Not even James Bond can escape a pandemic. The latest 007 picture, “No Time to Die,” had its release postponed three times. It’s finally set to arrive in theaters next week.
Daniel Craig returns as Bond — and Bond himself returns to the screen for the 25th time. (There’s an argument to be made that it’s actually 007′s 27th movie appearance, but we’ll get to that.) So it’s a good time to look back over the entire series, comparing the Bond market then to the Bond market now.
Mind the gap(s)
Because of those postponements, it’s been six years since the previous Bond movie, “Spectre” (2015). That ties for the longest gap in the series. The first four came out annually: “Dr. No” (1962), “From Russia With Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965). The next four were every other year. Then they’ve tended to come out every two or three years. There was, however, a four-year gap, between “Die Another Day” (2002) and “Casino Royale” (2006); and the other six-year gap was between “Licence to Kill” (1989) and “GoldenEye” (1995).
00 … who?
Those two gaps coincided with Bond replacements. “Licence to Kill” was the last of the two featuring Timothy Dalton. “Die Another Day” was the last of four featuring Pierce Brosnan.
There have been been six Bonds. The one everyone forgets is George Lazenby, who took over from Sean Connery, in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969). Connery had been in five Bond films and gotten tired of the role. After Lazenby’s one-off, Connery returned for “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971) and for . . . well, again, we’ll get to that. Succeeding Connery was Roger Moore. He holds the record for most Bonds, at seven. “No Time to Die” will be Craig’s fifth.
Craig, 53, has said this is his final Bond. (Moore remains the oldest Bond; he was 57 when his last Bond came out, “A View to a Kill,” 1985.) A British bookmaker has posted odds on a successor. The favorite is Regé-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”), at 6-4. He’s followed by Tom Hardy (would he give up one franchise, Venom, for another?), at 3-1, and James Norton (“Grantchester”), at 4-1.
Here are two unsolicited suggestions. Henry Golding can do suave (“Crazy Rich Asians”), and he can do action (“Snake Eyes”). And why not the world’s suavest non-movie action hero, Roger Federer? He’s going to be looking for a new profession sooner rather than later. This would be a great way to start a new career.
Licence to direct
Some notable directors have made Bond films: Michael Apted (“The World Is Not Enough,” 1999), Sam Mendes (”Skyfall, 2012; “Spectre”), and the director of “No Time to Die,” Cary Joji Fukunaga. But Bond pictures are just that, Bond pictures. Auteur works they are not. What matters is the man in front of the camera, not the one behind it. Can you guess who’s directed the most Bond titles? John Glen, with five (the last three Moores and the two Daltons). Can you identify any other films he’s directed? Nuff said.
Runners-up further prove the point: Guy Hamilton, with four (most notably “Goldfinger”); and, with three each, Terence Young (the first two in the series and “Thunderball”), and Lewis Gilbert.
Quantum of screenplay
The most intriguing thing about “No Time to Die” is that Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag,” “Killing Eve”) is one of the four screenwriters credited. The best-known, and most surprising, Bond screenwriter is Roald Dahl (“You Only Live Twice,” 1967). The king of Bond scripts is Richard Maibaum, with no fewer than 13 titles, starting with “Dr. No” and ending with “Licence to Kill.”
Blofeld, Ernst Stavro Blofeld
The chief Bond villain, he appears in eight of the films. Christoph Waltz plays him in both “Spectre” and “No Time to Die.” Blofeld has also been played by Donald Pleasence (“You Only Live Twice”), Charles Gray (“Diamonds Are Forever”), and, yes, Telly Savalas (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”). Mr. Blofeld, meet Detective Kojak.
Blofeld heads an organization called Spectre. It figures in 11 Bond pictures, including its 2015 namesake. Whoa, not even Bond gets his own title. Nicely sinister and usefully vague, the name is an acronym for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.
Minding their M’s and Q’s
M, Bond’s ultimate superior, figures in all of the films but one. Three actors have played him — and one her. Bernard Lee was M in the first 11 Bond pictures, “Dr. No” through “Moonraker” (1979). There’s no M in “For Your Eyes Only” (1981), then Robert Brown played him in the next four films, “Octopussy” (1983) through “Licence to Kill.” Judi Dench assumed the role in “GoldenEye” and played M in seven more Bond movies. Ralph Fiennes has been M since “Skyfall.”
Q, short for “Quartermaster,” is the gadget expert. The character has been in all but three Bond movies, “Live and Let Die,” “Casino Royale,” and “Quantum of Solace” (2008). Desmond Llewelyn (who bears something of a resemblance to the novelist John le Carré, speaking of British espionage) played him no fewer than 17 times. Monty Python’s John Cleese, first as R (a promotion or demotion?), then as Q, played him twice, in “The World Is Not Enough” and “Die Another Day.” Ben Whishaw took over with “Skyfall” and has been Q since.
Sing a song of Bond
Starting with “Goldfinger,” every Bond picture has opened with a namesake theme song. Billie Eilish sings the title song in “No Time to Die.” Shirley Bassey’s rendition of “Goldfinger” (“such a cold finger”) remains — sorry, there’s no other way to put this — the Bond gold standard. Paul McCartney & Wings’s “Live and Let Die” went to number two on the US charts and earned an Oscar nomination. Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” made it to number one, and Adele’s “Skyfall” did win an Oscar.
They were in a Bond movie?
Telly Savalas isn’t the only actor you might not expect to find in 007′s vicinity. In “Dr. No,” Jack Lord, a few years before the original “Hawaii Five-O,” plays Bond’s CIA pal Felix Leiter. Lotte Lenya, as in “The Threepenny Opera,” plays proto-kickboxer Rosa Klebb in “From Russia With Love.” Grace Jones, as in Grace Jones, plays an assassin who sees the error of her ways, in “A View to a Kill.”
26 and 27?
There have been 25 official Bond pictures. Official means produced by Eon Productions. But there have been two other Bond movies, which for reasons too complicated to go into Eon didn’t own exclusive rights to.
The first was “Casino Royale” (1967). It’s even more of a mess than its being a spoof would warrant. It’s very different from the later “Casino Royale.” David Niven plays a retired Bond. Woody Allen (!) plays his nephew, Jimmy (!!), who’s also the chief villain (!!!). The movie does have a great joke involving the Golden Age movie star George Raft, playing himself, and the soundtrack includes Dusty Springfield singing Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “The Look of Love.” And the Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass version of the instrumental theme is just the sort of high-spirited romp the movie wants to be but isn’t.
The second was “Never Say Never Again” (1983). It’s basically a remake of “Thunderball,” with Connery returning as Bond. The title came courtesy of Connery’s wife: That was her response when she heard the offer that had been made to get him to play Bond again. She was stirred, not shaken.
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.