The character of James Bond has enjoyed a long, colorful, and contentious history, and not just in movies. Many times, the rights to portray a character as “James Bond” have ended up in a court of law. Sometimes, producers or writers have changed the character just enough to avoid legal action. The character portrayed is still essentially James Bond though. With that in mind, we celebrate this week’s world premiere of Skyfall, by taking a look at both the best official (and unofficial) interpretations of James Bond.
10. Matthew Burke
As Seen In: GI Joe
“The Spy Who Rooked Me” is the 16th episode of the original G. I. Joe series. The Bond character is called Matthew Burke. Appropriately, the main villain in the episode is Dr. Mindbender, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic Bond villain Blofield. The main plot device is a paralyzing nerve gas which Burke and the Joes are trying to stop Cobra from possessing. Burke wears a tux, drives a fast car with lots of gadgets, and shamelessly flirts with Lady Jaye. Ultimately, Burke smuggles out the nerve gas, but escaped by using the Joes as decoys. Burke takes all the credit for the mission being successful; the Joes are less than impressed. In the end, the episode shows a pretty honest assessment of the flaws in Bond’s character.
9. James Bond Jr.
As Seen In: James Bond Jr. (obviously)
James Bond Jr. was an animated series in 1991-1992, featuring a main character described as being the nephew of James Bond. Junior does battle with classic Bond villains such as Dr. No (who is green skinned), Jaws, and Oddjob. The evil organization that Bond Jr. fights is called S.C.U.M (Saboteurs and Criminals United in Mayhem). Junior also fights alongside a team which includes Q’s grandson, as well as a relative of Felix Leiter. James Bond Jr. only lasted one season as a cartoon. However, he did spawn a series of young adult novels and a Marvel comic book series, as well as a Nintendo game.
As Seen In: The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:The Black Dossier is a graphic novel by Alan Moore, released in 2007. The story takes place in 1958, and focuses on Mina Harker and Allan Quartermain attempting to recover The Black Dossier, a secret history of the now-defunct League of Extraordinary Gentleman. The Bond character here is simply called “Jimmy,” but is every bit James Bond, right down to the Walther PPK. Jimmy is portrayed as being a cruel, abusive, womanizing, inept louse. The impression is left that James Bond has a long way to go before being considered as one of the great British characters. It would be interesting to see what Mr. Moore thinks of Hogwarts.
7. George Lazenby
As Seen In: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Australian actor George Lazenby was actually the fourth choice to play Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Of course, Australian actor Hugh Jackman was a last-minute replacement for the part of Wolverine in X-Men, so sometimes your last-ditch alternative works out. Not always though, as is the case with poor Lazenby. Basically, Sean Connery had a falling out with the producers during You Only Live Twice. Roger Moore was considered for the role, but he was filming rival franchise The Saint at the time. A young Timothy Dalton was then approached about the role, but he himself thought he was too young to play it.
Lazenby certainly looked the part, but he was seen as little more than a placeholder until a real Bond could be hired. He ultimately did nothing to enhance the role, but nothing to diminish it either. He ended up being like a backup quarterback who is ordered to hand the ball to a runner for one or two plays, while not turning the ball over in the process.
6. Peter Sellers
As Seen In: Casino Royale (1967)
The producers of the 1967 film Casino Royale knew that they had little chance of truly competing with the actual film franchise. So, they chose a different route, making Casino Royale into a satire starring David Niven as an elder Bond, Peter Sellers as the current Bond, and Woody Allen as the evil young Jimmy/Dr. Noah. The irony is that, while casting for Dr. No, Ian Fleming believed Niven would be a superior choice to Sean Connery.
The end result was a very uneven satire that seemed equal parts The Pink Panther and Austin Powers. The Casino Royale explodes in the end, and all of the Bonds end up as angels in Heaven, except for Allen’s Dr. Noah, who descends down into Hell.
5. Pierce Brosnan
As Seen In: Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day
Pierce Brosnan is technically everything that you would expect in a Bond. He absolutely looks the part, and has all the gadgets, girls, and action that you would expect a Bond to have. As such, it never really felt like Brosnan was adding anything to the character, or effectively making James Bond his own. Brosnan really should have asserted the type of creative freedom that he showed when he was on Remington Steele. Overall, Brosnan’s Bond movies stand as exactly the type of fun, yet predictable, entertainment that a moviegoer would pay to see in a James Bond movie.
4. Timothy Dalton
As Seen In: The Living Daylights, License To Kill
If Timothy Dalton had been cast for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the whole Bond franchise might have been healthier overall. Dalton played Bond exactly the way that Fleming wrote the character in his books. Dalton was surly, nasty, and possessed many irredeemable qualities. Unfortunately, after a solidified image of what Bond was supposed to be on film, audiences just were not quite ready for Dalton’s dirty 007. Dalton’s portrayal does gain high marks on this list though.
3. Roger Moore
As Seen In: Live And Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View To A Kill
Roger Moore’s greatest sin, in the eyes of most Bond fans, is not being Sean Connery. Compared against Connery, most everyone would fall short. Nevertheless, Moore’s Bond was the defining Bond for a generation of movie goers. With Moore’s Bond, you started to see a loosening up of the franchise. He was more of a gentleman, and was also statistically more willing to bed beautiful women. Gadgets were more prevalent in the Moore movies than with Connery’s. Later Bonds appear just as ready to ape Moore’s interpretation as Connery’s. Again, Moore was not Sean Connery, but Moore still managed to make his own indelible mark on the series.
2. Daniel Craig
As Seen In: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace, Skyfall
By 2006, audiences were finally ready to accept a Bond closer to what Ian Fleming envisioned. Daniel Craig’s Bond does not always come off as a “good guy.” He’s not nearly as refined as Moore, or as cinematic as Brosnan. Craig gives you a Bond who is learning on the job, and who will make colossal mistakes in the process. Craig’s Bond is a Bond who will bleed. Combine this with the depth and range that Daniel Craig possesses as an actor, and you end up with a potent combination.
Craig’s Bond exists in a universe where you cannot tell who the bad guys are, simply by looking at them. That alone makes you believe that the universe this Bond exists in, is actually our own.
1. Sean Connery
As Seen In: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Never Say Never Again
“Bond, James Bond.” Sean Connery did not have a lot of lines in Dr. No, but Connery’s greeting helped to draw everything out of what he had. It also helped define the character for moviegoers. To many, there is literally one James Bond to exist, and that is Sean Connery. His Bond is iconic, despite all of the ridiculous scenarios he is thrown into. Connery’s Bond is the measuring stick by which decades of the character are now judged.
Ian Fleming was reportedly completely against the casting. Connery himself was antagonistic, and often fought with the producers. By the time the relationship between Connery and the EON productions ended, the relationship really needed to end. That does not, in any way, diminish the magic that their relationship created.