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A Shared Bond: Casino Royale Feature

By Derek Shiekhi (BondFiend)
November 16, 2006

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Sean Connery in Dr. No
James Bond. He’s a charming, English, gentleman spy; a connoisseur of fine wines, food, and cars; a sharpened, lethal instrument of Her Majesty’s government; and a cannibal. Or at least the actors who play him are cannibals. Each man’s success, or lack thereof, seems to consume the actor who comes after him. Daniel Craig may have it hard, but it’s apparently just part of being initiated into the 007 actors club.

Even Sean Connery was not immune. It was up to him to overcome the perception that James Bond was a character who best remained in literature. A number of ventures to put Bond on the big screen had already fallen through. Once the first film, “Dr. No,” was underway, Ian Fleming himself denounced Connery as James Bond, calling the fellow Scot that “great snorting lorry driver.” As the series grew more successful, Connery had to deal with a different kind of stress: that brought on by being the world’s most popular film hero. Wishing to branch out into more diverse roles, he left the series, for the first time, in 1967.

Next came George Lazenby. Europe’s highest paid male model of the 1960s was tasked with filling the shoes of the most famous actor in the world.

George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Lazenby might have bought one of Sean Connery’s suits and had his hair cut like the man, but nothing could change the fact that George Lazenby wasn’t the 007 that everyone had grown to idolize; Lazenby wasn’t even an actor before he screen-tested. To make things worse, he signed on to play in, for one major reason, the least Bond-like film since the franchise started. Now, George Lazenby is the answer to a trivia question: who was the only actor to cry on-screen as 007? Ultimately, the Australian ex-car salesman’s only Bond film was plagued with rumors of scandal and in-fighting that eventually led to his resignation.

After Sean Connery’s triumphant one-time return as James Bond in 1971, it was time for Roger Moore to don the famous tuxedo. Moore’s problems were at once similar to and different from Lazenby’s. On one hand, like Lazenby, Moore was taking over from the world’s standard of James Bond. It was essential that Moore not say lines that would evoke memories of Sean Connery. Vodka martinis were no longer Bond’s libation of choice. Moore’s Bond drove a Lotus, not an Aston Martin. On the other hand, Moore had to mind his own success and not do or say things that reminded people of his famous alter-ego, Simon Templar of “The Saint.” The new Bond was more likely to cock his gun than his eyebrow. Another problem was that Moore had to reinvent the series, albeit with his own unique strengths in mind. The transition from a ruthless, cold-hearted Bond to a more sensitive, tongue-in-cheek one had to be made. After a 12 year run as 007, Moore left as the highest-grossing 007 since Sean Connery.

Following Moore’s departure in 1985 was the announcement that long-time Bond front-runner Timothy Dalton was indeed James Bond. He had been offered the opportunity to play Bond as far back as 1969, but refused the part on the grounds that he felt the man playing Bond should be older, not 27.

Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights
Oddly enough, 30 year-old George Lazenby ended up taking his place for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The two men share an even deeper connection, however. Moore was to Dalton as Connery was to Lazenby. There was a reason why Roger Moore played 007 for as long as he did. With him, the world learned to love a more light-hearted, playful Bond. Dalton, being a different actor with a different approach to the part and different strengths and weaknesses, had to, like Moore before him, reinvent the role. That is to be expected of every new Bond, but it seems the movie-going public of the late 1980s lost that understanding. People were not only used to a softer-around-the-edges Bond, they were used to a cinematic Bond, not the one of the novels. Dalton played more of the latter, to his detriment. An overly heavy taste for the prevailing Bond palate of the time and rumors of being replaced by Mel Gibson or other actors worked to make Dalton’s two-run tenure a particularly bitter one. Despite that, he does have a devoted legion of “Daltonite” Bond fans who appreciate his very “Fleming” approach to Bond.

Six years later, another long-sought actor was introduced as the James Bond of the Nineties: Pierce Brosnan. He had perhaps an even more monumental task than his predecessor: bring his own particular style and skills to the films and save the entire franchise from sliding into oblivion.

Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day
When Brosnan took over the role, United Artists’s had only just recovered from a long period of organizational trauma. The Bond films themselves were returning after a 6 year hiatus. While it was up to Bond to save the world, it was up to Brosnan to save the Bond films. If Goldeneye had been a bomb, the franchise could have blown up with it. Any scandal that surrounded Brosnan’s run as Bond was more than likely at the hands of the writers and directors than Brosnan himself. A great number of dedicated Bond fans feel his films were too “mainstream” in their use of pyrotechnics and poorly written. Fortunately, his four films were financial successes and gave new life to the forty year-old empire. Ultimately, however, Brosnan’s career as 007 ended on what many see as a low note, with 2002’s “Die Another Day.”

Now, with the 21st installment in the Bond legacy upon us, in which the franchise is being reinvented once again, we have a new Bond actor, surrounded by his own unique troubles. For one, Craig will have the perennial challenge of making the part his own but will also have to do so in a film that lacks many important Bond elements; namely Q, Moneypenny, and the traditional gun barrel opening sequence.

Daniel Craig on the cover of Esquire
To add to his woes, Craig is assuming the role of 007 in the wake of the man who touched off a “Spymania” renaissance and was Bond to an entire generation of young people adept at broadcasting their like or dislike for all things Bond on the internet. Perhaps Craig should worry less about Brosnan, though, and more about being swallowed whole by Timothy Dalton’s days as Bond. Craig certainly seems to be a modern day incarnation of Dalton, according to the Casino Royale trailer.

The press surrounding the new movie even touts it to be darker and grittier than the Bond movies we’re used to seeing. Dalton’s “Licence to Kill” was certainly darker and grittier than what audiences were used to seeing in a 1980s Bond movie. The most interesting and enraging problem for Craig, however, is that he is hated not because of who he isn’t, but because of who he is. Daniel Craig is Daniel Craig, the man who people disown as Bond because he is blonde, because he looks the way he looks, because he has played a hit man and a child molester and a drug addict in past films. The hatred for Craig has reached such heights as a website dedicated to boycotting him as James Bond and the phrase “blond Bond” becoming a four-letter word.

So while Daniel Craig is being roughed up by both the media and the internet savvy, his situation is not unique. Each man who has played Bond has felt the frenzy surrounding his predecessor nipping at his heels, threatening to devour him. Only time will tell if Craig is able to outrun it long enough to pass the torch to his successor.

Article written by Derek Shiekhi (BondFiend)



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