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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 11: 99: Shaken Not Stirred
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George Lazenby talks about why he walked away from James Bond
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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 13:53 GMT
The many faces of Bond

By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

As the 19th James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough bursts onto the screen, aficionados are hailing it the biggest and best of 007's film adventures yet.

But it would be wrong to assume that from the time Dr No launched Ian Fleming's hero into the movies in 1962, they have enjoyed an unfaltering rise in praise and profitability.

While guns, girls and gadgets have remained immutable to the world of the secret agent, the films haven't always enjoyed the same degree of box office success.

Criticisms over substance giving way to style have been levelled. There was even a prolonged period when Bond looked likely never to return.

Brosnan promoting GoldenEye after six years of 007 drought
But not surprisingly, the most popular gauge of Bond's success has been the performance of the man in the starring role.

When the part came Brosnan's way in 1995 with GoldenEye, a Bond film had not been made for six years. Many wondered if there was still an audience for the genre at all.

Brosnan persevered regardless. Three films later, he seems to have won over even the most knowledgeable of critics.

"This time Pierce Brosnan really is James Bond. Commanding, human, great in both the action scenes and love scenes," says Graham Rye, President of the James Bond International Fan Club and Archive.

"My favourite Bond has always been Sean Connery but this is the first film where I have not wondered what Connery would have been like," he concludes.

Rye is certainly not alone in considering Connery the best of the five official Bonds. Brosnan himself says he took him as his model.

Connery, of course, had guidance straight from Fleming. The author wanted the screen Bond to be as much of an anti-hero as in the books.

The part fitted Connery like a glove. His commanding physical presence, rugged good looks and ability to display charm and ruthlessness made the unknown actor an international star.

Inevitably Dr No set many precedents. It was great entertainment, uncompromising in its violence and use of beautiful women, of which the archetypal Bond girl Ursula Andress was just one.

Its sequel From Russia With Love in 1963 established the scenario of both the British and Soviets as unwilling pawns of the real evil Spectre.

Goldfinger, a year later, set the hi-tech, high-speed, gadget-filled formula to which most subsequent Bond movies have been made.

Fame went to former model Lazenby's head
When George Lazenby came on the scene in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969, audiences could rely on elements such as a pre-credit sequence, high speed chase, a hulking henchman, Martinis and fags.

But the unknown Australian was not so stable. A former model, 28-year-old Lazenby went out of his way to get the part after Connery's departure in 1967.

Despite the film, and indeed the Fleming story on which it is it is closely based, being cited as one of the best, Lazenby admits that he let fame go to his head.

"I modelled myself on James Bond through life. I've been an adrenalin junkie from day one. I had no idea where I was going when I got in the Bond film - I was just a guy who took advantage of the opportunity to become an icon," he remembers.

After courting bad publicity by saying that his primary interest in the film was "the broads and bread", Lazenby listened to his advisers who told him Bond was finished without Connery.

Moore brought large doses of humour to a tough guy role
The seven film reign of Roger Moore proved them wrong. Connery's brief return to make Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 began a new tongue-in-cheek style, complete with cavorting adventure, that Moore would make his own.

From Moore's first film - Live and Let Die in 1973 - violent death was dumbed down. On the other hand, humour, gadgets, exotic locations - such as a submarine in The Spy Who Love Me - sex, stunts and laughable villains were played up.

The transformation was in part down to Moore's own affable nature. But, as Bond producer Michael G Wilson explains, the style fitted well with the time.

"He brought charm, he brought humour, he brought a light romance. And so Bond underwent an evolution at that time and I think it was just right for the 1970s," says Wilson.

View To A Kill in 1985 marked Moore's departure and despite his popularity, many felt Bond's buffoonery had got out of hand.

However, Timothy Dalton's serious approach to Bond in the late 1980s is not generally regarded as a triumph, particularly in America.

Dalton was let down by the sombre scripts
There was no doubting the talent of the former RSC actor. His swarthy, good looks also meant he looked the part.

But the scriptwriters' attempts to tone down the comedy made Dalton's Bond in The Living Daylights and A Licence To Kill, a dark, vulnerable, humourless man.

Cinema-goers had to wait six years for another Bond movie as a legal dispute raged between the makers and distributors.

Many however feel GoldenEye, followed by Tomorrow Never Dies, were worth the wait. In the 1990s, Brosnan's Bond has made the final shift to contemporary PC reality without losing that imaginary edge.

Gone are the cigarettes and the Cold War ethos. Martinis have been usurped by vodka shots. And the women Bond beds are very much his physical and intellectual match.

But, as Graham Rye points out, just enough room has been left for escapism.

Brosnan has brought depth to the character of James Bond
"There are two dimensions running parallel. There's the real world and there's Bond's world and they just mingle now and again to give the illusion that it is real but it is still really fantasy," he explains.

As for Bond himself, Rye believes Brosnan has perfected a fine mix of cruelty, humour and humanity that will secure 007's future.

"Brosnan's looks and ability have brought James Bond back to life. Many people in the industry thought that Bond was passed its sell-by date, but what did they know?" he says.

"I always believed there would be a renaissance for Bond. I am pleased to say that I was right."

Pictures courtesy of Eon/MGM
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