James Bond turns 60: The 007 actors through the ages

Only six actors have ever become 007 on the big screen: Sean Connery (1930-2020), George Lazenby (83), Roger Moore (1927-2017), Timothy Dalton (76), Pierce Brosnan (69) and most recently Daniel Craig ( 54).

James Bond turns 60: The 007 actors through the ages

Only six actors have ever become 007 on the big screen: Sean Connery (1930-2020), George Lazenby (83), Roger Moore (1927-2017), Timothy Dalton (76), Pierce Brosnan (69) and most recently Daniel Craig ( 54). Each of them brought something new and unique to the iconic role - while reflecting the changing times. An overview of six performers in 60 years.

He is the original Bond and gave a face to the screen of the literary character invented by Ian Fleming (1908-1964). Bond's inventor, Fleming, initially found former amateur weightlifter Connery too unelegant and uncouth to embody the character, but he, like cinema audiences around the world, was eventually won over by the actor. Connery's Bond was charming, ironic at times, and always confident. The Scot brought his impressive physique to the role and he seemingly effortlessly pulled off the action scenes. Possibly the coolest of the various Bonds to this day.

Of course, from today's perspective, Connery's 007 is also the most problematic. He ordered submissive Bond girls around and forgot his love partners almost immediately after the act. Many see his Bond and, by extension, the character 007 as the ultimate male fantasy, but the Bond of the 1960s should also be read against the background of the sexual revolution that was taking place at the time. From today's perspective, however, it is definitely backwards.

The former Australian male model George Lazenby embodied 007 only once, in the Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969). However, his entry into the long-lived franchise is considered one of the best in retrospect - and anticipates some of what Bond -Surprised fans decades later at Daniel Craig's take on the character.

The Bond girl deserves special mention in this respect. With Diana Rigg (1938-2020) an icon of the 1960s was cast. The gangster daughter she plays, Tracy di Vincenzo, is Bond's equal. At the end of the film, the couple gets married for the first and only time in the series and - spoiler alert - villain Blofeld (Telly Savalas) has Tracy shot. The famous feminist film critic Molly Haskell (83) wrote about Lazenby's Bond that he "actually dares to think that a woman who can stand up to him is better than thousands of part-time playmates".

Incidentally, actor Lazenby was also supposed to continue playing Bond, but he said goodbye to the role on the grounds that 007 was too archaic for the rising 1970s. Some time later Lazenby went bankrupt, Sean Connery made a one-off return in 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971) and finally Roger Moore took over the Bond sceptre.

The Briton Roger Moore then created the figure much more self-ironic than his two predecessors. As Moore himself once put it: "For me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so unbelievable. I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy, when everyone knows he's a spy [...]. Which becomes a serious spy because everywhere he goes recognized? It's hair-raising."

Moore, whom many considered too old for the role, was actually more of a wry gentleman and sophisticated socialite than Sean Connery. Everyone believed that he moved effortlessly through the upper class, his action scenes seemed much more unbelievable. However, little has changed in dealing with Bond girls compared to Connery. Critics also repeatedly remarked that the hugely successful Bond films of the 1970s basically just picked up the popular film genres of the time. For example, Live and Let Die (1973) was influenced by blaxploitation cinema, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) by kung fu films and Moonraker (1979) by Star Wars. .

Brit Timothy Dalton only played Bond twice - in 'The Living Daylights' (1987) and 'License to Kill' (1989) - but he also put his stamp on the role. Dalton's Bond was tougher than any of its predecessors, and the films featured a higher level of realism. That was probably the response of the production company Eon Productions to the action cinema that was flourishing in the 1980s with protagonists such as Arnold Schwarzenegger ("Phantom Commando", 1985), Bruce Willis ("Die Hard", 1988) or Mel Gibson ("Lethal Weapon", 1987).

Especially for fun in the form of sexual escapades, Dalton's fierce Bond seemed to simply lack the time. They did occur, but were often dealt with quickly and sometimes even off-screen. The humor has also been scaled back significantly compared to Moore's 007.

In 1995, Irish actor Pierce Brosnan took on the role of James Bond. During this time, the character had to cope with its worst stroke of fate to date: the Cold War was over. This world historical event should not be underestimated with regard to the figure of James Bond. Because a secret agent like 007, who acts in secret or on the territory of the enemy, is the cold warrior par excellence.

Finding a patent answer to this problem was initially difficult for the James Bond series. In "GoldenEye", for example, General Ourumow, played by Gottfried John (1942-2014), was still a Russian as an antagonist, as if the franchise simply couldn't let its favorite opponent - alongside villain Blofeld - go. Then, in Brosnan's second Bond Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), the villain is a media mogul, which of course fits the 1990s perfectly, but led to one of the worst titles of the entire film series.

And what about the Bond girls? Here, too, nothing is happening under Brosnan - who by the way was a very excellent Bond in terms of his physical appearance. Although in "The World Is Not Enough" (1999) with Sophie Marceau (55) Elektra King, a woman is allowed to become a villain, the anachronistic understanding of roles and the constant availability of Bond's playmates remained unchanged in the Brosnan era.

The biggest leap in development in the long history of the franchise then took place with Daniel Craig, the last James Bond actor to date - and in more ways than one. First of all, a few months before Brosnan's last Bond "Die Another Day" appeared in the summer of 2002 "The Bourne Identity" with leading actor Matt Damon (51) in the cinemas - and is still formative for action cinema today. Half-hearted fights were passé from this point on. Everything had to be ultra fast and hard choreographed. Consequently, Craig's Bond was introduced in "Casino Royale" (2006) with a quickly cut, shaky confrontation in a men's room that would have done Jason Bourne credit.

But even more than the hard action, Craig's Bond differs in dealing with the women. In the five Craig films, the Bond girls are successively labeled as old-fashioned and outdated. Which Bond viewer would have dreamed in the 1970s or 1990s that 007 - like in the last Craig film "No Time to Die" - would meet a woman like the CIA agent Paloma played by Ana de Armas (34) and not end up in bed with her?

Craig's 007, who, by the way, is also much more humorous than most of his predecessors, instead gets to know an equal partner in "Casino Royale" with Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green (42), whom he really mourns when she dies. His Bond has a memory, appears traumatized and broken in places - and even visits Lynd's grave in "No Time to Die".

In "Spectre" (2015) the new Bond then meets Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux, 37) falls in love again and would have been happy with her after "No time to die" (2021) if something hadn't come up. Craig's Bond, it should be noted, isn't looking for sexual adventures in the form of interchangeable Bond girls, he's basically looking for a girlfriend.

It remains to be seen whether the series will continue this tradition with a new actor, but it is likely. Barbara Broccoli (62), the longtime successful producer of the James Bond films, recently told "Variety" that Bond would change and develop just like men in general.