That man was George Lazenby, and while his sole outing in the role, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is considered one of the series’ finest, it’s difficult to say how Lazenby would have fared had he stuck around for future installments. But while OHMSS was not as big a hit as the previous films in the series, it was (contrary to popular belief) not a bomb either – which meant that perhaps with the right face on the screen, Bond could be recast after all.
After the producers lured Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever, they went with the more established Roger Moore as Bond for the next seven films. His first two, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, were shaky at the box office, yet his third entry, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, found Moore not just settling into the role but making it his own. Its deft combination of humor, spectacle, and villainy, combined with Moore’s more lighthearted approach, made TSWLE a massive hit – and showed that audiences would accept different actors in the role – and have ever since.
‘A Sexist, Misogynist Dinosaur’
The Pierce Brosnan era of Bond films largely didn’t reinvent the wheel, choosing instead to reinforce what we liked about the character instead of pushing too hard in new directions. Brosnan, playing as sort of a hybrid of Moore and Dalton with an emphasis on Moore, did have his fans, and his first film in the role, 1995’s GoldenEye, has found its way into many fans’ top 10 lists. Among other things, GoldenEye is noteworthy for acknowledging – following a six-year absence from the screen during which the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War all but ended – that the world around 007 was changing.
“I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,” says a new, female M (Judi Dench) to a slightly flummoxed Bond in a brief but key scene early in the film. With the various menaces that Bond used to battle now fading into the past, and his “boyish charms” and wanton approach to women nowhere near as amusing as they used to be, GoldenEye let it be known that the franchise was willing to accept its past but move on from it. It’s done so with varying degrees of success ever since.
The Daniel Craig Century
Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond lasted for five films over 15 years, longer chronologically than any other actor. That’s due to various factors, including the length of time it now takes to develop blockbuster movies, a pandemic that put his last film, No Time to Die, on hold for two years, and Craig’s own indecision about returning to the part on at least two occasions. As a result, Craig’s Bond has come to define the character for nearly a generation of moviegoers. But is that good thing in the long run?
Craig’s era certainly returned Bond to his roots with the outstanding Casino Royale (2006), but succeeding outings, while rebuilding the 007 mythology from the ground up, also painted the character as more tormented and haunted by his past than any previous incarnation. Whereas Bond used to save the world regularly, the world in these films revolved around 007 himself, making every character part of both the tapestry of Bond’s soul and one big overarching narrative around that soul’s redemption.