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By Steve Palace.
Steven Soderbergh’s crime comedy Logan Lucky is crashing its way into cinemas next month. The frantic family tale appears to have a touch of the Coen Brothers about it, not least in its vivid characters. Among these is Daniel Craig as Joe Bang, a bleach blond felon who has to be broken out of jail in order to help the Logan clan pull off a heist at the petrol-fuelled Coca-Cola 600 race.
Such is the unexpected nature of Craig’s casting, Soderbergh has billed him under the “And Introducing” banner. It’s certainly bizarre seeing the current James Bond playing an off-kilter randy convict, though of course the role of 007 can easily cement a performer in audiences’ minds, often unfairly.
So with the pec-happy hunk about to alter our perceptions of him in his latest release, we look back at other Bonds who broke free from the shackles of MI6 to give us something different from their established repertoire. Licence to kill? Licence to throw a curveball more like…
SEAN CONNERY: THE AVENGERS
The man who started it all off for Bond on the big screen has been retired for a while now. Unfortunately one of the flicks that pushed him towards an easier life was also an attempt to play against type. 1998’s disastrous cinematic take on Brit TV show The Avengers was seen as an embarrassment for stars Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, who failed to follow in the footsteps of small screen legends Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg.
Macnee appeared in the film, though thankfully his character was invisible. Connery on the other hand was front and centre throughout. His villainous performance as Sir August De Wynter, a flamboyant kilt-wearing aristocrat who wanted to take over the world via the weather, was lost in the critical storm that followed.
GEORGE LAZENBY: SUPERBOY
Lazenby’s time as 007 was short and sweet and his acting career to date has been comprised mainly of action man-types. However in the Eighties he got the chance to broaden his range with a guest appearance on the Superboy TV series. He portrayed the mighty Jor-El, father to the Boy Of Steel, alongside Bond girl Britt Ekland as wife Lara.
Bearing in mind he was sharing the Jor-El legacy with Marlon Brando, this was quite a big deal for the former secret agent. Sadly it didn’t become a permanent gig, for he turned out to be an alien who’d merely taken the form of Superboy’s white-quiffed parent. Still, he filmed two episodes and that was better than nothing.
ROGER MOORE: BOAT TRIP
The late, great Sir Roger Moore was known for his wit as well as his celebrated eyebrow-based acting technique. The wry humour was in evidence throughout his time as Bond but sometimes he would play for laughs in an actual comedy. The most extreme example, though not the best-regarded, was Cuba Gooding Jr’s sea-bound and somewhat controversial comedy Boat Trip from 2002.
Moore played Lloyd Faversham, one of the passengers aboard a gay cruise onto which Gooding Jr and co-star Horatio Sanz were accidentally booked whilst on the lookout for love. The film was attacked for its outdated stereotyping and if that wasn’t bad enough we and Sir Roger had to endure the spectacle of 007 suggestively licking a breakfast sausage.
TIMOTHY DALTON: HOT FUZZ
Dalton initially rejected the part of James Bond, feeling he was too young. Then years later he finally accepted and this serious thespian was immediately plunged into mediocrity with The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill, which was so nondescript it polished the franchise off for several years.
With his Walther PPK unholstered, he was free to target other characters, most notably Rassilon in Doctor Who. However on the big screen he subverted his smooth, smouldering image when he played sleazy supermarket manager Simon Skinner opposite Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. Skinner was the flipside of Dalton’s brooding 007 – shifty, oily and lacking in class.
PIERCE BROSNAN: PERCY JACKSON & THE LIGHTNING THIEF
It’s easy to overlook the fact that, before Daniel Craig took his top off and got gritty for Casino Royale, Brosnan was the man in the tuxedo. His adventures awkwardly emphasized both the hard-nosed Connery side and the over-the-top Moore side of the equation, yet his performance received rave reviews. Post-Bond his CV has been hit and miss, though he found fertile acting ground recently in the likes of The Son.
He did manage to make a big impression in 2010’s Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, the opening instalment of the popular fantasy franchise based on the books by Rick Riordan. He gave the part of Chiron 100%. Or rather 50, as most of the time we only saw the top half of him. The rest was a CGI horse, for Chiron was a centaur as well as a tutor of Olympians. The other 007s have had their unusual moments onscreen but surely Brosnan trumps them all with four legs and a fine set of hooves…!