James Bond: The Spy Who Lived Twice and Still Has No Time To Die - Part One
As Bondmania hits the UK ahead of the release of No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, we take a bumper look at the series so far…
London, July 27th, 2012 - 21:25...
The action cuts away from the elaborate Olympics opening ceremony to Buckingham Palace, where James Bond (Daniel Craig) rolls up in a taxi to escort Her Majesty Elizabeth II (Herself) to a helicopter waiting outside. The craft takes them across the capital, above the landmarks and waving crowds, to the Olympic stadium. There, the eighty-something Monarch parachutes into the sparkling venue to join the festivities, accompanied by the famous James Bond theme.
The skit, directed by Danny Boyle, was one of the highlights of the London 2012 opening ceremony, and serves to highlight the enduring global popularity of James Bond. It also shows his renowned way with the ladies, even strong enough to persuade the Queen to make her acting debut alongside him in the scene. It may have been one of 007’s easier missions, but a valuable addition to the CV of a character routinely decried as an problematic relic of another era.
2012 was the 50th anniversary of the film series that began with Sean Connery in Dr. No, and also welcomed the release of Skyfall, the first Bond movie to make over a billion dollars worldwide. Now, as Daniel Craig prepares to take his final bow as the globetrotting spy, we take a look back at the other men behind the famous tuxedo, gadgets and martinis…
James Bond was the creation of aristocratic British author and naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming, whose career provided much of the background detail for his novels, beginning with Casino Royale in 1952. He oversaw intelligence units during World War II and was involved in planning Operation Goldeye, a scheme to sabotage any possible alliance between Spain and the Axis powers.
Sean Connery and Ian Fleming on the set of Dr No
007 himself was inspired by the exploits of several spies and other colourful characters Fleming knew about, although the name “James Bond” came from a less glamorous source. As an enthusiastic bird-watcher, Fleming borrowed the name from an American ornithologist, thinking it sounded plain and unremarkable - perfect for an undercover agent.
Casino Royale was a hit, and Fleming wrote twelve more novels of intrigue and derring-do from Goldeneye, his Jamaican estate, plus two collections of short stories. All of the novels and some of the short pieces would be adapted to film.
Fleming died in 1964 and two of his books were published posthumously, along with Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, a children’s novel that began life as a story written for his son, Caspar. Although contemporary critics were often sniffy about his works, he is now regarded as one of Britain’s greatest post-war authors.
The Alternative Bond: Cary Grant
Although best known for his romantic comedy performances, Cary Grant could also do action. A few years before Dr. No was released, he starred in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest as a suave advertising executive who gets mixed up in an espionage plot. The movie featured the famous “Crop Duster” set piece, widely regarded as one of the most thrilling action scenes put on film.
Cary Grant (with Martini) in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest
Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli wanted Grant to play 007, although the actor was pushing 60 at the time. However, Grant wasn’t prepared to commit to more than one movie and his salary was too high, reportedly enough to cover the entire budget of Dr. No.
Several other actors were considered for the part including Patrick McGoohan, a young Roger Moore, and David Niven. The Daily Express even ran a contest to “Find James Bond”, but the winner wasn’t much of an actor. Niven would go on to play Bond in Casino Royale, a separate venture from the regular series.
The part eventually fell to 31-year-old Sean Connery, who had made his screen debut several years earlier in the musical Lilacs in the Spring and built his growing reputation through bit parts, mainly in British crime flicks.
Connery didn’t make much of an impression on Fleming, who despised him. He also attended a meeting with Broccoli and Saltzman in a dishevelled state, but won them over with a display of brazen masculinity. The producers were sold on the way he moved “like a jungle cat”.
Once the producers were satisfied that they had their guy, it was over to director Terence Young. He took Connery to his barber and tailor, and introduced him to the hotspots and high-life of London, teaching him how to be James Bond.
Sean Connery as James Bond complete with Aston Martin DB5
Dr. No was an instant success and Ian Fleming changed his tune about Connery after attending the premiere. The film features two iconic scenes: the moment at the baccarat table where 007 casually introduces himself as “Bond...James Bond”, and Ursula Andress emerging from the sea wearing her famous white bikini.
Connery played Bond four more times in the 60s, returned in 1970 for Diamonds are Forever, and reprised the role again in 1983 in Never Say Never Again, an unofficial adaptation of Thunderball. For many, Connery is the definitive James Bond, and Goldfinger is often considered the definitive Bond movie. It certainly perfected the template for what the franchise would become, for better or worse: spectacular action, crazy gadgets, criminal masterminds, glamorous girls, menacing henchmen, and nail-biting finales.
Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Julius No in Dr. No. A SPECTRE operative who wants to demonstrate the organisation’s power by disrupting a space launch using his radio beams. Has metal hands.
Lotta Lenya as Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love. SPECTRE No. 3, tasked by Blofeld with killing Bond. Watch out for that blade in her shoe...
Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger. Wants to set off a nuke in Fort Knox so the value of his gold stash will sky rocket. Loves gold and has a memorable valet/henchman called Oddjob.
Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger
Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo in Thunderball, SPECTRE No. 2. Classic plan - holding the world to ransom with stolen nuclear weapons.
Donald Pleasance as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. Head of SPECTRE, the international syndicate of terrorists, and Bond’s arch-nemesis. Steals a space capsule in order to provoke war between the USSR and the US. Likes cats and has a cool volcano lair.
Charles Gray as Blofield in Diamonds Are Forever. The classic cat-and-mouse between 007 and Blofeld continues. This time Blofeld wants to hold the world to ransom by targeting stockpiles of nukes with his laser satellite. Has notably more hair than the previous Blofelds, but still likes cats.
Max von Sydow as Blofeld in Never Say Never Again, the unofficial film adaptation of Thunderball. Same deal - steal nukes, demand money. Has hair and a beard this time, still a cat lover.
The Alternative Bond: Oliver Reed
The stories are anecdotal, but it is said that Saltzman and Broccoli briefly toyed with the idea of pursuing Oliver Reed to replace Connery. The infamously brawling, boozing, womanising Reed would have made a hard-edged 007, and it’s the roles that cemented his star status that show what we missed out on - Bill Sikes in Oliver! and his eye opening performances for Ken Russell in Women in Love and The Devils.
Oliver Reed, photographed in 1969
Ed Cripps described the actor best in his article “Oliver Reed: The Best Bond We Never Had” for The Rake: “Ted Hughes could have invented him: the ferocious clown-crow, or the ruptured peacock with the bomb-lit eyes, rainbowed, aboriginal, acrid, brassy, genital, ejected, pre-devastated.” That’s a Bond I would have loved to see...
After Connery fell out with Cubby Broccoli and quit the series during the filming of You Only Live Twice, the producers considered over 400 actors to replace him. Some other interesting names in the running included Caped Crusader Adam West, future Hogwarts professor Michael Gambon, and everyone’s favourite Cockney chimney sweep, Dick van Dyke.
The producers eventually picked George Lazenby, an Australian former used car salesman and model who had made a name for himself in Britain advertising Fry’s chocolate bars on TV. Despite having no real acting experience, he convinced Broccoli he had Bond’s aggression by punching a professional wrestler in the face during auditions. He was given a seven film contract but dropped out after only one, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His agent was concerned that the James Bond character would be outdated in the more liberated 70s.
George Lazenby in a suit by Anthony Sinclair during casting for Bond
Despite question marks over Lazenby’s performance, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ranks as one of the very best Bond adventures. It has a literate script and bone-crunching action set pieces, it’s beautifully shot, and it follows the source material more closely, favouring storytelling over gadgets and one-liners.
Lazenby seems to be self-consciously emulating Connery early on, but warms into the role. His awkwardness actually helps the film - it is the Bond film where 007 falls in love, and Lazenby’s touch of humility makes it believable that the incorrigible ladies’ man would commit to one woman. It helps that his love interest is Diane Rigg, easily one of the best Bond girls, who is a proper character rather than just someone for 007 to sleep with in between action scenes.
Telly Savalas provided the chrome dome for the third iteration of Blofeld, who received a brief introduction in Thunderball. He makes a thoroughly grounded, believable criminal mastermind after Pleasance’s weird and wonderful performance in the previous film. His plan to brainwash women from around the globe to release a virus if he doesn’t get what he wants is still goofy, but he is convincing as an ultra-smart heavy who looks like he could genuinely pose a physical threat to Bond.
The Alternative Bond: Ranulph Fiennes
In an interview for Wanderlust magazine, former SAS man and British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE says he decided to audition for the part of Bond, hoping to raise some extra cash for an expedition. Out of a large field of candidates, he got down to the last six, before Broccoli dismissed him for looking like “a farmer whose hands are too big and clumsy.”
British Explorer Ranulph Fiennes
Fiennes would have been an interesting choice for 007. While he didn’t have any acting experience, he certainly walked the walk during his time in HM Forces and is a famously rugged adventurer. He was kicked out of the SAS after he planned to blow up a concrete dam built by 20th Century Fox for the movie Dr Doolittle, using explosives allegedly left over from training exercises. Later in life, he cut off the tips of his own frostbitten fingers after an aborted attempt to walk solo to the North Pole.
Everyone had their Bond while growing up, the actor they were most familiar with in the part. My Bond was Roger Moore, and the mere mention of his films makes me think of ITV at Christmas, tins of Quality Street, and my nan’s ever present four-pack of Heineken beside the sofa on movie nights.
Moore’s name was in circulation as a Bond candidate since the mid-sixties, but was never available due to his TV commitments. It was parts like Simon Templar in The Saint and Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders that helped him hone the louche international playboy persona that we associate with his portrayal of 007.
Roger Moore as James Bond complete with Safari Jacket
He finally stepped into Bond’s shoes for Live and Let Die, a blaxploitation-flavoured adventure mixing drugs and voodoo with some typically naff Moore-era touches, like using alligators as stepping stones and a tobacco-chewing redneck sheriff.
The light debonaire touch that Moore brought to the role turned into outright self-parody as his tenure progressed, although he was popular enough to match Connery’s total of seven Bond movies. The Moore years received some nostalgic retrospectives after the actor’s death in 2017, but the period is generally maligned as the point when the series gave itself up completely to jokey stunts and gadgetry, silly plots, and entendres that were barely single, let alone double. It was the era of the signature safari suit, reaching its pinnacle of daftness with Moonraker, all overseen by Moore’s saucy smirk and raised eyebrow.
Yaphet Kotto as Dr. Kanaga / Mr Big in Live and Let Die. The corrupt prime minister of San Monique is also a drug lord who plans to flood the US with heroin through his chain of restaurants and take over the market. Keeps his citizens in check with fear of voodoo and the scary Baron Samedi.
Christopher Lee as Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. Wants to kill Bond and steal a device that can harness the sun’s powers. Has a golden gun, three nipples and a diminutive henchman named Nick Nack.
Curt Jurgens as Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me. His grand scheme is to provoke a nuclear war between Britain and the USSR so he can start his own civilisation beneath the waves. Overshadowed somewhat by his hulking metal-toothed henchman, Jaws, played by Richard Kiel.
Richard Kiel as Jaws
Michael Lonsdale and Hugo Drax in Moonraker. Basically the same plan as Stromberg’s, just from space. Aiming to kill off humanity with a deadly nerve agent and start a colony on his space station. Jaws loves that stuff, and Richard Kiel is back by popular demand.
Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only. Hatches a plot to steal a transmitter that will control the weapon systems of British subs and give it to the Russians.
Steven Berkoff as General Orlov in Octopussy. The usual routine - Orlov wants to detonate an American nuke on West German territory.
Christopher Walken as Max Zorin in A View to a Kill. Plans to trigger a massive earthquake to flood Silicon Valley and destroy his competition in the microchip business. Aided by his lover and henchwoman May Day, played by Grace Jones, before she flips and helps 007 instead.
That’s the end of Part One of our James Bond retrospective. Grab yourself a martini or two and please join us again for Part Two, where we take a look at Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig...
Adam and the Art of the Movies team