There are few things on this earth that merit celebration. There is the birth of a baby, the fall of The Berlin Wall, the introduction of a new Bond actor. Hell, there have only been six of those in, what, fifty years? To call it an event is an understatement, heresy even! Here, I am going to outline the first appearances of each actor in order of brilliance. Their introduction a key part to their success, so shame on them if they cocked it up!
#6 Roger Moore (Live and Let Die)
Poor ol Rodge. There were many things he received during his Bond tenure (fine wines, the best of Saville Row, Barbara Bach!), but one thing he didn’t get was a nice introduction as James Bond. He doesn’t appear in the pre-credit sequence, and when he does appear after Paul McCartney’s terrific rocker, it’s a shot of him sleeping with an Italian.
It’s a nice shot (and boy, do I wish I was him), but it doesn’t really count as a Bond introduction. It’s as if the producers want audiences to think “this is Bond. Business as usual”.
The following couple of minutes in Bond’s apartment do show Moore’ s natural humour (“sheer magnetism, darling”- inspired!), but the lack of build up towards his entrance is disappointing, and he remains the only actor not to receive one. A gross disservice to the longest serving actor of the role!
#5 Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye)
Yes, the bungee stunt is incredible to watch, so good it’s been voted the best moment in any Bond movie ever. And it is a spectacular stunt, something only James Bond could pull off on a Saturday afternoon.
The reason it appears so low on this list is the event immediately following the stunt. James Bond uses a laser to enter into the concrete compound, crawls into an air shaft, opens it up, and hangs upside down in a men’s toilet.
Seriously? Pierce Brosnan, the Bond of the nineties, opens his movie hovering over a man in a toilet?
It’s not helped by the one liner “Sorry, forgot to knock”- awful, awful stuff. In one way, this scene could be a neat summation of the Brosnan era. Beautifully filmed stunts, hinting at great pieces of cinematography, before the audience’s revelation that what they’re watching reeks of urine!
#4 Daniel Craig (Casino Royale)
Filmed in grainy black and white, the colour alone suggests this is pre-dating the Sean Connery films, and much of Craig’s opening few minutes do point towards the making of James Bond. There’s his first two kills, his penchant for quipping when necessary and the classic gun barrel allusion.
If the scene suffers from one thing, it is Craig’s quick reveal. Audiences literally only hear Craig’s voice for a couple of seconds before they get to see him pointing with the gun, one he inevitably fires at his assailant. In retrospect, perhaps a few more auxiliary shots, before Craig’s inevitable reveal, would have been nice (these shots could have shown the back of Bond’s chair, a la Ernst Stavro Blofeld).
It is, however, a nice introduction to a harder edged Bond, one which feels the chill of his victims and the flashback bathroom fight scenes have an intensity to them not seen since Connery’s scrap with Robert Shaw.
#3 George Lazenby (OHMSS)
One of the more beautifully filmed pre-credit sequences, the scene is blessed with Diana Rigg’s ethereal performance as a suicidal deity. A hunking figure drives his car on the beach to save her, throwing himself into the water to retrieve this broken soul.
Turning her on the ground, the camera reveals the incredibly handsome looking George Lazenby (arguably the best looking out of all the Bonds). Lazenby looks cool, but is quickly apprehended by two thugs. A beautifully filmed fight ensues, wherein Lazenby, the buffest Bond, throws himself into the fight scenes, knocking one out in the ocean and discarding the other underneath a boat.
Rigg’s Tracy, meanwhile, has escaped, leaving only her glass slipper for Bond to pick up. It’s a very well orchestrated scene and not even Lazenby’s excruciating “this never happened to the other fella” can ruin it. For those of you who doubt Lazenby’s undeniable potential, re-watch this scene again; this man simply oozed the necessary qualities of Bond.
#2 Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights)
John Glen must have watched Dalton’s performance in Wuthering Heights prior to shooting this scene; the single shot of Dalton watching his falling comrade simply screams Emily Bronté. It’s a shot that shows Dalton’s blistering dark hair flowing in the wind, as his visage speaks of a mind eschewing panic for decisiveness.
It’s one of the best single frames in the entire Bond catalogue. And the lead up to this shot is also well done, as 002 and OO4, both of whom look conspicuously like beefcake George Lazenby and sandy haired Roger Moore, are introduced, allowing audiences to suspect it may well be them who drinks martinis and dropped out of Eton. As one of his fellow agents falls to their deaths, Dalton throws himself into the action, jumping on moving truck in the hope of stopping this vagrant.
Jumping only when the jeep in question falls off a cliff, Dalton very much proves himself the Bond of the eighties; fewer frills, more business. It’s a nice decadent introduction to the most theatrically experienced actor who ever played Bond.
#1 Sean Connery (Dr No)
A clichéd option, I know. But to place this scene anywhere other than number 1 would similar to excluding Casablanca and Citizen Kane from a Greatest Movies list; undeniably forward thinking, but very, very wrong! It’s one of the best loved and iconic scenes in the Bond canon (perhaps second only to the Gold painted figure in Goldfinger).
The set up is simple. A beautiful woman plays cards at a poker table. After hearing her placing more money on the table, a man’s voice claims “I admire your luck, Miss…” The lady stops. “Trench. Sylvia Trench”.
Then, knowingly she says “I admire your luck, Mr…” The camera focuses on Sean Connery lighting his cigarette “Bond. James Bond”. The scene lasts a mere two minutes, yet it epitomises the very reasons people love James Bond. He smokes with style, he drinks like a star, he impresses a black haired bomb-shell and he walks with a charisma that even the film’s Three Blind Mice can sense.
It suggests that lasers, metal toothed henchmen and even Walther PPKs are not the secret to Bond’s success; it’s his sophistication, undeniable class and fearlessness even at a game of cards which prevails all. Marvellous stuff!
Eoghan Lyng is a James Bond enthusiast and obsessee. Other James Bond reports can be found on his Twitter @EoghanLyng.