Rating the best James Bonds

Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and George Lazenby....

Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and George Lazenby. (Handouts)

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:33 PM ET

Join QMI's Liz Braun for a chat on all things 'Skyfall' starting Friday, November 9 at 12 PM EST. If you have any questions regarding the new movie (which is rumoured to be one of the best Bond films ever) drop her a line at bond@scribblelive.com and join in the conversation.

Rating the six major actors who have played James Bond is like choosing between martini flavours -- with the critical question of shaken or stirred complicating matters. But any way it is done, if done well, the drink has class. Likewise for playing 007, the British agent with the licence to kill.

In a recent interview, I asked Roger Moore to rate the others who played Bond in the 50-year cycle of "official" Bond movies. "They are all nice guys," Moore nicely quipped. While he would not pick a favourite, he freely cited Daniel Craig as one of the finest actors of his generation -- and perfect as Bond.

That leaves me with my own ratings, having seen all of the 22 "official" movies from the past, as well as the two renegades episodes and even the stilted 1954 TV version of Casino Royale starring American Barry Nelson. For these ratings, we can ignore Nelson as inconsequential and dismiss David Niven & friends for spoofing 007 in the 1967 Casino Royale.

BEST EVER BOND: Daniel Craig

As Moore says, Craig is a superb actor. Since the Englishman appeared in the 2006 new Casino Royale and rejuvenated the franchise, we now have a Bond who has the manliness element down cold, along with hot sex appeal. But Craig's performances are also nuanced, multi-layered and full of conflicting emotions. There is pathos and anger, hints of angst and longing, and the constant threat of explosive violence. Craig's personal complexity makes the absurd "world domination" plots more plausible than ever. Skyfall promises to be a mega-hit.

NUMBER TWO: Sean Connery

As the original big-screen Bond, first appearing in Dr. No in 1962, Connery has cachet. The rugged Scot created the template for 007, although he was not first choice (Cary Grant was legendary Bond producer Cubby Broccoli's favourite). Connery could convincingly dispatch a villain or woo a Bond babe, preferably simultaneously. He is iconic, yet he repeatedly played Bond the same way and seemed to tire of him by the end (especially in his "unofficial" reprise appearance in Never Say Never Again).

NUMBER THREE: Pierce Brosnan

The smooth Irishman first showed up in GoldenEye, bringing elan to the role. He deftly balanced humour, sex appeal and intelligence without surrendering his licence to kill. While Brosnan's divorce from the franchise proved rancorous, the producers owe him a great debt for bringing Bond back from the dead.

NUMBER FOUR: Roger Moore

Yes, the elegant Englishman was lightweight. But, as Moore says himself, it was an era when you could be flippant about an iconic action hero. So Moore laid on the charm in each of his seven movies, even if 007 became a fop and the movies increasingly relied on outlandish plots and sci-fi technology.

NUMBER FIVE: Timothy Dalton

Dalton, a Welshman, played Bond just twice. Each time, despite his hard work and obvious talent, Dalton was dour, way too serious for the material.

NUMBER SIX: George Lazenby

If Lazenby had played his cards right, the beefy Australian might have been Bond more than once (in On Her Majesty's Secret Service). But his career-planning skills were negligible and the man who replaced Connery was replaced himself ... by Connery for another go. Lazenby remains a mere footnote in Bond mythology.

Moore a Craig supporter when no one else was

Former 007 Roger Moore is getting the last laugh as he watches Daniel Craig excel as one of the best ever to play James Bond. Moore privately supported Craig when the Englishman was publicly vilified for being cast in the 2006 re-make of Casino Royale.

"I remember before he started shooting," Moore says from his home in London, "there was a venomous press reaction to him. There was very negative reporting!" Moore immediately sent Craig a private note of encouragement, sending it through Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.

It was funny, blunt and defiant, Moore admits. "I wrote: 'Don't let the buggers get you down! Ignore them, go on!' And I think he's done it very well!"

Craig's third go-round as 007, Skyfall, is poised to become a mega-hit. Moore knew Craig would succeed because he combines talent with both charm and menace.

"I'd seen him in Munich -- the film, that is, not the town -- and in a couple of other things. He is a superb actor."

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca


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