Once a man plays the role of Bond, James Bond, can we ever think of him in a different movie role? Each of the six actors who portrayed Ian Fleming’s top spy in the famous Eon film series – Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig – will forever be marked as one of the 007 incarnations. But let’s not forget the Bond men’s many other appearances on the silver screen.
Here are six odd movies that you may have missed. (Heaven knows, they’re often forgotten in bar trivia games when we’re listing off the Bond actors’ credits, especially those movies to go straight to video.) Two of these lesser-known films are real gems, where the ex-Bond actors take on strong dramatic roles far from the spy-thriller action-adventure genre. The other four here are, frankly, so very very bad that they’re almost enjoyable, if you’re in the mood for retro cheeze and camp.
Read, watch, enjoy, but be warned – you may never view the debonair 007 the same way again.
1 Daniel Craig in Enduring Love
The image of James Bond since 2005, and arguably the best 007 since Connery introduced Ian Fleming’s fictional character to the big screen back in 1962, Daniel Craig plays James Bond with even more of a Batman-esque edge of darkness than Timothy Dalton had brought to the role in his time.
Quite different from the international man of action and intrigue, Craig demonstrates his depth as an actor in the brilliant and disturbing Enduring Love (2004). This is a UK film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel, masterfully made. You might say it is something of a same-sex Fatal Attraction that gets ever-creepier as it goes on, from the opening hot air balloon death by misadventure to the chilling final shot – oh, but I won’t spoil it for you. Terrifying, as only a mad obsession can be.
2 Pierce Brosnan in Grey Owl
Between 1995 and 2002, Pierce Brosnan played the James Bond character four times in feature films, and was the voice and image of 007 in various video games that rode on the franchise. I was rather smitten with his TV persona, Remington Steele, in the popular primetime series of the same name, and still prefer the Steele character to Brosnan Bond. On the surface, however, the two are variations on the same urbane and sophisticated character, and in any role Brosnan looked hot in a dinner jacket.
In the role of Archibald Belaney in Grey Owl (1999), however, Brosnan plays a completely different kind of character. It’s the real-life story of a young Englishman who emigrates to Canada in 1906 and becomes a fur trapper. He passes himself off as a half-Scottish half-Apache native Canadian, sees the error of his ways and becomes a friend to all living things, and ends up on the lecture circuit as a leading conservationist. Even if you can stomach the story of Belaney’s bald-faced cultural appropriation (and rather cavalier treatment of his four “wives” to boot, you may still choke on the film’s sentimentality and the slow pace.
Grey Owl went straight to video in the US, but in some college communities there’s a drinking game relating to the many appearances of beavers in the flick.
As BBC reviewer William Gallagher so aptly put it, “if you like cuddly animals or you fancy Pierce Brosnan, you’re in luck.”
3 Timothy Dalton in The King’s Whore
Star of two James Bond movies, Timothy Dalton was the first to bring a tinge of darkkness to the character, updating 007 for a modern audience and giving us more depth. He played Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and in Licence to Kill (1994), both successful efforts, although the second did get some criticism from die-hard Fleming fans for being more violent than previous films in the series.
Dalton was a very fine James Bond, but his real strength as an actor comes out in historical drama, such as La putaine de roi. Also known as The King’s Whore (or, occasionally, as The King’s Mistress) in English, the film is based on the novel by Jacques Tournier. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it was picked up by Miramax (one of the more interesting distributors of that decade), but in the end was not released in US theatres. A historical action-adventure drama set in the 1600s, it stars Dalton as the King of Piedmont, Vittorio Amadeus, who becomes obsessed with a young courtier’s wife – obsessed to the point of risking his kingdom in war. Power and passion!
Tip: look for an uncut version.
4 Roger Moore in Diane
Roger Moore played James Bond in seven Bond films between 1973 and 1985 – by the time of the last, A View to a Kill, he was 57 years of age, “only about four hundred years too old for the part” as Moore himself admitted. Nevertheless, he was the quintessial 007 who carried the franchise successfully through a challenging decade.
Long before Bond, however, there was this bomb. Diane (1956) was a critical and a financial disaster that quietly put an end to Moore’s contract with MGM studios almost before his career began.
The history flick, based on a story by John Erskine, with screenplay by Christopher Isherwood, is set in 16th century France. Moore plays Prince Henri, the future Henry II, with Lana Turner as the titular female, his mistress Diane de Poitiers, the Countess de Breze. Heavy on the love triangle (Catherine de Medici is the offended wife) and scheming females, rather light on historical accuracy.
Bonus fun: a young Roger Moore in tights.
5 George Lazenby in Never Too Young To Die
Don’t quite remember George Lazenby? The model-turned-actor played the part of James Bond in only one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, to what is euphemistically called “mixed reviews” – the word “stiff” appears with what must have been disheartening frequency, but with some justification if you’ve viewed that 1969 flick. If you missed it, no need to rush out and get a copy unless you’re the sort who really needs to collect the whole set.
My favorite of George Lazenby’s relatively few film roles, however, is his appearance as an aging 007 knock-off in Never Too Young To Die (1986 – and oh, so very 1980s!). Picture a young John Stamos as the student and gymnastics whiz Lance Stargrove. His father, “special guest star” George Lazenby’s character, is a secret agent too busy saving the world to be a good parent. Gene Simmons (of KISS) co-stars as Velvet Von Ragner, the cross-dressing master criminal who brings down Daddy Stargrove, leading to young Lance’s plot for revenge, aided by a nerdy roommate and the requisite curvy female. Yes, you guessed correctly – Never Too Young To Die is indeed meant to be a parody. But it’s such pure cheeze, so poorly acted, and so self-consciously cliched, the movie ends up being almost a parody of itself.
I challenge you to sit through the whole painful 1 hour and 36 minutes!
6 Sean Connery in Zardoz
The original James Bond, Sean Connery starred in a total of seven movies (1962-1967, 1971, and 1983) as the dashing British secret agent 007 although one, Never Say Never Again, was not part of the official Eon series. In the midst, he did a number of other film projects. Regrettably, one of those was Zardoz.
It’s almost inconceivable that Connery’s performance in this truly appalling 1974 sci-fi effort could have come from the same actor who charmed as James Bond, compelled darkly as a 14th-century Italian monk in The Name of the Rose (1986 film adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel), and commanded the big screen (shaky Russian accent aside) in The Hunt for Red October (1990).
Well, to be fair, it’s hard to take seriously a post-apocalyptic hero who sports a big gaucho mustache and what appears to be a shiny red plastic diaper. Special effects in Zardoz are a bit … oh, you be the judge!
So there you have it, 6 lesser-known movies you might have missed, from the filmographies of Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
What’s your favorite (good or bad) non-007 movie role by an actor who once played James Bond?