What can the next James Bond learn from those who have come before him?
It’s the most successful film franchise ever, and with more than 50 years and 26 films under its belt, the James Bond legend is as popular today as it was when Sean Connery ordered that first dry martini in Dr No back in 1962. Daniel Craig will soon start filming his fifth and almost certainly last film, and there is already plenty of debate as to who will be the next Bond.
The change of actor has, of course, been essential over such a long run, but it has also been instrumental in keeping the franchise fresh. People love to argue over who has been the “best” Bond, but in debating who should come next, perhaps it is more important to think about what each actor has brought to the role over the years.
The original and best? Connery exuded strength, charm and intelligence. As the media of the time put it, men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him. If you needed one man by your side in a tough situation, Connery’s Bond is still that man by most people’s standards.
Connery’s shoes were practically impossible to fill, and there is no shame for George Lazenby in the fact that he struggled to do so. Yet Lazenby showed us the man behind the secret agent, and we learned why James Bond is always destined to be a loner. The tragic end is something that is still alluded to in Bond films to this day.
The original Casino Royale is something of an outlier. David Niven brought out the public school gentleman side of Bond. It might seem like a characteristic from another age, but think again. He was most at home in his tuxedo playing at the gaming table in Monte Carlo. Today, we spend our lives online doing exactly the same thing at sites like this. Niven represented the hierarchical and aristocratic world that created Bond in the first place, so his contribution should not be overlooked.
It is easy to mock the cheesy 70s fashions and the goofy humour. Roger Moore might not have had the macho presence of those who came before or after him, but he brought an element of fun to the proceedings, and ultimately, we go to a movie to be entertained.
Dalton was the anti-Moore. He was dark, brooding, violent and probably the closest to the man Ian Fleming originally envisaged. A secret agent is a dangerous person to be around, and with Dalton’s Bond, that was all too clear.
Some say Brosnan was the best Bond of all. He had Connery’s charm, Moore’s wit and still that hint of Dalton danger. Whoever takes on the role next would do well to spend some time with Pierce Brosnan to discuss how he drew on these different characteristics.
He’s a different Bond entirely, and people took time to warm to him. No brooding sophistication or funny one liners here, this is an action man in the comic book sense of the word. He more recent outings have brought back some realism and added a little backstory, to flesh out the human behind 007 in a way we have not seen since George Lazenby.
All these actors have brought something of value to their interpretation of Bond. Whoever dons the tuxedo next has plenty of inspiration to work with.