Truth be told, he is a man’s man. Every childish dream every boy has ever had, and in most cases at an age when none of them had even any inkling of who he was, neither from the movies, and least of all from the novels – but all through childhood, through adolescence and also through a major part of adult life, every boy has desired to grow up into James Bond. Why, what, when and other such questions to this regard cannot be entertained to ascertain the root cause of the whole ephemera, because frankly, no one knows them till date. Its a mystery even the great man himself cannot solve. And it was not the actors, it was the character himself – a feat seldom repeated through history.
When I was “old” enough to see the first James Bond movie, I was around, what, 12 years old. And I had bought black tickets to see what the whole cacophony was all about. Luckily, it was still the age of single-screen theaters and in my part of town, no one cared who you were. So much so, when I had asked the black ticketeer whether I would be stopped because of the “A” certificate, he reassured me that it was for the action scenes. I was like, “Bully for them… Gulshan Kumar got shot in the middle of the road some hundred years back man… Get a life!” And so consequently, Pierce Brosnan became the first face of the enigma that was James Bond for me. And f***, did he have style! It was like watching style ooze out of every dolby stereo in the hall. The screen was like a trance. Body language was, as I started calling it thereforth, “body English”. Yes, the black ticketeer had no idea that Bond’s opening scene saw him curling on white sheets with what was presumed to be his Latin teacher at Oxford, learning along with doing stuff. “Now that’s the way to do it,” I thought… “That’s why he’s James Bond!” All my teachers were well over their menopause, so the fantasy remained with Bond.
But the point that I was going to make was that Tomorrow Never Dies set the whole wheel in motion for me regarding James Bond. Well, at least the films. Given, that at that point, I thought that the rest was all balderdash and there possibly could never be anyone other than Pierce Brosnan to play Bond (fact remains that I did not even know his name then), but still, I pestered my father to tell me the whole history of the Bond franchise. And I found out that there were some other actors too who had played Bond. Dad was swearing by some Sean Connery (the old man with a white beard in The Rock as I would place him), and also mentioned some XYZ, a one-film Bond and the other big weight being a certain Roger Moore. According to my father, there could have been one more.
Therefore, from there, I did the mental math, something that I never got right during the exams. 2 + 2 told me that Sean Connery it seams was some big actor who had been a decent Bond. Ditto for Roger Moore. And then there were two more bums in the equation before the real champ (i.e. Brosnan) came onto the scene. So now that my basic thirst for the Bond dossier had been satisfied, I got back to doing the mental math that was necessary for me to pass exams.
Several years later, after a spriteful series of Bond movies (all starring Pierce Brosnan), I was browsing along a DVD shop and came across a movie that I had heard off for quite some time, a movie called Dr No. Alright, the first Bond. I needed to see this.
Pierce Brosnan was no longer the only Bond. He was no longer Bond in my books. There was the one and only, there was just James Bond. And his name, is Sir Sean Connery.
He was everything that we had always pictured Bond to be. Sure, Brosnan was good, he was better than good, he was excellent — but Sean Connery was the mental picture. He had that boisterous smile, that Godlike appearance, that suave charisma, the very panache that a Bond character needed to have. James Bond seemed to have been written with Sean Connery in mind. (That is indeed true — when Sean Connery was first hired to play James Bond, Ian Fleming, the author, had remarked that he didn’t want an overgrown stuntman to play Bond. However, on seeing the first run of Dr No, Fleming was so overjoyed with Connery’s Bond, that he promptly added a Scottish background to Bond in his novels.)
After a successful rendition of four Bond movies — Dr No, From Russia WIth Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Live Only Twice, Sean Connery moved on from the Bond franchise. And George Lazenby was hired to play Bond. To impress upon the producers that he could indeed come off as Sean Connery (yes, Bond was Sean Connery), he rented a tux and knocked out one of his co-actors during the auditions, with a mere punch.
Now, here comes the fun fact. George Lazenby, in his Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, played a different kind of Bond. Sure, the style was there, the appearance was there, the mannerisms were all intact — but there was something else that was brought into the character, which had earlier been missing. The Human Touch. Point under consideration refers to a particular scene, where Bond is running from being a captive of Blofeld, his arch-nemesis. As his Blofeld’s henchmen chase after Bond, for the first time in a Bond movie, we see a unconfident Bond, a Bond who is literally scared of being caught and killed. He doesn’t already hold that look of knowing that he would cheat death.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service shows us a James Bond we can all identify with. This was also the first James Bond movie that was made as per the novel, to the letter T wherever possible. And this was also the most critically appreciated Bond film.
After all, the James Bond franchise reached one and all through the movies and the movies alone. Not through a print medium. No one cared about the books. Sean Connery had already written out the James Bond that people fell in love with, all over the world, at every theater which played Bond films. George Lazenby played the price for trying to be true to the letter and spirit of the novel. And he played the price for it, since here he would have to play to the letter and spirit of a Dr No, or say a Goldfinger.
George Lazenby, who had really played the “true” James Bond was a complete washout, lost forever into oblivion. The first, and original, Non-Bond James Bond!
- Watch 1960s-era Sean Connery and real-life Q describe the technology of James Bond’s guns (digitaltrends.com)
- Sean Connery describes the guns of James Bond in the 1960s [Video] (io9.com)
- My Favourite Bond (simonwalters.wordpress.com)
- Bond’s Aston Martin to go on sale (autonetinsurance.co.uk)