When James Bond Actors Called It Quits

How 007 Stars Turned in Their Licenses to Kill

Goldfinger
MGM

After infamously saying that he'd rather “slash my wrists” than play James Bond again shortly after filming wrapped on the twenty-fourth Bond movie, 2015's Spectre, Daniel Craig announced in August 2017 that he would indeed return to play James Bond one more time in the upcoming twenty-fifth James Bond film.

There's no doubt about it—playing James Bond is a demanding role, both physically (stunts, long shoots) and in terms of expectations from critics, audiences, and the press. Ever since Sean Connery became the first James Bond, Bond actors have had to deal with being associated with the role both in and out of character.

Though Craig will be keeping his license to kill for a bit longer, the sixth actor to play Ian Fleming’s James Bond has followed five others who gave up on 007 – or were asked not to return (depending on who you ask). And one actor even gave up the role more than once!

Here are how all the previous James Bond actors bid adieu to playing the iconic secret agent.

You Only Live Twice
MGM

The original – and many consider best –  James Bond was Sean Connery, whose portrayal of 007 set the series up for its multi-generational success. Connery’s Bond was a box office phenomenon, but the fame that came with the role – and his frustration with typecasting – proved to be a bit too much for Connery’s liking and he moved on to pursue other projects.

During production of 1967’s You Only Live Twice, Connery announced that he would retire from the role after five films. Connery’s decision became a point of contention for him with Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, though it wouldn’t end up being Connery’s last time playing Bond. More »

George Lazenby (1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
MGM

Australian model George Lazenby was cast by 007 producers to play Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and was offered a seven-film contract for the series. However, a combination of Lazenby’s unhappiness during shooting and his agent believing that Bond would be outdated in the 1970s led to Lazenby’s decision to quit playing Bond after just one movie—a decision that infuriated producers.

Sean Connery (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever
MGM

Connery was coaxed back to play Bond in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever by a then-staggering £1.25 million salary – which Connery used to establish a charity. However, Connery saw it from the beginning as a one-time return – he refused to even consider playing Bond a seventh time. That is, until he returned to the role in the one-off “unofficial” James Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983), a loose remake of Thunderball.

Roger Moore (1973-1985)

A View to a Kill
MGM

By the time Roger Moore was cast as Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die he was already in his mid-forties. As early as his fifth Bond film, 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, Moore considered giving up the role in part because of his advancing age. However, Moore played Bond twice more in 1983’s Octopussy and 1985’s A View to a Kill, before announcing his retirement from playing Bond in 1985 several weeks after his fifty-eighth birthday.

Moore often cited discomfort with his age – and the ages of his much younger Bond girls – as his primary reason why he retired as Bond. This was something that he was increasingly ridiculed for by critics as his time in the role went on. Incidentally, Bond producer Albert Broccoli claims he made the decision to dismiss Moore.

Timothy Dalton (1987-1989)

Licence to Kill
MGM

Welsh-born actor Timothy Dalton had the opportunity to play Bond just twice – 1987’s The Living Daylights and 1989's Licence to Kill. While Dalton was signed to play Bond in a third film, the movie was delayed because of several legal issues over the rights to the franchise.

By the time these issues were resolved, Dalton’s contract had expired. Preproduction on the next movie dragged on and in 1994, with no start date on the next film set, Dalton announced that he was leaving the role.

Die Another Day
MGM

Pierce Brosnan, who Bond producers originally wanted to replace Moore, finally was able to take the role with 1995’s GoldenEye. His four-film tenure in the role came to an end with 2002’s Die Another Day, which was heavily criticized as the worst of the Brosnan Bond movies because of its weak story and off-the-top special effects.

Having fulfilled his original four-film contract, Brosnan announced in February 2004 (several weeks before his fifty-second birthday) that he would not continue with the role. Meanwhile, Bond producers had acquired the movie rights to Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, and wanted to use it as an opportunity to start the series afresh with a new actor playing Bond. The timing of Brosnan’s desire to exit and producers’ desire for a fresh face coincided at the right moment. More »

Daniel Craig (2006- )

Spectre
MGM

While Daniel Craig has become one of the most critically acclaimed actors to play 007, he very publicly expressed his desire to leave the role after 2015’s Spectre. He will be returning for what sounds like one last film before following his predecessors out the door to the Bond retirement home.

If so, Craig will follow Connery and Lazenby in announcing his retirement from playing Bond before the release of his final Bond movie. But as Connery discovered decades ago, Craig should be careful about saying "never" again—the Bond bug might just come back to bite him.