A look at the actors who played James Bond both in Eon Productions’ series and other productions.
Born 25th August 1930 in Edinburgh.
Starting in 1962 with Dr No, Sean Connery played 007 in six of the first seven James Bond films.
After a string of jobs that included working as a milkman and a stint in the Royal Navy, Sean Connery began working backstage at an Edinburgh theatre to earn extra money during the early 1950s.
His acting career was launched when he landed a small role in South Pacific. Initially he focused on the stage but soon did some television and film work. Initially small parts, he landed a major role in Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Connery’s big break came when Cubby Broccoli offered him the part of James Bond.
Lacking the privileged background of both James Bond and Ian Fleming, Dr No director Terence Young helped knock off Connery’s rough edges and made him convincing in the role. Many Bond fans regard Connery as the quintessential 007.
Although he quit the series after You Only Live Twice (1967), Connery returned to Eon Productions’ series in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). But after negotiating a record $1.25 million salary he promptly gave it away. His final outing as James Bond was in Never Say Never Again, Kevin McClory’s 1983 non-Eon Thunderball remake, which went head to head with Octopussy.
A long time advocate of Scottish independence, Sean Connery was knighted in 2000.
Born 5th September 1939 in New South Wales
Following Sean Connery’s announcement You Only Live Twice would be his last Bond film the hunt was on for a new actor to step into his shoes.
George Lazenby was a car salesman turned model whose only acting experience was in commercials. He was determined to win the role of Bond though and went as far as buying a Savile Row suit ordered by Sean Connery but uncollected and wearing a Rolex watch.
In the documentary Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012) Lazenby says he barged into the offices of Eon Productions to get a screen-test. Amazingly he won the role, which just shows what you can achieve when you’re really focused on achieving it.
But after all that determination and effort in landing the role Lazenby declined to sign a multi-picture deal on the advice of his agent. He believed that Bond’s days were numbered.
However, his one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is regarded by many fans as one of the highlights of the series despite Lazenby’s sometimes clear inexperience as an actor.
Born 14th October 1927 in London.
After their experience with George Lazenby, the producers played it safe when picking their next James Bond. This time they went with Roger Moore, an actor well known for his television roles in The Saint and The Pursuders!, the latter with Tony Curtis.
After national service just after the Second World War, Moore spent six months at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he was in the same class as Lois Maxwell. Leaving to find paid work, he did some film work, modelled knitwear and television. He landed a seven year contract with MGM, but was released after only two years.
Working in television, his career took off when he landed the title role in children’s TV show Ivanhoe (1958-1959), followed in quick succession by The Alaskans (1959-1960) and Maverick (1960-1961). But it was the worldwide success of The Saint (1962-1969) that made Roger Moore a household name. After a couple of films, Moore returned to television in The Persuaders! (1971–1972).
Moore played James Bond very differently from his two predecessors and with scripts that often had one foot firmly rooted in comedy, he played it for laughs. In the end Roger Moore appeared in a total of seven James Bond films, retiring after A View To A Kill (1985) when he was 58. Despite his popularity, it was time for him to step down. Moore was simply looking too long in the tooth next to his much younger female co-stars.
Roger Moore was knighted in 2003 for his charity work.
Born 21st March 1946 in Wales.
After the comedy of the Moore era, Cubby Broccoli went in a different direction again when they cast Welshman Timothy Dalton in the leading role (Harry Saltzman had sold out to United Artists in 1975).
Dalton was originally offered the role of 007 when he was in his early twenties. He turned it down, feeling his was too young and didn’t want to take over from Sean Connery anyway. Around 1980 he was again approached.
Timothy Dalton attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for two years but left to join Birmingham Repertory Theatre. After a number of TV roles, he switched his focus back to the stage, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, followed by a stint during which he took on both television and film work.
When Pierce Brosnan was unable to take the role due to his contract for Remington Steele, the part was again offered to Dalton. This time he accepted.
Although the humour was toned down there were still gadgets in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence To Kill (1989), but while the former was largely seen as successful, the latter suffered in both the US and UK markets. Many fans regard Dalton’s Bond as closest to the character found in Fleming’s books.
Dalton was expected to return for a third outing as 007, but production was delayed because of legal action by Broccoli against MGM. By the time the case was settled in 1992 Dalton decided not to return.
Born 16th May 1953 in Ireland.
After Timothy Dalton bowed out as Bond it was finally Pierce Brosnan’s time. Eight years after being forced to turn down 007 when his Remington Steele contract was renewed, Pierce Brosnan was announced as the new James Bond.
Brosnan’s early successes were as a stage actor, but making the transition to film and television in the early 1980s. His big break came with Remington Steele, which ran between 1982 and 1987.
In 1986 Pierce Brosnan was originally offered the role of Bond. Although he accepted, he was forced to return to TV series Remington Steele when NBC renewed it at the last minute. That put him out of the running. For the time being, at least.
When the television show finally ended in 1987 Brosnan appeared in a number of feature films. But after Timothy Dalton ruled himself out of making another film, Broccoli once again offered the role of James Bond to Brosnan. Starting with Goldeneye (1995), he made four Bond films produced by Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Cubby Broccoli acted as a consultant and died soon after the film’s release.
During his tenure in the role Brosnan was much loved by fans and introduced a new audience to 007. There was more humour than Dalton’s two films, but nowhere near that of the Moore era.
After four successful films and loved by so many Bond fans it seemed inevitable that he would return for a fifth time. Barbara Broccoli even said he would while on the set of Die Another Day.
Ultimately it was not to be. After taking a long hard look at where the James Bond films would go next, the producers decided to reboot the series. Although the lead actor had changed several times, there was always a rough continuity.
But this time it was to be different.
Born 2nd March 1968 in Chester.
Daniel Craig learnt his craft at the National Youth Theatre and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He quickly moved from stage to film, including Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition (2002) attracting the attention of Barbara Broccoli as the unnamed crime boss in Layer Cake (2004).
After rumours surfaced in mid-2005, Daniel Craig was finally introduced to the world as the new 007 in October the same year. After a nervous press conference, he immediately faced a backlash from a section of the fan base and the media.
He was blond. He was too short. He didn’t look like James Bond. He wore a lifejacket on the Royal Marines boat that took him to the press event. He couldn’t drive a manual car. He wasn’t tough enough. He had his tooth knocked out.
Casino Royale (2006) silenced the media and introduced a pared back, serious James Bond. Gone were many of the gadgets, all the over-the-top humour (although not all the humour, as some claim). Gone too were Moneypenny and Q.
Critics loved it. Most fans loved it. Work on the follow up, Quantum of Solace (2008) started soon after. In total Daniel Craig has made four James Bond films, including Skyfall (2012), the biggest grossing Bond film of all time. His last film was SPECTRE (2015), which saw the return of arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld but received a more mixed response.
It is currently unknown if Daniel Craig will return for a fifth time. Watch this space.
Other actors who have played 007
Born 16th April 1917 in San Francisco, died 7th April 2007 in Pennsylvania.
Barry Nelson became the first actor to play James Bond onscreen when he starred in the 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.
Nelson started his acting career at school and after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley his was signed to MGM almost immediately. He played a number of film roles before his Second World War military service, during which time he appeared on Broadway.
As well as theatre, Nelson appeared in a handful of films but is best known for his television work, which continued until 1990.
Born 1st March 1910 in London, died 29th July 1983 in Switzerland.
David Niven is best known for his role as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and in The Pink Panther (1963). He also played Sir James Bond in the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.
After graduating from Sandhurst in 1930, Niven served in the British Army. However, in 1933 he resigned his commission and travelled to Hollywood to become an actor. He enjoyed moderate success throughout the 1930s but returned to Britain at the outbreak for the Second World War to rejoin the army.
After the war he became a popular actor in the UK, but it was Around the World in 80 Days that really put him on the map. Niven made nearly 100 films, including The Sea Wolves (1980) with Roger Moore.