LOS ANGELES — From the way he introduces himself to his preferred drink order to the kind of car he drives, everything about James Bond is deeply entrenched in pop culture.
We like to make lists of things around here, but usually they come in fives. In honor of Agent 007’s 50th anniversary, here’s a seven-best list of all things Bond:
Best Bond girlThis is tough. Adorably sexy Honor Blackman played the Bond girl with the best name of all – Pussy Galore – in “Goldfinger” (1964) and action veteran Michelle Yeoh was fierce in “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997). Eva Green as the smart and sultry Vesper Lynd in 2006’s “Casino Royale” was the rare Bond girl who was truly his equal. (It’s easy to pick the worst one: That would be Denise Richards as the allegedly brilliant nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones in 1999’s “The World Is Not Enough.”) But just the vision of Ursula Andress striding from the ocean in “Dr. No” is so famous and so stirring, it’s hard to top: that bikini with a dagger strapped to her hip, the long blonde hair and those curves. The very image personifies the gorgeous, mysterious cool of the Bond girl. And she just happened to appear in the first film in the franchise back in 1962.
Most fearsome Bond villainBlofeld is the easy answer because he’s appeared in so many Bond films, and because he’s the inspiration for the Dr. Evil character in the “Austin Powers” movies. And that ever-present cat on his lap ... that has to make him a truly, deeply bad guy. A dog person would never be hell-bent on global domination. Francisco Scaramanga, the inspiration for “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974), is also a tempting choice. He has a third nipple, people! What more do you need? But I’m picking Jaws from “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) and “Moonraker” (1979), played by 7-foot-2 Richard Kiel. Those teeth – they could do some serious damage.
Best theme song“Nobody Does It Better” from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Many of you would choose Shirley Bassey’s big, jazzy “Goldfinger,” or even “Live and Let Die” (the rockingest song Paul McCartney and Wings ever recorded) and you’d be totally justified. But this one just stands out after all these years. It still takes such a hold of you when you’re listening to it, with the touches of melancholy in Carly Simon’s haunting vocals mixing with the mystery required of any great Bond tune. It’s also one of several that would be nominated for an original-song Oscar, the writing credits going to Carole Bayer Sager and the late, great Marvin Hamlisch. I had this stuck in my head the whole day when Hamlisch died recently and didn’t mind one bit.
Coolest gadgetThe jet pack that allowed Sean Connery to zoom skyward to his escape in 1965’s “Thunderball” was cool and very forward-thinking. And it just happened to be sitting right there, waiting for him – what are the odds? But it’s the car, of course, that’s so readily identifiable as James Bond’s most reliable and versatile weapon. Famously, he drives a silver Aston Martin but it’s come in various models, with an assortment of handy tricks and toys and been driven by several of the actors playing the part. Revolving license plates, bulletproof shields, tires that shoot spikes, headlights that hide machine guns, ejector seats – we all need these extras to keep us busy while sitting in stop-and-go traffic on the 405. They’re probably safer than texting behind the wheel.
Best chaseSkiing and shooting in 1981’s “For Your Eyes Only”: It’s the world’s deadliest biathlon. Landing all those jumps would be hard enough, but Bond also has to avoid dudes on motorcycles trying to kill him, as well as bobsledders, tourists enjoying apres-ski beverages and the occasional cow. But he does it all AND makes funny faces, because this is Roger Moore, the jokey James Bond. “The Spy Who Loved Me” also features an Austrian ski chase with some truly terrible green-screen effects and a disco-tastic version of the Bond theme.
Best BondSupposedly the Bond you grew up watching first is the one you like best. Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to pick Roger Moore. This is actually as tough as choosing the best Bond girl because each actor has interpreted the character in such vastly different ways while still attempting to remain true to his essence. Sean Connery is the classic and he set the standard, and he’d probably be the No. 1 pick for the vast majority of Bond fans. At this point, though, when I think of Connery, I think of Darrell Hammond’s hilarious impersonation of him in the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketches on “Saturday Night Live” – “I’ll take ‘The Rapists’ for $200.” “That’s ‘Therapists.”’ So I’m going to do something kind of blasphemous here and say Daniel Craig has become my favorite Bond. People scoffed when he was chosen to star in “Casino Royale.” “We can’t have a blond Bond!” came the outcry. But Craig can seriously act, bringing a welcome darkness to the character as well as being sexy, masculine and formidable in all the necessary ways.