||For Bond actors, a career after 007 is a precarious one. The most successful were either respected actors to begin with (Timothy Dalton, Daniel Craig), or used their newfound fame to score strong roles and work with great directors. Sean Connery cannily interspersed his Bond assignments with acclaimed work for Hitchcock and Sidney Lumet. Pierce Brosnan transformed himself from a low-rent TV actor into a super-suave leading man, and now produces his own star vehicles. Yet fear of being typecast led many actors to some deeply odd career choices.
Welcome to the shadowy, twilight world of the post-Bonds. Here, George Lazenby reigns supreme. Lazenby relinquished Bond (Contrary to popular belief he wasn’t fired) to write, produce and star in Universal Soldier (1971), playing a mercenary who becomes an anti-war campaigner after falling for a ditzy, hippie chick (Germaine Greer!!). Peace, love and all that didn’t stop Universal Soldier from bombing, so Lazenby travelled the globe looking for work. First stop, Italy: Aldo Lado’s Who Saw Her Die? (1972) remains a masterful giallo (Italian horror-mysteries, heavy on the sex and gore), but Lazenby’s wooden performance, as a father searching for the killer of his little girl, is its sole flaw.
Next came three films in Hong Kong. Lazenby was set to star alongside his friend Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978), but following Lee’s death, Golden Harvest cast him as a hard-bitten cop in Stoner (1974). Clearly, the irony of an anti-narcotics officer called Stoner was lost on the Chinese, while George’s dialogue consists of the following: “Hmm?” “Hmm!” and “Mmmm…”
With such screen-searing charisma on display, it isn’t surprising Golden Harvest relegated Lazenby to guest villain opposite legendary, kung fu star Jimmy Wang Yu. In The Man from Hong Kong (1976), Lazenby dies spectacularly after Jimmy shoves a hand grenade into his mouth (a scene so popular it’s repeated several times over the end credits). The ultra-rare Queen’s High (1977) casts him as a terrorist leader out to kidnap Her Majesty, with Jimmy as an undercover cop (Lord knows where he shoves the grenade this time).
After John Landis’ Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), Lazenby spent his career in TV pap like Hotel, Airwolf, and B.J. & the Bear. He made a cameo (as Bond!) in Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E, played supporting roles in decent films like Saint Jack (1979) and Gettysburg (1993), and enjoyed a stint in Italian softcore porn. This writer hasn’t seen L’Ultimo Harem (1981) or the mid-nineties Emmanuelle movies, but wagers Lazenby’s dialogue consists of: “Hmm?” “Hmm!” and “Mmmm…”
When it comes to embarrassing yourself onscreen, nobody does it better than Roger Moore, camping it up in Spice World (1997) and Boat Trip (2002). His tenure as 007 had its highs and lows, with gigs between Bonds either all-star fiascos (Escape to Athena (1979), The Cannonball Run (1981)) or right wing rubbish (North Sea Hijack (1979)). While Bond launched Connery’s career, it marked the end of Moore’s. Yet his first film after hanging up the Walther PPK was pretty good. The Naked Face (1985) saw Moore in career-best form as a shifty psychiatrist suspected of murdering a patient, and he was similarly effective playing a sinister spy in the second season of Alias (2002).
Pop quiz, hotshot: what do Alan Arkin, Steve Martin and Roger Moore have in common? Answer: they’ve each played Inspector Clouseau. Moore’s cameo in Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), as Clouseau transformed by plastic surgery, is the best thing in Blake Edwards’ train wreck. Michael Winner’s Bullseye! (1990) and the self-produced winter sports action movie Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990), sent Moore’s career on a downward spiral.
Timothy Dalton, arguably a bigger star before Bond than afterwards, won acclaim in Wuthering Heights (1970) and Jayne Eyre (1983), but also made Sextette (1978), a movie worse than anything Moore or Lazenby ever did. After singing “Love Will Keep Us Together” (yes, the Captain & Tenniel hit) opposite a mummified Mae West, the only way was up.
Dalton should have won an Oscar nomination between Bonds, playing a terminally ill patient opposite E.R.’s Anthony Edwards in Hawks (1988). Post-Bond highs include romancing a pre-stardom Penelope Cruz whilst dodging David Morrissey in Lynda LaPlante’s Framed (1992), and his slimy matinee idol/closet Nazi in The Rocketeer (1990). Scarlett (1994), an ill-advised sequel to Gone with the Wind, was a severe misstep, but comic turns in Looney Tunes (2003) and Hot Fuzz (2007) have brought a welcome career renaissance.
It’s early days for Pierce Brosnan, but his combination of Moore humour and Connery grit serve him well in The Matador (2006). Ah yes, we mustn’t forget Connery. He redefined the action hero across five decades, and did award-winning work for Spielberg, De Palma and Jean-Jacques Annaud. That’s why we love him, despite seeing him don an orange nappy for Zardoz (1974), tree shrubbery in Sword of the Valiant (1984), and a non-existent Spanish accent in Highlander (1986). He is still king of the Bonds.