Ian Fleming, Hoagy Carmichael, David Niven, Cary Grant, Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig

What DOES James Bond Look Like?

There was a maelstrom of controversy concerning the choice of Daniel Craig as James Bond, with websites and articles (by Pierce Brosnan's loyal fans), denouncing the blond actor, claiming that he didn't fit Ian Fleming's vision of the character. I, myself, had fun with the uproar, creating a caricature lampooning the latest Bond's entrance into the 'club'...

But, seriously, were the arguments justified? What should James Bond really look like?

In the early 007 novels, Ian Fleming described James Bond as an Englishman under 40, over 6 feet tall, thin, with dark hair (that often had a comma-like curl over one brow), blue eyes, a long, thin scar on one cheek, and a thin, "cruel" mouth. He looked a bit like a "young Hoagy Carmichael" (not surprisingly, as the younger Fleming also resembled the American songwriter/actor). A chain-smoker with a penchance for alcohol, gambling, and copious amounts of sex, Bond, while possessing a life-long bachelor's snobbishness about having only 'the best' of everything, still daydreams wistfully about the 'lucky' ones who had love, families, and lived lives larger than simply a series of missions. Ultimately, Bond was little more than a human weapon, a tool used by the British Secret Service for dangerous missions, whose loss would be mourned by few, outside his circle of fellow agents.

While his friendship with Sean Connery would lead to elements of the actor incorporated into both Bond's appearance and ancestral history in the later 007 novels, and Fleming would say, half-jokingly, that David Niven or Cary Grant would be 'ideal' as the spy, James Bond truly WAS Ian Fleming, as a younger man.

So how do the 'official' screen Bonds measure up?

AGE: Age-wise, only three Bond actors (Connery, George Lazenby, and Daniel Craig) have actually portrayed Bond while they were under forty, and Roger Moore made his last appearance as Bond at nearly 58! Timothy Dalton would have been the youngest Bond, had producer Albert Broccoli gotten his way, but Dalton, in his mid-twenties when asked, politely declined, saying he wouldn't be believable as a veteran agent (he finally accepted the role, at 41). George Lazenby remains the youngest Bond, starring in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE at 29.

HAIR: For purists, Bond's dark hair would rule out both Craig and Roger Moore, but this argument is silly! Bruce Wayne has had black hair in BATMAN comics for over sixty years, yet both Val Kilmer and Christian Bale, with light brown locks, have assailed the role without any problem!

BLUE EYES: Well, this would eliminate both Sean Connery and George Lazenby...

HEIGHT: At 5'11", this is the one category Daniel Craig is the only 'loser' in...all the other Bond actors have been well over six feet, with Timothy Dalton, the tallest (the height 'rule' was one that producer Albert Broccoli strictly adhered to...)...But Craig certainly isn't Alan Ladd...

THIN, "CRUEL" MOUTH: Only Connery and Dalton come close, although, when angry, all the Bonds seem to display that attribute!

CHAIN SMOKING: Only Timothy Dalton (although Craig has smoked in several films, if not as Bond); Connery 'lights up' in a couple of films, as does Lazenby, in OHMSS, but they obviously aren't really smokers (at least to the degree of the literary Bond); a rare cigar seems more the 'standard' for the other Bond actors.

NATIONALITY: Only Roger Moore and Daniel Craig are actually English; Connery is a Scot, Lazenby, Australian, Dalton, Welsh, and Brosnan, Irish...

THE THIN SCAR: Actually, none of the actors have it (this isn't PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), although Connery, Dalton, and Craig each have 'dimpled' jawlines that might pass...

'SNOBBISHNESS': Ah, sophistication, the biggest argument against Craig, by his critics. Craig has a history of playing thugs and low-lifes...how can he possibly be as suave as Pierce Brosnan? Honestly, he can't. Brosnan and Roger Moore both offered an elegance in their interpretations that the other Bonds could never quite equal. But did it make Connery or Lazenby or Dalton less successful in the role? Connery and Lazenby both had to be 'taught' to be the sophisticated agent, a fact that Craig bashers tend to ignore. View Connery's early 'non-Bond' roles...he was often likable, and was certainly charismatic, but did they offer a glimmer of a potential 007? If you say absolutely, after viewing TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE, you should be in Daniel Craig's corner, as well!

THE HUMAN WEAPON: What is often forgotten is that Bond is a killer, by profession, given a 'green light' to dispatch his country's enemies with impunity. As M would say, "You have a license to kill, not be killed." Of all the past Bond actors, only Connery and Dalton displayed that kind of ruthlessness, believably...and Daniel Craig is the most ruthless Bond of all, in "Casino Royale".

Honestly, the actor who most accurately conveyed Ian Fleming's vision of James Bond was Timothy Dalton...and both of his films were unsuccessful!

"Casino Royale" would prove Daniel Craig is, arguably, the best Bond since Sean Connery!

Albert (Cubby) Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, Barbara Broccoli, Michael Wilson

In Defense of the Producers...

In my 35 years of drawing, researching, and writing about 007, there has only been one constant I've seen...That virtually any 'failure' in a Bond film was considered the absolute fault of the producers, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, and now Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson. The public 'airing' of grievances by Bond actors have added fuel to the fire, certainly, as has the increasingly derivative and far-fetched plotlines. But let me take a moment, buck the tide, and acknowledge "IT HASN'T ALWAYS BEEN THEIR FAULT."

When United Artists agreed to bankroll DR. NO, but only gave Eon Productions a million dollars as the shooting budget, they established a precedence that has continued through MGM, and now Sony Corporation...to demand a big-budget look, as cheaply as possible. The first budget forced Saltzman and Broccoli to pass on Cary Grant as the first 007 (the legendary star had expressed interest in playing James Bond, but only for one film...while the producers were really interested in starting a film series, an actor of Grant's magnitude would have guaranteed a hit...but at his salary, the entire film budget would have been shot!). FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE had a higher budget, and by GOLDFINGER, there was finally enough money to do Bond right...but the studios have always expected more than the amount of money they invested would allow...The 'bottom line' has always been profit, over quality.

Eon did what they could, pinching money from one area to make another area more spectacular. This would get Broccoli in hot water with Sean Connery, who saw the grosses of the first two Bonds, and felt he'd been cheated, in the contract he'd signed. Certainly, everyone involved in the 007 films were seeing financial rewards, some much more than others...but nothing like what the parent studios were seeing.

The 'spreading out' of funding could be seen, again and again, in the editorial 'glitches', occasionally cheesy FX, and often far-fetched plot devices...retakes costed money, decent effects costed money, extensive rewrites costed money...when something was 'worked out' but not used in one Bond film, it was nearly certain you'd see it in the next one...production money was seldom, if ever, wasted!

Making matters even more difficult was the studio's tendency to slash the shooting budget for the next Bond, if the current one wasn't living up to expectations. The stunning failure of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, the first unsuccessful Bond film, forced Albert Broccoli to 'eat crow', and bring back Sean Connery, to 'save' the franchise, at Connery's asking price...which forced so many cutbacks in so many areas that the actor had a clause added into his contract for 'bonus pay' for each day the production ran over schedule, anticipating the worst. (The film, fortunately, 'wrapped' on schedule).

The stress on the producers was enormous; Harry Saltzman sold his shares in Eon Productions after THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, Broccoli collapsed during the filming of the very tightly-budgeted LICENSE TO KILL, in 1987. When MGM's own financial woes reached the boiling point, in the early nineties, Broccoli's health had so deteriorated that he had to turn over the reins of Eon Productions to his daughter, Barbara, and stepson, Michael Wilson (the senior Broccoli passed away in 1996).

The producing job hasn't gotten any easier, for Broccoli's children. The franchise is ancient, by industry standards; the last several Bonds lacked the luster of the earlier ones, and attracted smaller crowds (inflated ticket prices simply disguise that fact); and the new 'parent' studio, Sony, shows little more interest in heavily bankrolling a Bond film than UA or MGM (even with the latest film jointly distributed by Sony subsidiaries Columbia and MGM).

Dropping Pierce Brosnan and hiring Daniel Craig, while drawing the ire of Brosnan's fans, was a move Broccoli and Wilson considered essential, if the franchise had any hope of generating new interest in 007, and having sufficient funds to make a great-looking Bond film. Their futures were as much at stake as James Bond's, so the ridicule heaped upon them was certainly unwarranted!

And the success of CASINO ROYALE proves that Broccoli and Wilson are much more savvy and visionary than their critics give them credit for!


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