This feature originally ran in November 2015 and is being re-published in honor of Roger Moore’s passing.
Bond. James Bond. This week, Consequence of Sound is celebrating the legendary secret agent with five days of unique features leading up to the release of Sam Mendes’ highly anticipated Skyfall follow-up, Spectre. Yesterday, Sarah Kurchak explored the Bond Girl’s strange place in pop culture, and today, six staff writers argue for each of the six actors who portrayed Bond. Read on and see who you agree with…
“The name’s Bond. James Bond.”
A number of actors have delivered that line in the long-running 007 series, but who is your Bond? The arguments have been raging on for decades, and with so many different takes on the same character leading to captivating and occasionally off-the-wall performances, how do you choose? Do you want subtlety, or do you want a wink to the camera? Do you want a killer, or do you want a lover? Do you want all of these characteristics in your Bond?
Each of us was given the task to champion a specific Bond. You read that right. All six Bonds are defended here, with each actor representing something unique. Read on to see who stands where and with whom, and please let us know your choice for the #1 007 in the comments section below.
For Your Eyes Only,
In Defense of Sean Connery
by Cap Blackard & Eleanor Edwards
Sean Connery is invariably the most argued best-of-the-best Bond. The rationale generally boils down to he was the first; he defined the role. Heck, in many cases, Connery’s Bond likewise defined Connery. Unless you’re shouting “you’re the man now, dog!”, a bad Sean Connery impression is moreso an impression of Connery as Bond. Even after hanging up the PPK twice, Connery inevitably returned to his most iconic role and learned to Never Say Never Again.
But in the ever-changing visage of James Bond through the ages, it just so happens that against all odds they got it right the first time. Connery’s portrayal of 007 is the ultimate embodiment of the gentleman spy and truest to author Ian Fleming’s source material. In authenticity and iconism, Connery kills the competition.
Fleming’s books are a product of their time, and Connery’s Bond is the only Bond of that time. In fact, all later iterations of James Bond make an effort to undo much of what makes the Connery/Fleming Bond tick: masculinity to a fault, prejudices, and the cavalier Cold War vibe of the ’50s and ’60s. The vary nature of what spies are in the popular consciousness was defined by Connery’s Bond, and it’s an image that persists to this day. As soon as Bond started changing with the times, the campy spirit was retained, but the essence of Fleming’s character was irrevocably changed.
In the novels, Bond is described as “good looking in a dark and rather cruel way” — dark hair, rugged, plus his father was Scottish. Though Fleming had his own fanciful ideas of who should play Bond, Connery captures his literal descriptions sharply. He’s handsome enough to soften a woman’s guard and chilling enough to be a killer who henchmen fear. Bond is very much a product of his time, where the cunning killer can be admired in not just his dashing exploits, but his sociopathic attention to fashion, food, and finer things while reveling in the “sweet tang of rape.” In nearly every instance that Bond saves a woman, it’s easy to read Connery’s inner monologue as “I’ll shave her sho I can have shex with her laetar.” This might sound horrible to modern audiences, but it’s this unapologetic masculine fantasy that fueled Fleming’s Bond and remains ever the basis for all modern incarnations of the character.
Yet in spite of Book Bond being the stuff of Fleming’s self-indulgent daydreams, Connery’s Bond is more relatable — he’s fallible. He’s coldblooded certainly, but he shows signs of pain and struggle unlike later iterations who amount to little more than impermeable, super-heroic quip-factories. The only other Bond close to the mold is Craig, who makes good on Connery-style subdued puns and taking the punches that a life of spying doles out. However, Craig’s 007 is grounded in realism to a fault. Connery’s Bond would sooner die in the field than show signs of PTSD or be motivated by trauma and a brooding past. The only motivation he needs for risking life and limb while laying ladies is the satisfaction of knowing he’s in service of Queen and Country.
Connery is Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
In Defense of George Lazenby
by Justin Gerber
Sometimes what makes or breaks an actor’s career comes down to an exact science. In the case of George Lazenby, a perfect formula was concocted. One miscast here, a bad director hire there, and maybe people don’t look back so favorably on the sixth entry in the Bond series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
After warranted salary disputes, Connery was out as Bond. Producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were insistent that they would be able to carry on without him. After a shave, a haircut, and a visit to Connery’s tailor, Lazenby convinced them that he was the next Bond. The Australian model had little to no experience in front of the camera, aside from his modeling gigs, but this was purely an attempt by Broccoli and Saltzman to show Connery how little he mattered in the grand scheme of Bond.
If we took a trip back to swingin’ 1969, we’d get a sense that Connery was the victor. OHMSS was a failure critically and commercially, with Lazenby getting most of the blame. Fortunately for him, and in turn we the audience, the years have been more kind to Lazenby’s solo effort than any other Bond movie from the ‘60s. It showcases the directorial debut of longtime Bond editor Peter Hunt, the best “Bond Girl” of them all in Dame Diana Rigg, amazing stunts, and gorgeous locations. It’s a scaled-back affair compared to most Bond movies, but it is what Lazenby does with the role that sets OHMSS apart. In a good way.
Connery’s Bond had become Superman. Once he flew off in a jetpack (Thunderball), the sky was the only limit. “A martini, shaken not stirred, and a mini-helicopter for my next entry. Thanks, Q!” His movies are still great fun, and in some cases they’re simply great, but upon his departure, the producers toned it down. Blofeld’s massive, hidden volcano lair from YOLT seems a genre away from his remote mansion in the Swiss Alps in OHMSS. Like the set pieces around him, Lazenby’s Bond is also toned down. He’s human again.
The argument that critics have about OHMSS is how much better it would be with Connery and that it works in spite of Lazenby. I disagree. We saw where Connery stood with the character in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, a performance he obviously sleepwalks through for his then record-setting payday. I’m not entirely sure that fed-up 1968 Sean Connery would have convinced us that Bond had fallen in love with a countess and was prepared to bid adieu to bachelorhood.
Lazenby does. His chemistry with Rigg is unparalleled.
I don’t think Sir Sean could pull off the denouement, where we find a defeated Bond holding his dead wife in his arms, lips pressed against her hair, barely able to suppress the tears.
Lazenby nails it. It’s arguably the best ending of any Bond movie (see also: Casino Royale).
You can’t say what will stick around forever and what will fade away (James Cameron made a movie called Avatar). That OHMSS is actually more popular today than it has ever been has a lot to do not only with the capable crew that surrounded George Lazenby, but the actor himself. Hate all you want, but you have all the time in the world to get on board.