eyes, but apart from that he pretty much tallies with Fleming’s Bond, despite Lazenby being Australian. He possessed similar physical attributes to the character, which helped Lazenby overcome any weaknesses with his inexperience as an actor – mainly in the action scenes. Lazenby looked most convincing as Bond during these moments, in the only movie he would play as Bond, and lucky for him one of the best in the series – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Defining moment – Rather than going for one of the action scenes in OHMSS (which Lazenby was a dab hand at), we decided to go for the tear-jerking moment at the end of the movie, when newly-wed Bond witnesses the muder of his wife before his very eyes. It is a scene which suddenly gave the Bond character depth, and helps define the man Fleming wrote about. And for all the criticism that came Lazenby’s way regarding his acting, this was one moment when he truly shone, showing the human side to James Bond. Here it is – the tragic, and rather shocking scene that follows the book near-on identically.
Did he fit the Fleming description? – Apart from the light brown hair, yes. In fact, Fleming himself thought he would be ideal as Bond. Moore definitely possessed the upper-class refined English gentleman qualities of Flemings character, but perhaps lacked the tougher edge that Connery and Lazenby had in abundance.
Defining moment – Moore unfortunately suffered some of the poorest scenes in the franchise – double-taking pigeons, telling snakes to `hiss off’, doing Tarzan yells from swinging ropes, but he was also lucky enough to appear in one of the greatest scenes in the entire franchise. It’s near the beginning of Moonraker, when Drax asks Bond to try out his flight take-off simulator. For once, Moore plays the character straight, and the audience is left with a truly heart-in-mouth moment, as Bond appears to be on the brink of certain death. A classic moment which Fleming himself would have been proud of!
Did he fit the Fleming description? – Probably moreso than any other actor that played Bond. Dark hair, cold blue eyes, unconventionally handsome in a cruel way. And he studied the Fleming novels to really nail the literary character. Gone was the humour, replaced with a hard-edged, no-nonsense Bond that 1980′s audiences were not really prepared for. Dalton perhaps lacked the more refined qualities of Fleming’s Bond, not helped by a very casual wardrobe he wore in the two films he starred in.
Defining moment – Dalton had plenty of thespian moments playing the character, so we’ll focus instead on one of his greatest action scenes. The climactic moment in Licence to Kill, involving hair-raising trucks stunts on tight mountain bends, but the true Fleming moment comes at the very end, when a bloodied and battered Bond meets Sanchez face-to-face for the last time. The scene echoes the climax to Fleming’s last ever novel The Man with the Golden Gun (who Sanchez was based on – they even share the same initials)!
Did he fit the Fleming description? – Yes, nearly as much as Dalton did, only let down by probably being too handsome, to the extent he bordered on looking more of a male model type, rather than the tough, cruel, hard-edged killer that Fleming wrote about. But as a cinematic incarnation that audiences expected to see as Bond, he fit the bill perfectly.
Defining moment - Like Moore, Brosnan suffered from many weak moments in his films, most notably in his last appearance as Bond in the dreadful Die Another Day, when silly, meaningless CGI replaced traditional stunt-performed action sequences. Luckily, Brosnan still managed one crowning moment as Fleming’s Bond, none other than the classic scene when a morose Brosnan sits in his room waiting for Teri Hatcher to arrive, with only his gun and a bottle of vodka to keep him company.
Did he fit the Fleming description? – Not particularly. In fact, out of all the actors to play Bond, he fits the description the least, other than the ice-cold killer blue eyes. Bond wasn’t blonde in the novels. Craig looks closer to Steve McQueen than the upper class gentleman spy. And yet, there is something about the Connery swagger that Craig mimics so well. The tough, badass approach, enhanced by the muscular physique which makes Craig’s Bond so convincing as a spy, that he looks as though he could truly handle himself. Craig carries the raw toughness that Connery and Lazenby naturally exuded, bolstered by his strengths as an actor. He isn’t conventionally handsome either, but more rugged. Looking back at Fleming’s novels, when Vivienne Michel sees a villain when first casting her eyes on Bond, or SMERSH thinking of a `nasty looking customer’ when studying Bond’s photograph, this is Daniel Craig’s Bond.
Defining moment – Daniel Craig gets many Flemingesque scenes in Casino Royale – being tortured, poisoned, gripping card games with Le Chiffre, romantic scenes with Vesper, tragedy on witnessing her betrayal and suicide, but the defining moment has to be the final scene, when he utters the now immortal lines, `Bond….James Bond!’ after firing off one at poor old Mr. White’s leg.
So, we’ve seen Bond having his balls almost lasered apart, his newly-wed bride being murdered, a stomach-churning centrifuge ride, wild trucking off a mountain, sitting alone with a bottle of vodka, and taking pot-shots at villain’s legs.
But which is your favourite Bond actor to play Fleming’s 007?