Who'll step into the spy's shoes?
A series of actors played Ian Fleming's dashing spy, James Bond. From Sean Connery, the first 007, to George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan, all tasted success with the role. Now as Brosnan bids goodbye to the charismatic character, the producers are on a hunt again, says RANDOR GUY.
The illustrious Bond club ... the quest is on for the successor.
``THE NAME is Bond ... James Bond.'' One of the most famous lines ever spoken in a movie by a character acclaimed and adored by the audience as the most charismatic of the 20th century James Bond! The James Bond historian, James Chapman, says that one quarter of the world's population has seen at least one Bond film.
The James Bond movie is indeed a cinematic phenomenon. The first Bond film, "Dr. No," was launched in 1962 and its charm and appeal continue unabated around the world, even after forty-plus years and twenty-plus movies.
Some critics have described these movies as sexist, and racist, snobbish, violent, voyeuristic, and glossy, glorified showpieces of mere gadgetry and gimmickry. But they continue to score at the box-office. Many have written articles and books discussing these issues, but the audience has elevated James Bond to a cinematic icon of the modern era.
When Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels during the 1950s, he never dreamt that his books would be taken as a serious phenomenon, ushering in a new world culture. ``I have no messages for suffering humanity... they [the novels] are written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in trains, plains or, in bed,'' Fleming commented about his work.
Fleming described his hero in the first novel thus: ``6'2" tall, 167 pounds, slim build, blue eyes, black hair, scar down right cheek, straight nose, cruel mouth, firm jaw line, flecks of grey hair, tanned ... For the role, an English accent, humour, athleticism and acting ability are all a plus. I should think the actor should also be someone heard of outside the U.K. Being a TV star in England won't help ticket sales in the U.S. if no one there has ever seen him.''
When Fleming wrote "Dr. No," he had Cary Grant in mind, while creating James Bond. (Grant was British). Not many are aware that the celebrated Hollywood star was approached by the producers, but he rejected the role for he felt that he was too old to do justice to such a physically demanding character.
Others who were considered included Rex Harrison and Roger Moore! At that time, Moore was doing the eponymous role in "The Saint," the successful American television series, and the TV producers refused to spare him. Ironically, he would step into the Bond shoes a few years later and become as popular as Sean Connery!
Fleming sold the movie rights of "Dr. No" for a mere $600 and the movie went on to make $3 billions during the 1960s when the dollar went a much longer way than it does now.
Surprisingly, Fleming was not in favour of casting Sean Connery because he felt that this unknown Scottish actor would not suit the role as visualised by him.
In 1962, Connery set the screen on fire as the first Secret Agent 007. The film was a major box-office hit around the world and introduced the James Bond phenomenon.
The great success of the following two movies of 1964, "Goldfinger" and "From Russia With Love" established Sean Connery as `The James Bond.'
He became an international icon with his sex appeal and charisma. In all, Connery appeared in six Bond movies. They are "Thunderball" (1965), "You Only Live Twice" (1967) and "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971). He also appeared in the unofficial "Thunderball" remake, "Never Say Never Again" (1983).
With the films' incredible success, Sean Connery came to be equated with the all time greats like James Stewart, James Cagney, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy. Serious roles came seeking Connery and he bade goodbye to James Bond in 1983.
After Connery's exit, four other actors have had the honour of stepping into his shoes, an Australian, two British, and an Irishman.
George Lazenby, (born 1939), an Australian, played Bond only once in the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." After a stint in the Australian army he became a car salesman. Relocating in London, he succeeded as a top-model and began filming commercials. Testing for the Bond role, he did a fight scene and got it. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969) was his first movie. Later his film career slid downhill. The third was Roger Moore who was enormously successful and popular. He took his bow in "Live And Let Die" (1973). It has been said that Moore's portrayal is closer to Ian Fleming's original concept of Bond as a disenfranchised member of the British Establishment, than Connery's more rough-and-tumble Bond. Moore and Connery are the only 007 agents to have starred in seven Bond films each.
Moore's other James Bond films are "The Man With The Golden Gun" (1974), "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), "Moonraker" (1979), "For Your Eyes Only" (1981), "Octopussy" (1983), and "A View To A Kill" (1985).
After Moore, some actors like Mel Gibson, Tom Selleck and Don Johnson were considered for the role. But Timothy Dalton was ultimately selected. This North Wales born stage star is of British, Italian and Irish ancestry. He won the role in 1986 and took over as Bond for two films "The Living Daylights" (1987) and "Licence To Kill" (1989).
The handsome Irish actor, Pierce Brosnan, would have taken over the role, after Moore, if he had he not been committed to a TV contract of the hit series, "Remington Steele."
Brosnan did become Bond in "Golden Eye" (1995), followed by "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), "The World Is Not Enough" (1999), and "Die Another Day." The success of these movies made him one of the most successful 007 agents to occupy the big screen.
Brosnan, like Sean Connery, moved to more serious roles in which he was successful. He felt that James Bond was restricting his artistic urges and decided to get out of that mould. When the next Bond movie was planned, the producers pressured him to sign on the dotted line once more. There was speculation that he might even yield. However, a firm Brosnan waved goodbye to James Bond.
Spoof on Bond
In 1967 when Fleming's book ``Casino Royale" was filmed by Columbia Pictures with the inimitable John Huston directing it, the movie had an impressively stunning cast with Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Charles Boyer, Ursula Andress, George Raft, and John Huston. However, this movie was actually a spoof on James Bond and hence is not considered a part of the Bond Movie Series. In it there were quite a few Bonds including a woman (Ursula Andress!).
David Niven was Sir James Bond! And there was also a character named `Mata Bond' after the famous female spy, Mata Hari, made immortal on screen by Greta Garbo.
Brosnan's exit means searching for a new Bond. Many names are in the air including the son of Roger Moore! Interestingly some screenwriters even suggested a female 007, Jane Bond! And names like Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Sharon Stone and Nicole Kidman did the rounds. But the idea was ridiculed and the Fleming family too was said to be against it.
Many think that there has been only one James Bond and that is Sean Connery. However, the producers of the film are hoping to find a new Bond! The possible contenders could be Hugh Jackson and Orlando Bloom. As they say, the hour always produces the man.
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