From hero to zero: How each Bond actor fares

Leading on from my post ranking all 23 Bond films in order, it’s now time to rank each of the six actors to play the man himself, James Bond. Among the actors are a Scot (Sean Connery), a Welshman (Timothy Dalton), an Irishman (Pierce Brosnan), an Aussie (George Lazenby) and two Englishmen (Roger Moore and Daniel Craig), and each has brought something different to the role.

This is how I’d personally sum up each of the actors:

Sean Connery – suave
George Lazenby – smiley
Roger Moore – smooth
Timothy Dalton – hard-edged
Pierce Brosnan – handsome
Daniel Craig – modern

In many respects it’s unfair to judge each of the actors’ performance as Bond as they are, to a large degree, dictated by the director, producers and writers as to how 007 should be portrayed. Even so, everyone does have their own particular Bond.

For a long time I have said that Connery was my favourite Bond. So, after seeing all 23 films, has this changed? No, but the runner up has.

The original and best
When Connery appeared on screen as the debonair spy 50 years ago in 1962’s Dr. No, a million hearts around the world skipped a beat. With his classic good looks, impressive physique and devilish charm, Connery stole the hearts of people all over the world. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to bed him, and to today’s modern audience he still holds a certain je ne sais quoi.

When Dr. No came out Connery was 32-years-old and had received moderate success in 1958’s Another Time, Another Place and 1959’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People. However, it was his performance in Dr. No that would be his breakthrough role.

Without a doubt, Connery’s best outing as 007 was is Goldfinger. It’s my number 1 Bond film and regularly makes appearances on top 10 Bond films lists all over the world. Connery’s Bond is cheeky yet suave, and miraculously maintains his polished appearance though he has more than one close call.

In my opinion, his worst 007 outing is tied between Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia With Love, though I know that I am in the minority for saying that about From Russia With Love. For one reason or another I didn’t really get on board with From Russia With Love, finding it rather convoluted and slow. Tanya Romanova wasn’t a patch on Honey Ryder either…

A worthy runner up
When I started watching the films again I thought that 2nd place would belong to either Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore. I hadn’t seen all of Moore’s film but, due to the sheer quantity, I thought he must have made a pretty good Bond.

Well, the blue-eyed, blonde-haired wonder that is Daniel Craig has beaten them both. With three films under his belt, Craig has a dedicated following of fans that is growing day by day, and I am definitely one of them.

Visually, I’m not sure Craig was the Bond that anybody was expecting when it was announced that a new film would be released sans Brosnan, and many doubted whether he would be able to carry the franchise.

Happily, the vast majority of these doubters were proved wrong, as Empire’s Kim Newman said in his review of Casino Royale: “Contrary to pre-release nay-sayers, Daniel Craig has done more with James Bond in one film than some previous stars have in multiple reprises.”

Licensed to thrill
Ranking the remaining Bonds – Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan – is nigh on impossible. As previously said, each brought something different to the role and each was at the mercy of the directorial and writing teams.

You could spend hours wondering what Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day would have been like if hard-edged Dalton had stayed on as Bond. Similarly, what if Dalton had assumed the role after Connery’s departure – according to Bond legend he walked away from his screen test fearing that at 22 he was too young for the role – and what if Moore had bowed out a lot sooner?

With these thoughts I ask you this: out of all the 23 Bond films, which you would like to see remade with a different Bond actor? Personally, I’d quite like to revisit Goldfinger and see Craig fill Connery’s boots as 007…

5 thoughts on “From hero to zero: How each Bond actor fares

Add yours

  1. At least we agree on Sean Connery and ‘Goldfinger’, Claire ;-). I can understand about ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, but ‘From Russia With Love’ (my second best selection)? Whoa. Still, these are your picks and I respect them. Fine post, Claire.

  2. Most interestingly, Flemming re-wrote Bond in his later books to echo Sean Connery, so films based on the later books were pretty much written for him!

    My top three are a constantly shifting mix of Dalton (wish he’d got more films), Connery (I’m Scottish after all) and Craig (had the best films for layering the character, plus reboot meant blank page). I love Broz having grown up with him, but his last couple of film looked like he really couldn’t be assed.

    Absolutely with you on FRWL – very slow, very boring, and full of terrible accents. Red is a badass though!

  3. Hi, Claire and company:

    Interesting topic and dissertation!

    Connery is the best.
    Craig is the most popular.
    Definitely agree that Moore is the smoothest. Though more suited for his earlier television role as Simon Templar ‘The Saint’.
    Dalton let his emotions get the way. For the better,
    Brosnan started moving Bond from Spy to Action Hero.
    Lazenby made a quite serviceable Bond for one film, A noteworthy effort.

    Worst Bond film: Never Say Never Again. Conney’s Bond really showing his age. Turned me off the franchise for a few years.

  4. Connery is the best Bond but a lot of that is because he came first, got all best stories and set the tone for the series. But if you look back to the Ian Fleming novels two of the Bonds stand out, Timothy Dalton acts more like the character from the books and Pierce Brosnan looks the most like the character described. It isn’t fair to compare Daniel Craig to the other Bonds as the movies and character he plays is so different to Bond of old.

    Remaking Bond with a different actor is an interesting idea. I remember when Casino Royale came out Quentin Tarantino said in a interview (with Jonathan Ross, I think) that he wanted to direct it, but would have cast Pierce Brosnan.

    The obvious choice would be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the basis that George Lazenby was terrible. The actor I would like to see in the part would be Timothy Dalton, Dalton in his 40’s when he did play Bond, not in his early 20’s (take a look at how young we was in The Lion in Winter from 1968) when the film was made and he was nearly cast.

    I have never liked Diamonds Are Forever, the more lightweight and fantasy plot may have been more suitable for Roger Moore than Sean Connery he clearly didn’t want to be there.

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