Bond Replacement Therapy

So full disclosure, I have been re-reading the esteemed Jim of these boards’ 007th Minute…(and if you’re new around here, it’s required reading).

Unable to sleep (my wife’s an epic snorer, you know), I found myself re-casting James Bonds – flipping leads from film to film – so only our six, not somebody new. Apologies if this has been done before, I tried to figure out which films could be improved – or at the worst, kept the same – by re-casting the lead. And in the process (remember, it was three in the morning) actually thinking a lot harder about what the leads have brought to the series. For example:

YOLT – SC has decided to leave the series – not after, but before cameras roll. What do Cubby and Harry do? Fire up the time machine and bring in who? Well, conventional wisdom would be Sir Rog. At home in the OTT epic (hey, TSWLM is the same bleedin movie…), and a good enough actor to leave his mark in the moments that count. But Spy and MR, well their tongues are firmly in their cheeks, whereas YOLT, while OTT, is playing things straight. It’s made for TND Brozza – at home amongst the machine guns, but easily throwing away “a drop in the ocean” and “this must be my second life.”

TWINE – Talking of Brozza, well, the first rushes are back and all the emoting over whats-her-name is just too much. You’re relieved Sir, and replaced with…….Laz! P&W’s first effort is so clearly one long homage to OHMSS, who better to pull off a more human, slightly naïve Bond, than Laz? Who to be fair wasn’t an actor, so most definitely could not have committed the sin of overacting. The action’s not a problem, he could pull off the “Christmas” line, and to be fair would have been a more believable Bond opposite whats-her-name the villain.

MR – Spaceships? Cue Woody Allen jokes….

OP – IMHO the quintessential Sir Rog (more than MR). Clowns, “Fill her up” and yes, Jim, the casual racism, great stunts, and an older female lead. Look, we went with Brolin and it’s been a disaster. Who can we get? DAD Brozza that’s who. He can convincingly run the gamut (gorilla suits, auction scene, incredible stunt work) that OP asks of its lead.

TB – I think there’s more to the “4th Bond Film” theory (always the biggest) than the 3rd Bond theory (an actor’s best) because SC gets better and better in each of this first 4. That said, his toupee’s been lost and we’ve no choice but to replace him. But who do we get that can come close to what IMHO is SC’s best performance? Let’s jet-pack in CR DC. The only real pun is “I think he got the point” and the rest of the dialogue is more naturally humourous and clever. The train scene with Vesper is a direct descendant of Bond seducing Domino, and Bond’s self-confidence once he arrives in Montenegro is the Bond of Shrublands. And as a bonus, we can bring in Jeffrey Wright……

OHMSS – The big one. I’m on record as the one man who thinks OHMSS is not a better film with SC (not worse, just not slam-dunk better), but Laz’s Big Fry contract has not actually lapsed (what was that stuff? Mint and dark chocolate? An oversized After Eight if I remember correctly) so he does need to be replaced. But who? For me, TD hands-down. The thought of him with this script? Through-the-roof brilliant. But here’s a left-field thought. Sir Rog – but not Sir Rog Bond, but Sir Rog Simon Templar as Bond. Hmmmm.

Thoughts? Remember, you can’t change anything about the films – the script is as it was shot.

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Thank you for your thoughts, and the urging to seek out The 007th Minute.

As for role switching: I thought first, of course, of DAF, and in my view:

Lazenby would look lost

The Moore Bond of LALD and TMWTGG would have the right edge of nasty, but not the correct type of charm.

Dalton would be too angry

Brosnan would be do well in the charm category, but not in the nasty.

Craig would detonate the intricate skein that Hamilton and his co-creators fashioned.

DAF is tailored to Connery, much as MR is to Moore.

With regard to Jim’s assessment of DAF (again, I went there first):

He rightly points out that the film is an incoherent text–and much the better for it. As Robin Wood wrote in “The Incoherent Text: Narrative in the '70s” (available in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond):

“Rather I am concerned with films that don’t wish to be, or to appear, incoherent but are so nonetheless, works in which the drive to the ordering of experience has been visibly defeated. I am not going to argue, therefore, that Taxi Driver, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and Cruising are great works, merely that they are very interesting ones, and that their interest lies partly in their incoherence. The ‘partly’ is important: there are countless movies floating around which are incoherent because totally inept. The three films I have chosen all seem to me to achieve a certain level of distinction, to have a discernible intelligence (or intelligences) at work in them and to exhibit a high degree of involvement on the part of their makers. They are neither successful nor negligible. It is also of their nature that if they were more successful (at least in realizing what are generally perceived to be their conscious projects) they would be proportionally less interesting. Ultimately, they are works that do not know what they want to say.”

Jim writes: " In seeking to produce both comedy and sadism, it goes to extremes in each without treading that delicate middle-ground balance deftly followed by the preceding entries. It’s confused in its own body." And behaving as an incoherent text should. The “delicate middle-ground balance” often proves aesthetically stultifying. DAF’s incoherence is appropriate for a film that spends so much of its time in the United States–it contains multitudes.

Also, I recognize more success in incoherent texts than Wood does, but I make an aesthetic move from incoherence to queerness–a step he never made, and even disdained.

Jim is brilliant with: “Blofeld is now in his ‘Consultancy’ years”–he can run Willard White’s empire as easily and profitably as he ran SPECTRE, which says as much (if not more) about the two organizations as it does about Blofeld himself. Willard Whyte Enterprises is SPECTRE in military-industrial complex drag.

And: “it’s actually an experimental film, disguised as popular entertainment, in which ‘they’ are using two hours of our time to try to establish what they should now be do to keep the CircusCircus going.”

Exactly. The CircusCircus milieu/incoherence is made interesting/viable through Hamilton’s mise en scene, editing, and narrative elisions. While George Smiley exists in the Circus, DAF Bond and his descendants inhabit CircusCircus.

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To Jim’s point, DAF is the one Bond film that exists to prove/remind us that Bond films exist - it’s plot an excuse to have James Bond spend two hours, well, being James Bond. When Tiffany Case pulls out the Playboy Club card and screams “You’ve just killed James Bond,” I’d offer it’s a more jarring breaking of the fourth wall than Laz’s “Other Fella” line.

So by extension, it’s only film in the series that could not have been played by any other of the actors. Sean Connery is James Bond - that’s the whole and only point of DAF’s existence. That said though, while I’d joked about Woody Allen, you could make a case that DAF has more in common with CR '67 than any of the EONs that surround it. It acts like OHMSS doesn’t exist, and LALD that follows is a conscience re-set, down to having Quarrel Jr knocking about.

The James Bond of DAF, a globe-trotting super-celebrity, might as well have been played by Allen, Sellers, Niven, take-your-pick (or more thrillingly all of them, James Bond of multiple personalities, versus Blofeld/Whyte, multiple white cats). And with the Sammy Davis cameo that got cut, don’t try to convince me that EON’s intention was anything other than to send up their cinematic creation.

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Beautifully put. That moment puts the entire Bond franchise on a meta- level–retrospectively and prospectively (a good thing in my opinion as it kept/keeps the series viable). The audacity of the move is simultaneously breathtaking and beautiful.

I find moments of acknowledgement: 1) pre-credit semi-rogue-Bond pursuing Blofeld; 2) Bond’s facial response when Moneypenny asks for a diamond in a ring; and 3) the less sexually predatory mien of DAF’s Connery Bond–as if his relationship with Tracy had matured him.

But overall, DAF is happy to put both OHMSS and 1960s culture behind it. DAF is as good a representation of early 1970s culture as there is in cinema, and also taught the franchise to ground future entries in their time of creation.

I think EON’s intention was to get back the audience they lost with OHMSS. They (correctly) chose to use the GF template established by Hamilton and his co-creators. They were not only re-emphasizing the quotation marks which cocoon a Bond film, they were also apologizing for forgetting them on the previous outing.

George Lazenby in For Your Eyes Only.
Apart from all that skiing, there’s “Goodbye, Countess.”

Timothy Dalton in AVTAK.
He might struggle with the St.John-Smythe persona, but at least we’d be able to tell when he’s being ‘himself’ (Bond) and when he’s putting on airs. I’d find it easier to believe that he could best Zorin, and showering with Stacey (can we recast her too?) wouldn’t seem as creepy.

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My musings are thus, Lazenby couldn’t have done another one. He would have become less with more. Plus the 80s were not kind to him.
Craig could easily do FRWL but couldn’t do Thunderball as effectively as Connery, nor could anyone else do DAF as it was tailored completely to Connery ( again why the jazz analogy works so well for the movie)
I think that Connery could have done LALD , but the next 3 are suited very much to Moore.
I believe that Moore should have retired after Moonraker.
Dalton in FYEO would enhance the whole thing, Dalton in Octopussy would have real pathos dressed as a clown and AVTAK as his 3rd …

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So when I played the game myself, my own rule was everything about the existing film remained the same. So I’d ruled DC out of FRWL (even though I agree with you that he’d be fabulous in it - as good as SC), purely in that Shaw already exists, and DC (omg BondnotBlonde…) was physically too similar. Then again, if you casted them against each other, you’d have a true “doppelgänger” set-up.

Remember, it was 3 in the morning when I came up with this thread…

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Hahaha doppelganger is a great idea

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On a more serious note - I’d originally envisioned Laz in other films (I think I offered TWINE), but to your point, would his “lack of acting” become more apparent as he did more. OHMSS, brilliant and unique, has always worked for me because of Laz - the naivety, the almost-oddity, of the one-off performance elevating the whole film. OHMSS isn’t a star vehicle (in the way the films either side are) - Bond is just a character.

I (probably rightly) get pilloried for taking the opinion that it’s a better without SC, in that (though to fair I think it was Steven Jay Rubin who might have made the case back in the day) I’m convinced Laz falls for Tracy and wants to marry her. SC’s Bond was clearly not the marrying kind - if anything his relationship with Domino in TB the epitome of using and manipulating the female lead.

SC alone at the ice rink, desperately looking for help as thugs close in on him? No, don’t believe that for a minute. But Laz (or TD), yes.

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That’s exactly why it would be perfect! Grant is to spectre what Bond is to Mi6!!!

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Exactly that he’s perfect for that movie and actually that moment in time, he belongs in 1968/9 that very specific melancholic comedown from the swinging sixties.

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This is an interesting idea for a thread and I keep wanting to chime in, but for the life of me I can’t think of any films that wouldn’t have been substantially altered by changing the lead actor.

Now if you want to speculate on how certain films might have differed with a swap, cool. But imagining the lead changing while the film stayed the same? I can’t manage it.

I do get your point. It’s why i went for a Bond that emphasised the point Fleming and EON wanted to make.

It’s a difficult challenge. I’m entertaining the idea of TMWTGG Moore doing FRWL.

He’s certainly very no-nonsense in TMWTGG. One might even say cranky. In fact everyone in that film seems to be in a bad mood.

But consider some of the key elements of FRWL, like the very macho mode of male bonding that goes on between Kerim Bey and Bond…could the Roger of ANY era have pulled that off, even the Simon Templar version? That wink, wink, nudge, nudge, leering locker room camraderie that Connery and Armendariz convey with such ease? Could you really imagine Roger coming out on top in the fight with Red Grant? We can leave the script exactly the same for either actor, give them exactly the same dialog, but when the script says, “Bond and Grant fight to the death,” does anyone really think it would have gone the same with Roger in the role? Yes, he would have won the fight, because the script says he does, but I mean in terms of the choreography, the physicality, the way Connery and Shaw really convince us they are trying to tear each other’s heads off; is that something Roger could pull off?

FRWL is a great film, arguably the best in the series, and it would’ve been a really solid film with any competent actor in the lead…and Roger is more than competent. But I still say it would’ve been greatly altered by any substitution. Maybe we’d remember it more for the helicopter chase than the fight with Grant, for instance.

The other thing that’s making this hard for me is that I’m very literal-minded, so when I picture Roger in FRWL, he’s 10 years younger than he was in LALD, maybe too young and pretty to make it work. And by the same token, I can’t imagine any post-Roger actors there, at all.

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As for TMWTGG - are the faults of that film “improved” by SC’s presence? Mankiewicz I think has admitted that he wrote with the SC template in his mind, and Sir Rog has said that he himself didn’t feel he quite “got” his version of his Bond until the TSWLM script.

Clearly the Anya scene would have been less jarring, and Bond being a general “cad” all the way through might have sat easier with SC’s interpretation. That said, so much of the “humor” in the film would have failed to work - in fact there are moments in TMWTGG that I feel like the creators didn’t care much for their character at all.

No fan of the film myself, to the extent that not even Sir Rog himself (who did have a way of elevating anything he was in) can save it.

Left field thought - can you put TD in Golden Gun? Or do you end up with the tonal extremes of LTK?

Indeed. As I type this, I feel like Lazenby could pull off the Q briefing scene in TND, due to his schoolboy charm. But no comparison is ever going to be clean. Every Bond film is of its time and influenced by the energy the actor brings. It can only be one way, because it’s the way we’ve always known it to be.

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I’ll see your “indeed” and raise you an “indubitably.”

And in that spirit, here’s my thoughts on a MTWTGG with Connery in harness: Scaramanga’s fixation on Bond as an idol/rival would make more sense, as Connery’s the face we associate with all the impressive victories Scaramanga knows Bond for (not Roger). However, the “third nipple” disguise would be totally ineffectual as Connery’s chest hair would render it invisible, anyway.

IF they’d dropped the useless distraction of the “Solex Agitator” subplot, it could’ve been cool to see Connery stalked by and matched against his “dark reflection” Scramanga in real “Battle of Titans.” But we’d already been there, essentially, with Red Grant.

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I’ll have to compare how each Bond reacts to the belly dancing performances in FRWL and TMWTGG.

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