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Age of Bond
James Bond and the actors who have played him
How do the live action adaptations of James Bond measure up to those in the original Ian Fleming Novels? Over many years, eight actors have taken on the role for 27 adaptations. Quite the run for a novel series which originally ran for thirteen novels and one which originally contained two shorter stories. Specifically, how old is Bond in the novels? Between 1953 and 1966, James Bond is presented without any indication of aging although his name is never explicitly stated, although in the third novel, Moonraker (1955), it is revealed that he is six years away from the mandatory retirement age for a Double ‘O’ of 45. So, how do all the actor selections measure up? Let’s explore each actor and each movie to see.
With only two books on the shelves at the time, the television anthology series Climax! adapted Casino Royale (1953) for their third episode in 1954. Barry Nelson, born in 1917, made his big screen debut in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), served in the United Stated Army during World War II, and performed on Broadway. He was 37 when he starred as James Bond when the 'Casino Royale' episode. CBS was right on target with his age, even though the work which would establish the character’s age, Moonraker (1954), would not be published until the following year.
Eight years later, the first of a long series of James Bond big screen movies was released with Sean Connery taking the lead in Dr. No (1962). Connery, born in 1930, got his acting start by helping backstage at the King’s Theatre and eventually got a very small part in the stage production of South Pacific. For years he continued to perform in minor roles on stage and began securing various small movie roles gaining popularity and higher profile parts until starring in the Disney production Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Connery was 32 when Dr. No was released. Connery continued in the role for another five films and was 41 by the time Diamonds Are Forever (1971) hit screens. Older than 37, but still younger than the mandatory Double 'O' retirement age of 45, Connery remained within the character's expected age range until he returned to the Bond role in the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983) at the age of 53.
George Lazenby began his career as a model and was voted as Top Model of the Year in 1966. Born in 1939, Lazenby took over for the departing Sean Connery with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) at the age of 30. Lazenby is the youngest actor to date to take to take on the role of James Bond and would have potentially had many years of sequels ahead of him, but after one film he chose to not continue as the character. Connery to return one final time as Bond for the previously mentioned Diamonds Are Forever.
Roger Moore also got is start as a model before getting into acting in minor television and theatrical roles. He eventually gained television recognition in the television westerns Ivanhoe, The Alaskans, and Maverick. He gained international fame in the starring role in The Saint which he held for eight years, Roger Moore would arguably be the obvious choice to take over the role of James Bond. Oddly enough, born in 1927, Roger Moore is older than Sean Connery and was already 45 when Live and Let Die (1973) was debuted in theatres. By the time his final film A View to a Kill (1985) hit the silver screen he was 57. Moore has been over 45 for the entirety of his run as Bond.
With their next choice in the lead role, production decided to move away from the dry, comedic style established by Roger Moore with Timothy Dalton. Dalton began his career on stage moving to television quite quickly starring in Wuthering Heights (1970). He performed in various other television productions before returning to theatre with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Born is 1946, Dalton was 41 when he starred as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987), and 43 for his second and final Bond film, Licence to Kill (1989)..
Brosnan’s acting debut was with the stage production Wait Until Dark. He made various film and television appearances before gaining acclaim in Remington Steele. Originally the favourite to take over as James Bond from Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan was offered the role as early as 1987 following the initial cancellation of Remington Steele, the television program was revived due to public demand and continued for an additional season and the part went to Timothy Dalton. He was not take on the roll of James Bond until GoldenEye (1995). Born in 1953, Brosnan was 42 at that time (he would have been 34 if he had been able to accept back in 1987). Brosnan continued as Bond for an additional three films and was 49 when Die Another Day (2002) hit theatres. Brosnan had been over 45 for two out of four films.
Craig’s first minor role was in The Power of One (1992) and he moved from various supporting roles to lead roles. When it was decided that the James Bond franchise was to be revitalized, Daniel Craig was chosen to be the next, and current, Bond. Craig was born in 1968 and was 38 when Casino Royale (2006) was released. He has been Bond in a total of four films, his and for his latest titled Spectre (2015) he was 47, the only one where he was over 45 for the role. Spectre is likely to be Craig's film as James Bond.
In the interest of being complete, David Niven will be included in this list. Niven’s first credited screen role was in Without Regret (1935). Niven, born in 1910, played James Bond (along with one of dozens of others) in Casino Royale (1967), a spoof of the popular series. Veteran actor Niven was 57 when the film was released, but this Bond had been retired for 20 years. Oddly, enough, this would mean that Niven’s Bond was 37 when he retired, the same age that Barry Nelson was when he took on the role back in 1954, the same age that Bond is implied to be in the novel series and specifically Moonraker (1955), and eight years younger than the mandatory retirement age for a Double ‘O’.
Here are all the adaptations from the franchise and beyond with the ages of each actor for easy comparison:
... and now that we’ve gone through the entire line of Ian Fleming’s James Bond line of adaptations, how about we relax with an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s other works.
Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang (1968) anyone?
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