Who Played James Bond: A Complete History

If you asked someone which actor plays James Bond first time, they would probably answer Sean Connery. Similarly, if you asked someone how many actors had played the role, most people would say 5 or 6. You may be surprised to know that the above answers are wrong. Below, we give you the complete history of all of the actors who have played James Bond, not only in the official series but in unofficial films, TV series, and radio shows.

1954 Barry Nelson
source: google images

In early 1954, Ian Fleming was paid $1000 for the television rights for Casino Royale. 21st October 1954 an hour-long TV special episode of the Climax! Mystery Theatre was broadcast on CBS.

It was a black and white low-budget episode that was adapted by Charles Bennett, who wrote the screenplays for most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films in the 1930s. It starred American actor Barry Nelson as the first-ever James Bond, Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre, Linda Christian as Valerie Mathis, and Michael Pate as Clarence Leiter,

The episode was an interesting and enjoyable rendition of Casino Royale Nelson played James Bond very casually and despite several laughable fighting and torture scenes. Peter Lorre in particular was a strong addition to the cast. The episode appears as a special feature on the DVD for the 1967 spoof film Casino Royale.

1956 Bob Holness
source: google images

Bob was born in South Africa. When he was seven, his family moved to England. In 1956, Bob Holness provided the voice for James Bond in a South African radio adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel Moonraker. He would later go on to become an actor and game show host for Taking a Letter and Blockbusters.

The Moonraker special was arranged by the Durban Repertory Theatre. Holness has said that it was broadcast live, and as such, there is no known recording of it. It is believed that local performers from Durban voiced the other roles and that the production was under ninety minutes.

1962 Bob Simmons
source: google images

The first official EON Productions James Bond film, Dr. No, was released in 1962. It opened with the gun barrel sequence that would become a trademark of the series. James Bond played Bob Simmons was a stuntman, walked along with a white backdrop, shown through the view of a henchman’s gun barrel. Aware that he was being watched, Bond quickly turned and shot the assassin. Blood dripped down the screen, the gun barrel trailing off and opening to reveal the main titles.

Simmons is the only person to officially perform the scene, while not starring in the main role as James Bond.  He appeared in the gun barrel sequence for Sean Connery in three James Bond films: Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. Simmons was also Connery’s stunt double. Bob also had a role as SPECTRE agent Jacques Bouvar in the pre-title sequence of the fourth film, Thunderball.

1962-1967, 1971, 1983 Sean Connery
source: google images

Sir Sean Connery began acting in smaller theatre and television productions until his breakout role as Bond. In 1962, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman brought James Bond to the silver screen in Dr. No, based on Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel. With Sean Connery’s unique style, the exotic locations, and the spectacular supporting cast, Dr. No became an instant success. Between 1962 and 1967, Connery played 007 in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice, the first five Bond films produced by Eon Productions. After departing from the role, Connery returned for the seventh film, Diamonds Are Forever, in 1971. Connery made his final appearance as Bond in Never Say Never Again, a 1983 remake of Thunderball produced by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm. All seven films were commercially successful.

1967 David Niven
source: google images

In the mid-1960s, American producer Charles K. Feldman acquired the film rights to Casino Royale. After a failed attempt to have it made as part of the official series, he decided to turn it into a James Bond spoof instead.

The film opens with David Niven playing a retired 007. M begs him to come back to them, and when Bond refuses, his mansion is promptly blown up! M is killed in the explosion and Bond takes over his position.

He decides to rename all of the agents to James Bond to confuse the enemy. This results in David Niven, Terence Cooper, Woody Allen, Joanna Pettet, Daliah Lavi, Peter Sellers, and Ursula Andress all playing James Bond!

1969 George Lazenby
source: google images

After Sean Connery’s departure from the series in 1967, the producers began the search for a new James Bond. They found the highest-paid Australian model at that time in the world George Lazenby.

Lazenby’s tenure as Bond was the shortest among the role’s actors in the series, appearing in only just one Bond film, and he is the only non-British or Irish actor to portray the character. At the age of 29, he was also the youngest actor to be cast as Bond.

During production, George’s manager advised him against accepting a multi-movie contract, believing that the Bond movies would loose their popularity. How wrong he was. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was George Lazenby’s first and last appearance in the Bond series, although, after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service later in that year, he played Bond-like characters in several TV spoofs.

1973-1985 Roger Moore
source: google images

After Diamonds Are Forever Sean Connery had declared in 1966 that he would not play Bond any longer, the hunt for a new James Bond. Roger Moore was at the top of the list of candidates, and luckily for him his TV show The Persuaders!, co-starring Tony Curtis, wasn’t renewed for a second series. This meant that Roger was free for the role, and he became James Bond in Live and Let Die.

Roger played the role with a sophisticated and slightly comical edge, and went on to star in The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to a Kill. With 7 movies, he currently holds the record for playing James Bond the most times in the official EON series. Roger would be tied for 1st place with Sean Connery if Never Say Never Again was counted as official.

1973 Christopher Cazenove
source: google images

Ian Fleming’s James Bond also makes an appearance in 1973. The British Hero where he was played by Christopher Cazenove played James Bond in Omnibus, a documentary and literary review style show on the BBC. He acted out several scenes from Ian Fleming’s novels, including the scene pictured on the left from Goldfinger, where James Bond is nearly killed with a chainsaw (as opposed to the laser in the film Goldfinger).

1987-1989 Timothy Dalton
source: google images

When Roger Moore hung up his hat after doing seven films for EON Productions, yet another hunt for a new James Bond begun. They found Welsh stage and screen actor Timothy Dalton, He was the fourth actor to portray fictional secret agent James Bond in the Eon Productions film series, where he starred in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989).

His breath-taking and deep portrayal of 007 is highly regarded among Bond fans and is considered very close to the character in Ian Fleming’s novels. Timothy was going to continue the role, but in April 1994, due to some legal reasons, he officially left.

1990 Michael Jayston
source: google images

In 1990, Michael Jayston voiced James Bond in a ninety-minute radio adaption of You Only Live Twice. Adapted by Michael Bakewell, the radio play aired on BBC Radio 4 and was rebroadcast several times between 2008 and 2013. It also starred Clive Merrison as Tiger Tanaka, Jame Laurenson as Dikko Henderson, and Sayo Inaba as Kissy Suzuki.

1995-2002 Pierce Brosnan
source: google images

Brosnan first met James Bond films producer Albert R. Broccoli on the sets of For Your Eyes Only as his first wife, Cassandra Harris, had been cast as Countess Lisl von Schlaf, mistress to Milos Columbo. Broccoli said, “if he can act … he’s my guy” to inherit the role of Bond from Roger Moore. In 1986, after his TV series Remington Steele had ended, Pierce Brosnan was asked to play the role of 007. The news broke out, and because of the strong publicity, Remington Steele was brought back. Pierce couldn’t play both at the same time, so Timothy Dalton was brought in to play Bond.

Pierce was given another opportunity in 1995 and this time it was a success. He went on to play James Bond four times in (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day) and portraying the character in multiple video games.

2006-2012 Daniel Craig
source: google images

After a four-year gap, James Bond returned with Daniel Wroughton Craig in Casino Royale (2006). It was the first film to use an original Ian Fleming title since 1987’s The Living Daylights.

There were mixed feelings about Daniel Craig before the film was released. Some people even went as far as creating websites and petitions against the “blond bond”. However, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan all came forward to give their support. On Casino Royale‘s release, the negativity all went away, and with the film a huge success, Craig turned out to be a popular and worthy James Bond.

Daniel returned for his second outing as Bond in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which was one of the highest-grossing Bond films in America to date. After a four-year gap enforced by the long bankruptcy settlements of MGM, Craig returned for Skyfall. Skyfall was released in October 2012, the year of Bond’s 50th anniversary in film, and went on to become the highest-grossing Bond film of all time. Inflation-adjusted, Thunderball had held that title for 47 years prior to Skyfall’s release.

On July 27th, 2012, Daniel appeared alongside the Queen in a short film titled Happy and Glorious. Directed by Danny Boyle, the film was the highlight of the Olympic opening ceremony. It was actually the Queen’s first-ever acting role, a joint celebration of 007’s 50th anniversary in film, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Craig’s fourth Bond film, Spectre, began filming in December 2014 and was released on 26 October 2015. His four Bond films have grossed $3.5 billion globally, after adjusting for inflation.

His fifth Bond film No Time to Die was to be directed by Danny Boyle and released in November 2019, but its release date was delayed after Boyle left the project. It was ultimately directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and is scheduled for release in October 2021, having been delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Craig confirmed that No Time to Die would be his last James Bond film.


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