Q: Where are the actors who have played James Bond now? How about some of the actresses who were leading ladies? — “007 Enthusiast,” Belleville
A: James Bond, the British secret agent who drives fast cars and, most of the time, manages to both get and ditch the girl while saving the world, has been played by several different actors. The character has been portrayed by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
Though critics of the series, especially those who protest Bond’s treatment of women, abound, the 007 films have an almost cult following. The high-tech gadgets, beautiful women, action sequences and sharp, fast dialogue define the James Bond films, a staple of the Hollywood scene since 1962.
Sean Connery: The first man to portray Bond on film was born Thomas Sean Connery in Scotland in August 1930. The 87-year-old actor has dozens of movie roles to his name including an uncredited cameo in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the titular character’s father in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Though Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, initially thought Connery wasn’t refined enough to play the spy, the 6 foot 2 inch actor defied Fleming’s expectations and went on to become one of the most iconic male sex symbols of film. Though the role of James Bond may have jump-started his career, Connery reportedly hated the role and said, “I have always hated that damned James Bond. I’d like to kill him.” Connery received 1988’s Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of the cop, Jim Malone, in 1988’s “The Untouchables”. In 1989, Connery was tapped as People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive”. According to his website, he said of the honor, “Well, there aren’t many sexy dead men, are there.” Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh in July 2000. He retired in 2006.
George Lazenby: Australian-born George Lazenby was only Bond once in the film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” In an interview with The Guardian, Lazenby says he was the creator of the now-famous line, “This never happened to the other fella,” after continually commenting on set about Connery’s Bond. Lazenby turned down a contract to continue making Bond films and didn’t have a notable role in film afterwards. He told an Australian newspaper that after he left the film business he “sailed around the Mediterranean for 15 months with a wonderful girl.” Lazenby was married twice, once to Chrissie Townsend in 1973, and the second time to Pam Shriver, a former tennis champ, in 2008. Both marriages ended in divorce. Lazenby, 78, is slated to appear at the Mark Twain Nostalgic Film Festival in Hannibal, Missouri, in September 2018.
Roger Moore: Moore was born in London in October 1927. He had a successful career in film and television, playing James Bond seven times. Some say Moore was at his best in 1981’s “For Your Eyes Only.” His private life was filled with drama including four marriages and three divorces. Kristina “Kiki” Tholstrup, Moore’s fourth wife, had a daughter from a previous relationship who died at age 47 in 2016 from cancer. Following the loss, Moore described himself as “heartbroken” in tweets. He answered many fan’s questions on Twitter including which actor he considered the best Bond (Connery) and what was his favorite memory while making the film “Bullseye” (being paid). The actor was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for decades and received a knighthood in 2003 for his charity work. Moore had a series of health issues throughout his life including bouts with kidney stones, some of which he suffered on the set of “Live and Let Die.” He died from cancer in 2017 at age 89 in Switzerland.
Timothy Dalton: Timothy Leonard Dalton Leggett was born in Wales to an English father and an American mother. Dalton played Bond twice: once in 1987’s “The Living Daylights” and again in “Licence to Kill” in 1989. Fans of the series say his portrayal was more serious and closer to Fleming’s original, written version of the spy than Moore’s Bond. He is a classically trained actor and attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Dalton has many credits to his name both on the stage and for film and television. In some of his recent performances, the 72-year-old actor provided the voice for the Disney character Mr. Pricklepants in “Toy Story 3” and played the character Sir Malcolm Murray in the Showtime television series “Penny Dreadful”. He dated Vanessa Redgrave for years, but they never married. Dalton was romantically linked for a few years to Oksana Grigorieva and they had a son, Alexander, in 1997. Despite an internet hoax circulating in August 2018 that he had died, Dalton is alive and well.
Pierce Brosnan: Irish-born Brosnan is also a naturalized American citizen. His breakout role was starring in the television series, “Remington Steele”. When that was cancelled briefly in the 80’s, Brosnan was offered the role of Bond. The offer brought so much attention to the star and “Remington Steele” that the series was renewed. Dalton became Bond instead. Brosnan received an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in July 2003. This honor is given by Queen Elizabeth to non-British citizens who have made an important contribution to Great Britain. Like Connery, Brosnan was selected in 2001 as “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine. Brosnan has performed in dozens of films and can be heard singing in “Mamma Mia” and 2018’s “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”. Critics are not complementary of his vocal skills.
Daniel Craig: The choice of a blonde actor for Bond invited some criticism at first, but Craig seems to have won most movie-going fans over. The last Bond film “Spectre” grossed $880,674,175 world-wide. In between filming Bond flicks, Craig performed in the films “The Golden Compass” and “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”. “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”, a sequel to “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”, should be released October 2018, but without Craig reprising his role as Mikael Blomkvist. Craig recently confirmed he will be starring in the next as-yet-unnamed Bond film to be released in theaters in 2019, even though he made comments in 2015 suggesting that he never wanted to be Bond again.
As for who will eventually replace Craig, rumors are flying. Idris Elba and Tom Hardy appear to be the current front runners. A recent tweet by Elba in which he said, “my name’s Elba, Idris Elba” has fanned the flames of speculation. James Norton or Sam Heughan have also made the list of those who could possibly pick up the mantle.
In light of the #MeToo era, there are women on the list like Emily Blunt or Angelina Jolie, but the odds of a female becoming the next 007 like Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor in the Doctor Who franchise, seem slim. In an interview, Brosnan seemed to give voice to the series fans when he said, “Bond is Bond and you can’t change that. I think a woman could play Bond but it wouldn’t be James Bond.”
Next week, Ask Heidi will reveal what happened to some of actresses from the James Bond films including Ursula Andress, Halle Berry, Honor Blackman and Barbara Bach.