From left: Sean Connery, Roger Moore, David Niven (Photos: Everett Collection)
Connery... Sean Connery, was the first actor to take on the role of 007 from the James Bond series, which was going from best-selling books to the big screen back in 1962.
Although it's hard to image the movie franchise without the original Bond, at the time Connery was not widely known -- and not the first choice for the role. According to a Vanity Fair story on the history of the James Bond series, the author of the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming, wanted David Niven for the role.
But there was also talk of another actor. Vanity Fair recounts producer Richard Maibaum's account, as told to film historian Patrick McGilligan, "Originally, Roger Moore was considered for Bond, you know. … But producer Albert Broccoli, "saw something in Sean which he thought was what they wanted. They took a gamble on Sean; they would have been much safer with Roger." Connery, considered a "rough diamond," was cast.
If Roger Moore was a contender, it was news to him. He wrote in his memoir, "My Word Is My Bond," that he was approached about the 007 role in 1967, around the time of "You Only Live Twice," when Sean Connery had made known his intent to leave the franchise. Writes Moore, "Some people have since said that I was, apparently, on the short list of would-be 007 actors back in 1962 when they were casting for 'Dr. No.' I was certainly unaware of that, nor was I approached."
Moore, who at 45 was the oldest actor to play Bond, starred in seven of the movies: "Live and Let Die" (1973); "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974); "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977); "Moonraker "(1979); "For Your Eyes Only" (1981); "Octopussy" (1983); and "A View to a Kill" (1985).
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David Niven did eventually get to try his hand at Bond. Sort of: He portrayed a send-up of 007 In the 1967 spy spoof, "Casino Royale."
Connery was no movie star back in the early '60s. The Scotsman was born in 1930 in Edinburgh to working class parents. He left school early to help support his family and even had a stint in the Royal Navy. Before his acting career he held some odd jobs, from coffin polisher to lifeguard to milkman, and then traveled to London to compete in a bodybuilding contest.
He then began trying his luck with modeling and bit acting parts. At 22, Connery landed his first acting job, in the chorus of the musical "South Pacific."
Connery came to the Bond franchise as a relative unknown, but the series launched him into superstardom. Although he left the role in 1967, to pursue other kinds of movies, he said of the part, "I never disliked Bond, as some have thought. Creating a character like that does take a certain craft. It's simply natural to seek other roles."
To mark the 50th anniversary of the release of "Dr. No," the first James Bond film, there is a new Blu-ray set containing all 22 official Bond movies. You can win a copy here!