In the second part, the story covers George Lazenby's one film, Sean Connery's brief return, and Roger Moore's 1970s Bond films.
The third part finishes the Moore era and covers Timothy Dalton's brief tenure as Bond.
The fourth part covers Pierce Brosnan's four-film 007 stint.
The Craig Years
After the excesses of 2002's Die Another Day, with its non-stop stream of Bond in-jokes and frivolities such as invisible cars, the producers decided that a change of direction was needed. In the interim, two widely acclaimed action-thrillers had been produced - The Bourne Identity (2002) and The Bourne Supremacy (2004) - that threatened Bond's position as the ultimate action film franchise.
With one eye on Jason Bourne and the other on Batman Begins, producers Barbera Broccoli and Michael G Wilson decided to take James Bond right back to the start. Film company MGM, previous owners of the Bond rights, had been taken over by Sony, which meant that the rights to Ian Fleming's first Bond novel - Casino Royale - were finally available. Where better to turn for a 'reinvention' of James Bond?
The story of Casino Royale begins with the search for a new James Bond to replace Pierce Brosnan. After the usual media speculation and hundreds of screen-tests, the producers finally decided on British actor Daniel Craig. The announcement was instantly greeted with inexplicable outrage by a highly vocal minority, who began posting repeatedly to sites across the Internet stating their disgust that Craig was too young, too ugly or, bizarrely, too blond1, to play James Bond. The more rational Bond fans waited until the point where they could judge Craig's performance, and the critical consensus is that they were well rewarded for their patience.
M: I knew it was too early to promote you.
Bond: Well, I understand double-Os have a very short life expectancy. So your mistake will be short-lived.
Casino Royale tells the story of Bond's elevation from standard intelligence duties to the double-O section after completing the assassinations of a British traitor and his contact. Bond's first mission is a disaster, when he breaks into a foreign embassy and, in view of the security cameras, kills an unarmed terrorist. After making up for his mistake by tracking down the terrorist's employers and preventing an explosion at Miami airport, Bond is assigned to a seemingly simpler mission. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), banker to several international terrorist organisations, has lost money as a result of the failed bomb plot, and is holding a high-stakes poker game to recoup the money before his clients take their revenge on him. Bond's mission is to enter the game and make sure Le Chiffre loses. Bond is joined on the mission by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a Treasury agent whose job is to supply Bond with the money he needs to enter the game, and by Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), a British Agent working in Montenegro2. Given Bond's card-playing record in previous outings3, it is probably spoiling very little to reveal that Bond wins the card game. This isn't the end of his problems, however, and he still has to face a sinking Venetian building, a torture scene and the obligatory death of an associate before he finally gets to utter everyone's favourite three-word film quote4.
As a result of its 'reboot' of the Bond franchise, Casino Royale breaks a few of the rules. The film is the first not to open with the famous 'gun barrel' sequence, which appears at the end of the pre-credits sequence. It is also the first Bond film not to feature the character of Miss Moneypenny, and only the second not to feature 'Q'5, although Bond's friend and CIA contact Felix Leiter does appear, played by Jeffrey Wright. Despite the absences, Casino Royale does feature some familiar faces on-screen (Judi Dench as 'M') and off-screen (composer David Arnold, who scored the previous three Bond films, and director Martin Campbell, who directed Goldeneye). The film also includes two Aston Martins, including the current DBS model and a 1964 DB5 model, as originally featured in Goldfinger.
Despite the continuing carping of a certain section of the Bond-fan fraternity, Casino Royale has received almost universally favourable reviews, both for the darker, grittier nature of the film, which harks back to Ian Fleming's original concept, and for Craig's performance.
Quantum of Solace
For the first time in the history of the franchise, a Bond film takes off exactly where the previous one ended6. Having tracked the mysterious Mr White (Jesper Christensen) to his home during the final minutes of Casino Royale, QoS7 begins with Bond delivering White to British Intelligence for interrogation. White is rescued in short order, but not before taunting Bond and M with the existence of a hitherto unknown secret organisation, Quantum. Still seeking revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd, Bond traces Quantum to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), head of a company that is buying up large tracts of land all over the world, ostensibly for eco-friendly reasons. Along the way he meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko), also on a quest for revenge, who is hunting the deposed Bolivian dictator who killed her family. Eventually, Bond and Camille uncover Quantum's dastardly scheme to control the world's water supply, and dispose of Greene and the Bolivian dictator (Joaquín Cosio) in an explosive finalé.
Like Casino Royale, QoS has a far darker tone than the Bond films of the 20th Century. Indeed, the producers and director Marc Forster seem to have gone out of their way to distance this film from its predecessors, coming dangerously close to making QoS simply a by-the-numbers action film. Gone are the gadgets and many familiar Bond icons - neither Moneypenny nor Q makes a reappearance after their absence from Casino Royale - and Bond's normally healthy sexual appetite is reduced to a brief liaison with British agent Fields8 (Gemma Arterton). M, in the form of the wonderful Judi Dench, returns, however, and is joined by right-hand man Tanner (Rory Kinnear). CIA contact Felix Leiter also returns, played again by Jeffrey Wright. Missing from the start of the film is the traditional 'gun barrel' sequence, which appeared in a modified form in Casino Royale, and precedes the end credits in QoS.
Bond: A gun and a radio. Not exactly Christmas.
Q: What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that sort of thing anymore.
Well this is more like it. After the rather disappointing QoS, things take a turn for the better with 2012's Sykfall, directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes. The film begins with Bond's 'death' after a wayward sniper shot by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) causes him to plunge from the roof of a train into the water below. Unsurprisingly, Bond turns up alive and, hearing news of an attack on MI6 headquarters in London, returns to save the day. The villain of the piece, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) seems to have a personal axe to grind with M. Bond must protect his boss at all costs, but is she telling him everything he needs to know?
Alongside Daniel Craig, Judi Dench does sterling work in a more prominent role than is usually associated with M. Rory Kinnear returns as Chief of Staff, Tanner, and Skyfall also sees the first appearance of Q (Ben Whishaw) in the Craig era. Unlike his predecessors, however, this Q is younger than Bond, and is more a computer whizz than a gadget man. Bérénice Marlohe is ostensibly the main 'Bond Girl' of the film, but her appearances are limited and she makes little impact. In contrast, Naomie Harris makes a far better impression, having fun with the character of Eve. Also clearly enjoying himself is Javier Bardem, as the campest Bond villain since Mr Wint and Mr Kidd minced their way through Diamonds are For Ever.
While not directly connected to the previous films, Skyfall continues to tell the back-story of James Bond and his evolution from ordinary spy to extraordinary hero. The character's roots - as first set out by Ian Fleming - are explored in Skyfall, taking Bond back to the Scottish Highlands where he grew up, and where, as a boy, he learned of the death of his parents in a climbing accident. By the time of the strangely familiar closing scene, we are in no doubt that this James Bond is not only fit for duty in the 21st Century, but is still essentially the same character that Sean Connery first played almost exactly 50 years earlier.
As soon as it became clear that the Bond films were going to be an enormous success, other production companies started to jump on the bandwagon, with action films of their own. The result was that cinema-goers in the mid-to-late 1960s were confronted with a series of spy films of varying quality. Among the more successful were the four 'Matt Helm' films, based on novels by Donald Hamilton and starring Dean Martin, and the two 'Derek Flint' films, starring James Coburn. One of the least successful was Operation Kid Brother, an Italian-made film starring Sean Connery's brother Neil alongside Bond-related actors including Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee and Daniela Bianchi.
At the same time as the films, television was also getting in on the act, the most well-known Bond-type series being The Man From UNCLE9, starring Robert Vaughan and David McCallum as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. The show was cancelled in 1968, but not before producing a number of feature-length spin-offs and turning Vaughan and McCallum into stars. They reprised their roles for the 1983 film Return of the Man From UNCLE, which also featured a very brief cameo from George Lazenby, driving an Aston Martin with the registration JB1.
Other television shows that premiered in the 1960s spy boom included I Spy, which launched the career of Bill Cosby10, Mission: Impossible, Danger Man, The Avengers, The Persuaders and spy spoof Get Smart.
The Unofficial Bond Films
The first unofficial Bond film was 1967's Casino Royale. Producer Charles K Feldman held the rights to the novel, but realised that he could not compete directly with the official films. Instead, he turned Casino Royale into a spoof, recruiting the likes of Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles and Ursula Andress. The story bears almost no relation to the book, features an enormous cast (most of whom are claiming to be James Bond) and required five directors to complete. It performed reasonably well at the box office, and its camp, psychedelic 1960s style still has many fans. Presumably, these include Canadian actor and writer Mike Myers, whose Austin Powers series of films owe a lot to the style and humour of Casino Royale.
A more serious competitor to the official Bond films appeared in the form of 1983's Never Say Never Again, as described in Part III of this series. The film, a remake of Thunderball, was the result of rival producer Kevin Mclory's ongoing battle with Cubby Broccoli, Eon pictures and the late Ian Fleming11. Sean Connery was persuaded out of retirement (hence the title of the film), which was enough to make it a success, although it failed to outdo Octopussy, the official Bond film released earlier the same year.
From the late 1950s, British newspaper The Daily Express published a series of comic-strip adaptations of the Bond novels. The adaptations were written by newspaper staff and illustrated by John McLusky, who appeared to be almost psychic, as his drawings of Bond bore a remarkable likeness to Sean Connery, three years before the actor was even considered for the role.
In the early 1990s, a short-lived children's animated series was made. The show, James Bond Jr, featured Bond's 'nephew', accompanied by 'IQ', nephew of 'Q'.
The advent of the 'first-person shooter' genre of computer games has meant that players can now take on the role of James Bond and plug away at bad guys with their Walther PPK. The first major James Bond video game was Goldeneye 007 (1997), which rapidly became one of the signature games on the Nintendo 64. Since then, numerous other games have been published, including From Russia With Love (2005). This featured, not only the likeness of Sean Connery, but also newly-recorded voice-overs by the actor.
James Bond Will Return
When Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli formed Eon productions to produce Dr No, they cannot possibly have had an inkling that their adaptation of Ian Fleming's creation would survive so long. The final word on the matter must go to an unnamed, but highly perceptive, reviewer in Variety magazine, talking about Dr No in 1962:
As a screen hero, James Bond is here to stay. He will win no Oscars, but a heck of a lot of enthusiastic followers...