As Daniel Craig approaches the end of his James Bond tenure, how the likes of Sean Connery and Roger Moore followed their stint as 007.
With the release of the 25th official James Bond film No Time To Die, Daniel Craig hangs up the tuxedo and relinquishes his license to kill. What can possibly lie ahead for Daniel now? How does playing the lead role in the most successful and enduring movie franchise affect an actor’s career once they leave?
To answer these questions, we look back at the post-Bond acting careers of the previous 007s.
- Active Service: 1995 – 2002
- 4 Tours Of Duty: Goldeneye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) & Die Another Day (2002)
Brosnan’s first post-Bond role was in the rom-com Laws Of Attraction (2004) he played Daniel Rafferty, a divorce lawyer who falls in love with fellow divorce lawyer and competitor Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore).
The film wasn’t well received though, joining an already over-crowded slew of opposites attract rom-coms of the time, and made only $30m worldwide.
In his next film (actually the film he was shooting when he learned he’d lost the Bond gig) After The Sunset (2004) directed by Brett Ratner, Brosnan played retired master jewel thief Max Burdett, pursued by Woody Harrelson’s FBI Agent, Stan Lloyd.
The film did only slightly better at the box office, taking $62m around the planet. It didn’t pass much muster with critics either.
In 2005, Brosnan took more of a gamble, and it paid off. He starred alongside Greg Kinnear in The Matador, in which he plays a lonely hitman who befriends Kinnear’s down on his luck businessman, Danny Wright. The role earned Brosnan a Golden Globe nomination and is regarded as his finest post-Bond performance to date, and it boasts some fine comic sparring between Brosnan and Kinnear.
Brosnan’s only notable lead role since then was in the 2010 Roman Polanski-directed adaption of Robert Harris’s The Ghost, starring alongside Ewan MacGregor. Brosnan channels Tony Blair in the film, a thriller that failed to bring too many thrills to the screen.
His most memorable subsequent performances over the past decade have been in supporting roles or cameos. In Mamma Mia! (2008), he bravely tore his way through several ABBA songs, the highlight of these being the aptly entitled ‘SOS’.
Pierce would go on to reprise his role, and dutifully sing again in 2018’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Both films attracted a lot of attention, not least for Brosnan’s singing voice. Most recently, he’s been seen playing Will Ferrell’s stoic father in Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga (2020).
With 35 post-Bond credits to his name, Brosnan has taken many leading roles in films that haven’t always fared well. But he still brings a great deal of smouldering charm and presence to the screen. Aside from Connery, Pierce Brosnan has so far enjoyed the most prolific post-Bond career.
- Active Service: 1987 – 1989
- 2 Tours Of Duty: The Living Daylights (1987) & License To Kill (1989)
The only classically trained actor to have played Bond, Timothy Dalton spent a great deal of the 1970s concentrating on his stage career with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It was therefore no surprise, as soon as his brief two film stint as Bond was over, that he returned to period drama on screen in Jacques Tournier’s The King’s Whore (1990). Dalton plays King Vittorio Aadeo in this tale of Italian royal infidelities. The film itself was nominated for the Palme D’Or at Cannes but was not a commercial success.
Dalton followed this with the Joe Johnston-directed The Rocketeer (1991). In this homage to the heroic Saturday morning serials of the 30s, he was wonderfully cast as the villain, Neville Sinclair.
The film failed to make much more than its shooting budget though – although it really deserved to – but is most notable as being the film that put Joe Johnston in the director’s chair for Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
Back to Dalton. His next starring role was in the TV movie Red Eagle (1994), a spy thriller based on the Ken Follett novel Lie Down With Lions.
He followed this up with his most high-profile post-Bond role in the TV mini-series sequel to Gone With The Wind, Scarlett (1994). Dalton took the role of Rhett Butler, immortalised by Clarke Gable, with Joanne Whalley playing Scarlett O’Hara. The show garnered a huge amount of publicity at the time but Dalton – perhaps by choice – didn’t fully capitalise on it.
His next screen role of significance came in another TV mini-series, Cleopatra (1999), playing Julius Caesar alongside Billy Zane as Marc Antony. That’s correct, Billy Zane as Marc Antony.
Since then, Dalton featured in Edgar Wright’s second film of the Cornetto Trilogy, Hot Fuzz (2007). There, he has a great deal of fun as Simon Skinner, the deliciously evil supermarket manager.
He’s regularly appeared on TV in the Victorian horror series Penny Dreadful (2014-2016), playing Sir Malcolm Murray alongside Casino Royale’s Eva Green.
Most recently he has been providing the voice for Mr Pricklepants, the toy hedgehog in the Toy Story series of films. In 2003 he starred as Lord Asriel on stage for The National Theatre’s production of His Dark Materials. A role fellow Bond Daniel Craig would go on to play in the less than successful The Golden Compass (2007).
Dalton’s all too brief stint as Bond was cut short by a court case that kept 007 from our screens for several years, by which time Dalton had grown apart from the role and the trappings that came with it. His somewhat ambivalent attitude to Hollywood and movie stardom has meant his screen career may not read as impressively as Connery’s or Brosnan’s, but he has provided us with some memorable and enjoyable performances since trading in the Aston Martin.
- Active Service: 1973 – 1985
- 7 Tours Of Duty: Live And Let Die (1973), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) & A View To A Kill (1985)
Already hugely successful in television on both sides of the Atlantic, with credits such as Maverick, Ivanhoe, The Saint and The Persuaders, Sir Roger Moore brought a light hearted, self-deprecating quality to Bond, contrasting with the raw power of Sean Connery.
As an actor Sir Roger was never interested in pursuing award-worthy, hard hitting roles during the height of his Bond fame and this continued in the same vein after leaving MI6 behind.
His first starring role post-Bond wasn’t until 1990 in Fire, Ice & Dynamite. Sir Roger played Sir George, a tycoon who fakes his own death in order for his three step children to compete in various games against his creditors for his inheritance. The plot speaks for itself, the film was a flop.
Sir Roger then starred alongside his old friend, Sir Michael Caine in Bullseye! (1990), directed by Michael Winner.
Sir Roger and Sir Michael played both small-time conmen and nuclear physicists in this lookalike-heist-caper. With a plot and script that reads like a rejected Carry On script, ‘wacky’ and ‘zany’ shenanigans were inevitable, as was the lack of any widespread enthusiasm for the film.
From then onwards he mainly appeared in cameo roles or voice over work such as: The Quest (1996), directed by and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, where he played the subtly named Lord Edgar Dobbs; The Saint (1997) as the voice of the radio announcer; Spice World (1997), where he’s clearly having a ball in a delicious cameo role, and Cats And Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore where he voiced the role of Tab Lazenby. No prizes for guessing who that role referenced.
Never one to take himself too seriously, Sir Roger traded on and sent up the Bond image both during and after his British Secret Service stint, preferring to spend an increasing amount of time using his fame and influence in his role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
- Active Service: 1969
- 1 Tour Of Duty: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Whenever a new person is announced to play Bond, Barbara Broccoli must take the successful candidate aside and have a quiet word about George Lazenby’s one-film stint as 007.
After refusing to cut his long counter-culture hair and beard for the world premiere of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the Australian actor turned down the opportunity to return for a second film. He announced he was done with Bond and Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli issued the time honoured ‘you’ll never work in this town again’ edict.
Lazenby openly discussed his use of marijuana and LSD in the press, something at that time was more frowned upon than listening to The Beatles without earmuffs.
For him, Bond represented imperialism and the hollow pursuit of materialistic trappings and he wanted to pursue projects with greater artistic merit.
Lazenby’s first post-Bond film was Universal Soldier (not that one, the 1971 movie), directed by Zulu’s Cy Endfield. He played Ryker, a mercenary commissioned to train an army for an exiled African leader. Lazenby described the film as, “anti-guns and anti-Bond… a comedy with no plot.”
Endfield and Lazenby were aiming for an improvised Easy Rider feel for the film and it’s reported that a fake script was distributed to attract would-be investors. Upon release it was a financial disaster and Lazenby was sued by the financiers of the production.
His next film was Who Saw Her Die (1972), a Giallo movie that also starred Adolfo Celi who played Emilio Largo in Thunderball. Lazenby then went on to make several martial arts films for Raymond Chow’s Hong Kong-based Golden Harvest Production Company, interspersed with guest spots in TV shows such as Australia’s Matlock Police; The Quest, starring a young Kurt Russell; Hawaii Five-O and B.J And The Bear.
Taking advantage of the Bond image, he made an appearance in the TV film The Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E: The Fifteen Years Later Affair (1983) as the mysteriously named character, J.B. Eventually he wound up making a series of soft core Emmanuelle TV movies in 1993.
Since then his most notable appearances have been one-off parts in Diagnosis Murder and the revamped Kung-Fu TV series. Other than these, his subsequent credits are likely to be found in bargain barrels at the end of an aisle in your local supermarket.
Lazenby’s post-Bond career acts as a cautionary tale for any actor leaving the role, with roles few and far between, becoming lower in profile as the years went by. Not every ex-Bond should expect Oscars, blockbusters and an automatic stellar career. But having played the lead in the longest running movie franchise, they should at least be able to look forward to a respectable list of credits.
Lazenby has been very candid and honest about his past mistakes and still makes a handsome living on the personal appearances circuit. But he will always be remembered as the man who only played Bond once.
- Active Service: 1962 – 1971
- 6 (official) Tours Of Duty: Dr No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967) & Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
After returning his Walther PPK to Q-Branch in 1971, Connery announced his intention to distance himself from the glamourous Bond image by starring in Sidney Lumet’s The Offence (1973).
The choice to play a policeman who beats a suspected paedophile to death during questioning was indeed a brave one. The film’s bleak narrative and aesthetic compound Connery’s performance as a man who has seen too many horrors and too much violence. Consumed by his own anger, he becomes the very thing he despises.
The film was not a financial success, but Connery’s powerful, vanity-free performance gave an indication he was not content to simply trade on his Bond image and had something of great value to give as an actor.
Then there was John Boorman’s infamous Zardoz (1974). A science fiction curio set in a distant future where humans have evolved into immortals and savages.
The savages unknowingly supply the protected immortals with provisions by filling giant floating heads with their crops in return for guns. Connery plays Zed, a savage who stows away on board one of the giant flying heads, kills an immortal and travels back to their sanctuary, where he is captured and studied.
He also spends a great deal of time running around in a red mankini, pre-dating Borat by some 32 years. It’s certainly an interesting choice which starts off as curious fun but falls flat with swathes of ‘challenging’ dialogue delivered by a supporting cast who don’t seem that keen in featuring the film on their showreel. Think Logan’s Run meets Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, and you’re in the right ball park.
In 1975, Connery starred alongside Michael Caine in John Huston’s adaptation of the Kipling classic The Man Who Would Be King. Connery played Daniel Dravot to Caine’s Peachy Carnehan. The stars and friends are clearly having the time of their life in this epic tale of two soldiers who con the people of Kafiristan into believing they are gods to plunder their treasures and escape as rich men. Co-starring Christopher Plummer as Kipling and the wonderful Saeed Jaffrey as Billy Fish, John Huston allowed the wealth of talent on set to flourish, resulting in a timeless adaptation of a timeless story.
Connery followed this up with the delightful Robin And Marion (1976), directed by Superman II’s Richard Lester. Connery’s on-screen chemistry with Audrey Hepburn is a delight as he plays an ageing Robin Hood, returning from many years of fighting in the Crusades. In his first romantic lead since leaving Bond, Connery is at ease playing an ageing Robin Hood in this revisionist retelling of the legend.
Science fiction and fantasy films beckoned twice in 1981, first with the High Noon in space Outland (1981), directed by Peter Hyams. Connery takes on the Gary Cooper role in this atmospheric and entertaining space western. Secondly, he played a supporting role as King Agamemnon in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. The film was written by Gilliam and fellow Monty Python cohort, Michael Palin who in the script described Agamemnon as ‘looking exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature.’
Connery controversially returned to the role of Bond in a non-canon remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again (1983), directed by The Empire Strikes Back’s Irvin Kershner. The film was written and produced by the co-writer of Thunderball and regular litigator, Kevin McClory. The media portrayed it as being up against the official 007 movie Octopussy, that was released in the same year.
It was a media battle of the Bonds, Connery vs Moore. The impressive cast boasted Max Von Sydow as Blofeld, Edward Fox as M, Kim Basinger as Domino and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo. The film did well at the box office but not as well as Octopussy. For all of the gadgets, glamour and familiar characters, it just doesn’t feel like a Bond film and Connery permanently hung up the tuxedo afterwards.
Sir Sean then entered his mentor phase with Highlander (1986), directed by Russell Mulcahy where he played Ramirez, a Spanish/Egyptian immortal with a familiar Scottish accent. Then followed The Name Of The Rose (1986), a 13th Century whodunit, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Connery played the aptly named William Von Baskerville, a Holmes-esque Franciscan monk with a familiar Scottish accent.
In 1987 he starred with Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro in Brian De Palma’s iconic prohibition crime thriller, The Untouchables (pictured). He played Jim Malone, an Irish-American Chicago cop with a familiar Scottish accent. It won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and to date this remains the only Oscar winning performance given by an ex-Bond.
He continued to star in big budget, box office friendly movies for the next decade. Highlights include Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt For Red October (1990) and The Rock (1996). In 1998 he starred as Sir August De Wynter, the villain in the big budget remake of the 60s TV cult favourite, The Avengers. The film was a huge box failure and plans for sequels were shelved.
In 2003 Connery starred as Allan Quatermain in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, directed by Stephen Norrington. Stories of on-set bust ups between Norrington and Connery surfaced and the film was a flop. Norrington vowed to never direct again (which to date, he hasn’t) and Connery effectively retired from acting.
His post-Bond acting credits alone are enough to make any modern day Hollywood star green with envy. His bold choices and collaborations with some of the industry’s greatest directors such as John Huston, Sidney Lumet, Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg means he leaves us with a wide variety of hugely entertaining films that will be enjoyed for generations to come. Already, he’s hugely missed.
So what does this all mean for Daniel Craig as he hands in his licence to kill?
During his tenure as Bond from Casino Royale (2006) through to No Time To Die (2021), Craig is credited with major roles in 11 non-Bond films, equalling the record set by Sir Roger Moore. He’s worked with some of the most well respected directors currently making films such as Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Sheridan, Sam Mendes and David Fincher.
His most recent film, Knives Out (2019) written and directed by Rian Johnson was both a hit at the box office and with critics alike. Johnson is currently writing and developing a sequel, with Craig’s hugely enjoyable Poirot-via-Foghorn Leghorn detective, Benoit Blanc, set to return.
Like Connery before him, Daniel Craig has used his Bond found fame and influence to great effect, establishing a reputation as a versatile actor who is not afraid to go beyond the safe territory of Bond-esque action thrillers. Craig may not command quite the same dangerous screen presence as Sir Sean Connery, but his range as a leading performer makes him one of the most interesting actors to have donned the tuxedo.
Providing he continues making challenging choices as an actor, we will be able to look back at his career in years to come with same amount of admiration and respect as commanded by the late, great Sir Sean Connery.
The non-Bond films he will be remembered for will not be effects-laden, action films such as Cowboys & Aliens (2011), but films where the Bond image is challenged or subverted such as Knives Out (2019), Logan Lucky (2017) and even Infamous (2006), where he played Perry Smith, the convicted murderer befriended by Truman Capote.
As Ralph Fiennes’s Mallory advised in Skyfall, “good luck, 007. Don’t cock it up.”
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