James Bond: The Spy Who Lived Twice and Still Has No Time to Die - Part Two
As No Time To Die breaks 007 box office records, we welcome you back to our bumper look at the James Bond series so far. In part one, we began with his creator, author Ian Fleming, before looking at Sean Connery as the first 007 and Roger Moore’s irreverent tenure. The next era demanded a much grittier Bond...
The Alternative Bond: Mel Gibson
After A View to a Kill, MGM had their eye on Mel Gibson, who was then known for his iconic character in George Miller’s Mad Max series and respected for his dramatic work in films like The Year of Living Dangerously.
Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon
Gibson simply didn’t want the part, and turned it down flat. After he’d added another action movie to his CV with Lethal Weapon, he told Bobby Rivers in an interview that he found the idea of playing Bond “boring”. Although Gibson is a problematic character these days, he would have brought a harder edge to the role after the Moore years, and arguably more charisma than the man who eventually replaced him...
After A View to a Kill, it was time for Roger Moore to hang up the safari suit - even he acknowledged that at 57 he was too old for the part. A new Bond search began and several candidates were in the frame during the 1986 auditions, including two more antipodean actors, Sam Neill and Bryan Brown.
Pierce Brosnan eventually emerged as the frontrunner and was offered the role. However, Broccoli withdrew the offer after some contractual shenanigans on the part of the producers of Brosnan’s TV show, Remington Steele.
Instead, the role went to Timothy Dalton, who had already turned it down twice before. He was first sought to replace Connery for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but felt he was too young at that stage of his career. He then rejected the chance to play Bond in For Your Eyes Only because he disliked the direction the series was going in.
Dalton admits that he was still reluctant at the third time of asking, but finally took the offer after reading Fleming’s books and deciding to model his portrayal on how the author wrote Bond. He reasoned that a more introspective style would be better suited to a man who lived in constant danger of being killed, rather than his predecessor’s flippant approach. He said that he would have rejected the part again if he was expected to play it like Moore.
Timothy Dalton as James Bond
The result was two more serious outings for 007, but only just. Dalton’s acting choices led to a rather glum Bond, but we still had Moore-like set pieces such as sledding down a mountainside in a cello case. Both The Living Daylights and License to Kill were well-received, with critics appreciating Dalton’s more earnest style.
Dalton was due to star in a third film, but the project got mired for years in a legal dispute. By the time the dust settled, the actor had lost interest in playing Bond again and the world had changed. The Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War, which provided much of the background tension for the series, was over.
Jeroen Krabbé as General Georgi Koskov in The Living Daylights. Fakes a defection to the West and tries to trick Bond into killing his rival, then uses Soviet money to buy up a shipload of opium, planning to fund an arms deal for the Russians and keep the profits for himself.
Jeroen Krabbé as General Georgi Koskov in The Living Daylights
Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez in License to Kill. After the drug lord tries feeding Bond’s pal Felix Leiter to some sharks, 007 quits MI6 to track him down.
The Alternative Bond: Hugh Grant
One of the most interesting names in the hat for the part in the early 90s was a pre-Four Weddings and a Funeral Hugh Grant. The rumour mill suggests that there were talks around 1992 about replacing Dalton, even before he decided that he no longer wanted to play 007 for a third time.
Hugh Grant with Elizabeth Hurley
Grant had acted in several films at that stage, but he was hardly a household name. The role of Charles, the stammering upper-crust charmer in Mike Newell’s hit romantic comedy made Grant an international star, but he seems like a poor fit for Bond’s tuxedo. Or does he?
In his article for GQ titled “The Best Bond We Never Had”, Tom Philip argues the unlikely case for Grant:
Watch him in About a Boy, or Bridget Jones's Diary. He is a creep whose effortless charm and charisma mask the obvious caddishness of his being. Daniel Craig's “gritty," spiky interpretation is the closest we've gotten to this so far, but it's time to go all out. Hugh Grant doesn't need to play likable for a second; he just is, imbued with all the opportunities and arrogance being a white man affords. That's what James Bond is all about.
The article might be tongue-in-cheek, but Philips may have something: the actor is better in roles where he plays those incorrigible characters and thrives when given the opportunity to reveal his darker side, even if it is played for laughs in Paddington 2 or The Gentlemen. His casting might have taken the series in a different direction - if his punch-ups with Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones movies are any indication, action wouldn’t have been his strong suit...
After a series of legal disputes caused the longest hiatus in the series’ history to that point, the next Bond project emerged from development hell into a post-Cold War era. The title was Goldeneye, paying tribute to Ian Fleming’s wartime exploits and a nod to his home in Jamaica.
Pierce Brosnan finally got his chance to play 007 after losing out a decade earlier, although he still had to beat out competition from Liam Neeson, Sean Bean, Ralph Fiennes and Paul McGann. There were concerns that Bond was no longer relevant in this brave new world, but the series at least showed signs of modernising by casting Judi Dench as the new M.
Brosnan played a calmer, cooler 007. He often seemed like a blend of the previous Bond personas, mixing Connery’s devil-may-care masculinity with a touch of Moore’s suavity and wit, and just a little dash of Dalton’s furrowed-brow seriousness. The series was in safe hands and playing confidently to its strengths again. Brosnan and Goldeneye were a hit, and the film even spawned one of the greatest video games of all time on the Nintendo 64.
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Despite the Brosnan era’s solid crowd-pleasing approach with the occasional modern touch, there was the unavoidable sense that time was catching up with Bond. One of the stalwarts of the series, Desmond Llewelyn, played the beloved gadget man Q for the last time in Brosnan’s next film, Tomorrow Never Dies.
Much of its thunder was stolen by Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the saucy spy spoof that was an unexpected sleeper hit in the spring of 1997. After the shagadelic secret agent and his arch nemesis Dr Evil parodied the tropes of Bond’s adventures so wickedly, it was hard to take him seriously any more. The formula suddenly started to look very tired again.
Brosnan bowed out with Die Another Day, his fourth and final appearance as 007. It is often regarded as one of the worst films in the Bond canon, with invisible cars, a weak villain, and Madonna as a fencing instructor. Worse still, it was released five months after The Bourne Identity, a film that breathed new life into the spy thriller and made Bond look well and truly like a relic of the past.
Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan in Goldeneye. Traitorous secret service agent 006 plans to use an EMP device to rob the Bank of England and tank the country’s economy.
Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies. The avaricious media mogul wants to use a GPS device to steer British ships into Chinese waters, stirring up tensions and maybe start a war to boost his ratings.
Sophia Marceau as Elektra King in The World is Not Enough. A filthy rich oil heiress who is the mastermind behind a scheme to sabotage a Russian oil pipeline by blowing up a nuclear submarine in Istanbul. Robert Carlyle plays Victor “Renard” Zokas, the muscle end of the dastardly plan. He’s a nutter with a bullet lodged in his brain, making him impervious to pain.
Sophie Marceau as Elektra King in The World is Not Enough
Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves, aka, Colonel Moon in Die Another Day. A North Korean colonel who gets a face lift to look like a posh British entrepreneur. Wants to use a satellite to burn a path through the DMZ so North Korea can attack South Korea.
The Alternative Bond: Henry Cavill
Although the hunky Brit is known more for his ripped physique than his acting abilities, it wasn’t always the case. When he screen tested for the part at the age of 21, he was told that he simply wasn’t lean enough to play Bond. Cavill took the comments as constructive feedback and used them as extra incentive to work out, developing the chiselled bod that he would rely on instead of changing facial expressions in his big breakthrough, Man of Steel.
British actor Henry Cavill
Word has it that Cavill is in the frame to replace Daniel Craig this time around, and he certainly cuts a more mature figure now. A Cavill Bond might also become a gateway Bond for a younger audience - he has proven popular at the Teen Choice Awards for Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
While Cavill looks the part and The Man From U.N.C.L.E felt like a dry run, question marks still remain about his acting ability - he was also rightly nominated for a Golden Raspberry for his turn in Batman v Superman.
After Daniel Craig has given arguably the best performances of any Bond actor, would Cavill be a step backwards for the series?
After Austin Powers made Bond look silly and The Bourne Identity made the series look geriatric, a new approach was needed. Paul Haggis, one of the screenwriters for the next Bond adventure, said they wanted to “do for Bond what Batman Begins did for Batman”. Their solution was to go back in order to go forward. Casino Royale, a darker take on Fleming’s first novel, rebooted the series, introducing James Bond when he was first promoted to 00 status.
After the usual casting merry-go-round with names like Ewan McGregor, Karl Urban and Dougray Scott in the mix, Daniel Craig was announced as the latest 007. Some fans were unhappy with the choice, mainly because the blonde, relatively short actor was far different to the tall, dark and handsome spy they had come to love. Nevertheless, he received strong support from Connery, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan, and most doubts quickly disappeared once audiences saw him in action.
Casino Royale was a critical and commercial success, treating its source material with respect and taking its action cues from the Bourne films, rooting the Bond series in something resembling the real world. Craig’s portrayal of 007 was far more faithful to Fleming’s original vision - steely and relentless with a few welcome flashes of gallows humour, yet also world-weary and cynical with a touch of vulnerability.
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Craig’s next movie was Quantum of Solace, a strange misfire that was all but erased from people’s memories with the release of Skyfall in 2012. The most profitable Bond film of all time was a fitting way to mark the 50th anniversary of the series, matching high-octane action with well-placed hits of nostalgia.
Topping the success of Skyfall would prove difficult. Spectre, once again pitting Bond against his arch-nemesis Blofeld, was an uneven mess that only received middling reviews. After that, it was another six-year wait for Craig’s final Bond film, No Time to Die...
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. The terrorist financier and high-end gambler holds a big money game of poker to pay off his debts. 007 takes a place at the table to make sure he loses.
Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace. His scheme involves organizing a coup in Bolivia so he can gain the sole rights to provide the country’s water and make a healthy profit for himself.
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva in Skyfall. Wants take down MI6 and kill M for disavowing him, resulting in his torture at the hands of the Chinese. With his grandstanding introduction and provocative bisexual scene with 007, he became one of the most memorable modern Bond villains.
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva in Skyfall
Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre. Fully embracing Austin Powers-style plotting, it turns out that Blofeld’s dad was once Bond’s guardian. In a fit of jealousy, Blofeld killed his father and went on to set up SPECTRE to target his foster brother. As you do.
Now Daniel Craig’s swan song No Time to Die is finally with us, the question on everyone’s lips is: Who will be the next James Bond? Might it be Henry Cavill, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, James Norton or Tom Hiddleston? Could the producers really shake things up by giving us a female Bond?
British actor Idris Elba
If you want to waste some money, you could have a flutter on some of the outsiders: bookies have Colin Farrell, Will Smith, Colin Firth and David Beckham all at 1000/1 to replace Daniel Craig. Bizarrely, Alan Carr, Bono, David Walliams, Prince Harry, and Michael D. Higgins, the 80-year-old Irish president, are apparently in with a better shout at 500/1…
Who is your favourite Bond and who’s your pick to be the next 007? Let us know!
Thanks Lee! The Bond films have produced some truly iconic movie posters. You can see which ones we currently have available here. If you have made it to the cinema to watch No Time To Die, we do hope you had a fantastic time!
Adam and the Art of the Movies team