When Eon first cast another actor as Bond, lots of folks said it couldn’t be done. If there had been an Internet back then, there would have been ConneryISBond.com. Even with the primitive (teehe) technology available in 1969, a lot of people managed to make their complaints heard. To this day, I run into people who have never seen anyone but Connery in the role, or have reluctantly viewed later movies and found them wanting—mostly, found them wanting a certain Scotsman.
But Lazenby’s casting, unsuccessful though it was, did an interesting thing: It freed Eon. They didn’t feel they had to cast ‘Connery light;’ audiences still came to see a Bond movie without The Man. So they felt confident in changing the game utterly, and casting Roger Moore; long on their list, and an actor absolutely nothing like Sean Connery.
But confidence is a funny thing. Once Moore proved a hit, Eon was reluctant to change. There is no doubt that Moore was way too old to play 007 in A View To a Kill, but I’d argue he was long in the tooth by Octopussy, even though that is a much better movie. Seven movies is probably just too many.
Letting go of Moore finally taught the Bond producers a lesson in letting go; a lesson that perhaps Pierce Brosnan believes they learned too well. Lots of fans (like me) believe that Brosnan had a fifth excellent Bond in him, but it was not to be.
What’s interesting here is the way that Eon was able to move from one actor to the next. Dalton made one successful and one less-than-stellar (financially) movie, and some of us stand by his portrayal. But from Dalton on, the producers have been able to look at each actor as truly a new era, a new Bond, a new interpretation, and allow the movies to shape the actor, and the actor to shape the movies.
Could Pierce Brosnan have made Casino Royale? I believe so. I believe he could have made an outstanding Casino Royale. But he couldn’t have made this Casino Royale; the one Daniel Craig made. It would have been a Brosnan movie, with whatever you feel is good or bad about that. CR is Craig’s movie through and through; I mean, yes, it’s Ian Fleming’s, it’s Martin Campbell’s, it’s Paul Haggis’s, but it’s really Daniel Craig’s. He’s been allowed to interpret the character, to be in his own place with 007, and that has made all the difference.