A Bond Farewell

There was a time when people would ask are you a Connery or a Moore? Of course, they were talking about the best Bond, James Bond. However, I found out when speaking with a freshman movie student about Sean Connery as Bond they responded “who?”  Today, as we await Daniel Craig’s final appearance as author Ian Fleming’s James Bond, the question always seems to be “Who will play the next James Bond?”

For a time, following the Connery/Moore era, each year there was a new Ian Fleming Novel being pushed out starring someone as James Bond. Now we wait years between Bond films, not only because the movies have become a big budget franchise, but also due to an ongoing conversation about who will assume the role of 007! Officially, this is the 25th Bond movie with Daniel Craig making his 5th and final appearance as the MI-6 secret agent in No Time To DieTo further the point about time between Bond films, Daniel Craig first played the secret agent in 2006 taking over from Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan, last played Bond in the 1999 film The World is Not Enough. During the secret agent’s seven year break, just about every actor in Hollywood was attached to play the role of Bond.

Ironically, it was still supposed to be Brosnan playing Bond as his contract called for the actor to play Bond in 5 films and World was only his 4th.  But something odd happened during that break and Bond was experiencing some big changes. Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who produced the first official Bond film, 1962’s Dr. No, died in 1996 and his daughter was now the Broccoli featured in the closing credits. Through a series of strange occurrences, Barbara Broccoli was able to acquire the rights to Ian Fleming’s first book Casino Royale. So, given this was the first time we were going to see James (don’t call this one a reboot) Bond in some time, the producers decided they should bring in a younger actor and tapped Craig to replace Brosnan and reinvent Bond from his early days as an MI-6 agent.

If you have been paying attention you may have noticed the word “official” Bond film above.  That’s because Dr. No. wasn’t the first James Bond film. Before you jump in and say David Niven was first in 1967’s comedic Casino Royale, we have a trivia question for you to ask of your Bond loving friends. Casino Royale was actually first shown to American audiences in a made for TV Bond film starring an American Barry Nelson as Bond, James Bond. That makes two versions of Casino Royale that do not count as official “Bond” movies in the MGM world of Bond. Also, this is a good time to bring up another non “MGM” Bond film Never Say Never again. The film starred Sean Connery, returning to play the secret agent for Warner Bros after a 12 year hiatus during which two other actors portrayed 007. In fact, Never say Never Again was an inside joke as Sean Connery told his wife he would never play Bond again following 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.  Also, Diamonds was the same story from Ian Fleming’s Thunderball. This was due to a legal battle over Warner Bros using Sean Connery as Bond at the same time MGM was filming Octopussy with Roger Moore.  Both films came out in 1983, the only year to have two Bond titles, sort of, released in the same year. Both made a pretty good haul for the studios with Never say Never Again earning $160 million and Octopussy taking in $187 million making 1983 a good year for Bond.

As we await the release of No Time To Die, there’s a bit of irony within the title. After his 4th stint as 007, Craig was quoted as saying he’d rather slit his wrists than return as Bond. However, with some time away and a brinks truck backed up to your door carrying a cool $25 million, you’d never say never too.  If not for the COVID pandemic, the film would have already had its day in theaters and be set for home video release.

With the jury still out on Craig’s final appearance as Bond in No Time To Die, the conversation once again turns to who will be the next 007?  Rumors have Superman’s Henry Cavill a front runner for the role, but other people are convinced it’s time for a female Bond. While we await that decision, the conversation will likely continue as to who is the best Bond. Is it Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig, or Barry Nelson?  Most likely everyone has one of these as their favorite Bond (well not Barry Nelson, most people didn’t even know he ever played the role).  On a recent “Oh Brother” episode, Brother Vs. Brother (Movie Trivia), we even had to turn to IMDB to recall George Lazenby as the original choice to be Sean Connery’s successor. But after Lazenby seemingly believed he actually was James Bond, MGM turned to Roger Moore to take over. Pierce Brosnan stands out as the guy who breathed life back into Bond with the smash Goldeneye directed by Martin Cambell. Campbell also directed Daniel Craig’s first Bond film Casino Royale. Same director with two very different portrayals of Bond. Both blockbuster hits with each actor making their marks on the franchise that will likely outlive us all.

As of this writing, there are 27 Bond films to enjoy on blu-ray if you include both Never Say Never Again and the 1967 Casino Royale.  It’s a great time to take in the history of Bond as we look to the future.  Who would be your next pick to play Bond? Or should Daniel Craig never say never again?

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