Who played James Bond – a complete history of the 007 actors

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig - we take a look at all the actors to have played the iconic double agent

No Time to Die

After five films as James Bond, Daniel Craig is all set to step away from the iconic role when No Time To Die is eventually released in 2021 – with a new star set to take over as the UK’s most popular double agent.

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Speculation is rife as to who might replace him, with names such as Sam Heughan and Tom Hardy frequently cropping up as fan favourites, but for the moment we’re none the wiser as to who’ll be following in Craig’s footsteps.

But what we do know is that whoever is ultimately chosen will be joining a stellar list of actors to have played 007 over the years, from James Bond legend Sean Connery, who sadly died aged 90 on 31st October 2020, all the way through to Craig.

Read on for everything you need to know about all the actors who have taken on the role over the years.

Sean Connery (1962–1967, 1971 and 1983)

Sean Connery as Bond
Sean Connery as Bond

Films: Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, Never Say Never Again (Non-EON production)

The very first actor to play James Bond, Sean Connery is still considered by many as the best 007 – and indeed the Scot topped a recent RadioTimes.com poll to determine the public’s favourite Bond.

Connery played the character on a total of seven occasions, including the first five Bond films. After he passed on appearing in film number six – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – he then returned in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever, before reprising the role one last time for the non-official film Never Say Never Again.

Interestingly the choice of Connery was initially not supported by Bond author Ian Fleming, who believed he didn’t possess the elegance required for the role, and indeed Connery’s portrayal of the character does differ somewhat from that in the books, playing up his promiscuity and adding a certain degree of cold-bloodedness.

Connery died at the age of 90 on 31st October 2020.

George Lazenby (1969)

George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Films: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

By far the shortest-lived Bond, George Lazenby lasted just one film – On His Majesty’s Secret Service – in the role before Connery returned for Diamonds are Forever.

Lazenby was relatively unknown when he took on the role, and although his performance has often come in for criticism, he nonetheless won praise in some quarters at the time – including a nomination for Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year.

He was reportedly talked out of appearing in future films after his agent warned that the image of the secret agent would fall out of fashion in the ’70s – he may well have regretted that decision!

Roger Moore (1973-1985)

Roger Moore as James Bond in Octopussy
Getty

Films: Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy A View to a Kill

Daniel Craig might have overtaken Moore as the longest serving Bond in terms of timespan, but when it comes to the number of official films Moore is still number one.

Before taking on the role Moore was best known for his work on the small screen – with notable roles in The Saint and The Persuaders, both shows in which he played parts with certain similarities to Bond.

Moore’s Bond is considered more light-hearted than the iterations that came before, with a touch more humour injected into the films while he was the star, and he’s also often been described as the most elegant Bond.

The actor also incorporated some of his own tastes and fashions into his portrayal of the character – including his use of Cuban cigars as opposed to cigarettes and his penchant for wearing safari suits.

Timothy Dalton (1987-1989)

Timothy Dalton as James Bond
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Films: The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill

Dalton was cast as Bond shortly after Moore’s retirement, and despite going on to appear in only two films he remains a popular 007 – recently coming second in our aforementioned poll after bagging 32 per cent of the vote.

After the more light-hearted version of Bond that had appeared in the previous seven films, Dalton’s portrayal saw a shift back towards more serious-minded fare, with his 007 more stern and cold, considered a closer representation of the character as originally written by Fleming.

Dalton might have appeared in a third film if not for a legal dispute regarding the licencing of the Bond catalogue, which pushed the next film back until 1994 – a year after his contract expired.

Pierce Brosnan (1995-2002)

Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye
Keith Hamshere / Getty Images

Films: GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day

Brosnan had originally auditioned for the role back in 1986 before Dalton was cast, and eventually landed the role in 1994 prior to making his first appearance in GoldenEye a year later.

His portrayal of the character blended some of the aspects seen in both Connery’s Bond and Moore’s Bond – he was suave, witty and rather more light-hearted, with his tenure seeing a lot more jokes than Dalton’s – but he also often displayed the old-fashioned grit and machismo that had been associated with the character over the years.

Brosnan’s Bond is also well-known for being chastised by M in GoldenEye as being a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” – a sign of the change in attitudes from the Connery era.  Brosnan had wished to appear in a fifth film, but after negotiations stalled he stood down in 2004.

Daniel Craig (2006-present)

Daniel Craig as James Bond
MGM / UA

Films: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre, No Time to Die

Current 007 Daniel Craig made his first appearance as the double-00 agent in 2006’s Casino Royale – which was considered by many fans and critics the best Bond film for some time and immediately pointed to a move back to more gritty material.

Prior to his first appearance, some fans had criticised the casting choice given Craig’s appearance, which wasn’t considered a close match for Bond due to his hair colour, eye colour and height – while it was also suggested he lacked the suaveness of the character.

However after Casino Royale was released Craig won over most of his critics and although the quality of films has varied since he is now considered by many to be a top-tier Bond. Craig initially hinted that he was ready to step down after Spectre – but decided to return for one last film, making him the longest-serving Bond of all time.

David Niven (1967)

Casino Royale (1967)
Casino Royale (1967)
SEAC

Films: Casino Royale (Non-EON production)

Bonus mention for David Niven – although he did play Bond in 1967’s Casino Royale, he is not considered an official big-screen 007 since that film was not produced by EON Productions.

Interestingly Niven had been Ian Fleming’s first choice for the role before Connery was cast, with the author considering him a closer match for the character.

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In his only appearance, Niven was 56, and his portrayal was that of an older Bond, who had won a Victoria Cross, was settled down with a child and enjoyed playing the piano.

No Time To Die is released in cinemas 2nd April 2021. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.