The role itself is
pedigreed in that it had a life before celluloid in the novels of Ian
Fleming. Fleming’s James Bond is an Englishman (of Scottish descent) in
his mid-thirties with black hair, blue eyes, and a scar on his face. Bond
is an agent of the British Secret Service. He is an orphan who lives in
London and travels the globe on missions for his country. He has many love
affairs with women but is not married. Bond dresses well, eats well and is
expert in such pursuits as golf and cards. Fleming’s Bond is described by
another character to resemble the American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.
characteristics for casting the cinematic James Bond more or less followed
these guidelines; Bond is tall, dark and handsome although the ‘dark’ part
has been fudged a bit in the cases of Roger Moore and more recently Daniel
Craig. The film Bond is in the thirty-to-forty something age range. Bond
actors are ‘British’ as opposed to the Englishman of the Fleming novels.
This means that a Bond actor can hail from England, Ireland, Scotland,
Wales and even Commonwealth countries such as Australia. At a pinch it can
be an American actor as it almost was with John Gavin in 1970. James Bond is
portrayed as English in the films even though most of the actors who have
played him are not.
Also important for a James Bond actor is his profile
before being cast as Bond. A high wattage star has never been cast as
Bond. Established actors such as Cary Grant, James Mason, Burt Reynolds
and Michael Caine have all been floated and/or offered the role at various
times in the series. The practice though has been to cast a relative or
total unknown and let the role make them a star. By ‘relative’ we also
mean actors who may be known as stars in one medium or country but not
known around the world. This would include the television careers of Roger
Moore and Pierce Brosnan, which incidentally made both actors familiar to
American audiences, a vital element in casting a successful James Bond.
is certainly no secret that the first cinematic James Bond, Sean Connery
was a success in the role. The producers found in Sean Connery the
successor to Clark Gable; a vital, charismatic man’s man who was capable
of exuding danger when called upon. Connery was so successful in the role
that many people believed that the Bond character could not survive his
departure. Much to the personal chagrin of Sean Connery, many people also
believed that his persona was the same as James Bond’s. It
isn’t and never was. This was not a thought shared by Ian Fleming
who initially was not pleased at the casting of Sean Connery in Dr. No.
Fleming eventually came round and in fact adapted the literary Bond to
some of Connery’s characteristics, namely a Scottish past. If he had had
his way though, Fleming would have gone with a more English actor in the
David Niven mould.
When Connery did leave in 1967 after the
release of You Only Live Twice, Australian model George Lazenby
took over the James Bond role for one film. Lazenby was younger than
Connery was when he became Bond but had the rugged good looks that gave
him an older, harder look than Connery. Lazenby did turn in a decent
performance in an otherwise outstanding Bond film but many filmgoers and
critics dubbed it a failure in the belief that Lazenby was only emulating
Connery/Bond rather than creating a new interpretation of the character. Even though the film On Her Majesty’s
Secret Service did well at the box office and was a triumphant Ian
Fleming adaptation, efforts were made to bring Connery back. Connery did
return for one film only in Diamonds Are Forever, and in 1973 the
role passed onto Englishman Roger Moore, who had been eyed as a potential
James Bond from the very beginning of the series.