SEAN CONNERY IN THUNDERBALL (1965) By the time of the fourth film, James Bond had become a worldwide phenomenon, and Sean Connery an international superstar. Following on from the hugely successful Goldfinger in 1964, Thunderball was the first 007 event picture, spawning a wave of merchandise which really changed the way films were marketed. While not as fast paced as Goldfinger, Thunderball still holds up after forty years thanks to its gorgeous set designs, genuinely gripping sequences, superb direction by Terence Young, and of course the totally cocksure performance by Connery as the cool and often callous Bond.
GEORGE LAZENBY IN ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969) Following directly in Sean Connery’s footsteps was never going to be easy, but Australian fashion model, George Lazenby, gave it his best shot in his one and only outing as Bond, which has since established itself as one of the better entries in the series. Despite rollicking action sequences, one of the classier Bond girls (Diana Rigg), a menacing villain (Telly Savalas’ Blofeld), and an above average screenplay, the film’s downbeat ending combined with the public’s reluctance to accept anyone but Sean Connery in the role led to a downturn in ticket sales, forcing producers to offer Connery the world in order to lure him back for the lacklustre Diamonds Are Forever.
ROGER MOORE IN THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) Roger Moore made the 007 role his own with this exciting epic which easily ranks as the best Bond film of the seventies. From the spectacular pre-credit parachute dive over an icy cliff to the fiery finale inside a submarine swallowing oil tanker, the pace never lets up as Bond tries to stop super-villain, Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens), from igniting a nuclear war that will wipe out all land life, enabling him to start a new world undersea. Towering Richard Kiel made his debut as the metal mouthed Jaws (his popularity ensured that he would return for Moonraker), and the seafaring Lotus Esprit is second only to the Aston Martin DB5 as Bond’s best set of wheels.
TIMOTHY DALTON IN LICENCE TO KILL (1989) Despite being under-celebrated, Timothy Dalton’s two-film stint as Bond actually captured the essence of the character closer to Ian Fleming’s source material more than any of those before him. Dalton’s first 007 outing, 1987’s The Living Daylights, was originally planned as another vehicle for Roger Moore, but Licence To Kill was written specifically for the new Bond, and it shows in its much tougher approach, with the secret agent embarking on a personal vendetta to get the vicious South American drug lord who has fed his best friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, to the sharks. Despite clunky scenes and cheesy dialogue, it still holds up well. Dalton was originally interviewed for the Bond role back in 1969, but at only 25, considered himself too young for the part at the time.
PIERCE BROSNAN IN GOLDENEYE (1995) After the relative commercial failure of Licence To Kill, the Bond films went into hiatus for six years, with many thinking that there was no place for 007 in the nineties. Fortunately, Pierce Brosnan stepped into the role and proved the critics wrong, delivering a crowd-pleasing Bond that mixed the best aspects of Connery and Moore with Brosnan’s own brand of cheeky charm. Brosnan’s debut Bond film remains the best of his four outings (1999’s The World Is Not Enough being a close second), with the star coming off as supremely confident (he had been pitching for the Bond role since 1982). He was nicely complemented by Famke Jansen’s sexy villainess, Xenia Onatopp, and the classy Dame Judi Dench, making her debut as Bond’s cold-thinking boss, M.
DANIEL CRAIG IN SKYFALL (2012) After making the tuxedo and Walther PPK truly his own in Casino Royale (despite a flurry of ill-advised anger over his initial casting), Daniel Craig proved that it was no fluke with the otherwise disappointing follow-up, Quantum Of Solace. His greatest turn as 007, however, has undoubtedly been Skyfall, which offered not only the opportunity to indulge in the physical excitement of James Bond, but also to dig into the emotion and backstory of the superspy in ways that had never been seen before. While infiltrating the organisation of a mastermind terrorist (Javier Bardem) who has his vengeful eye fixed on Bond’s boss, M (Judi Dench), 007 is taken on a surprising, winding journey back to his past. Thanks to a rich script and transcendent work by Daniel Craig, you leave the film thinking less of the spectacular action and instead pondering the complex heart and soul that make James Bond such an indelible and truly iconic figure.
Casino Royale will screen at The Sydney Opera House with a live score performed by The Sydney Symphony Orchestra from February 28-March 2. For all ticketing information, click here.