“Bond. James Bond.”
Daniel Craig is the sixth 007 to utter those immortal words. And he won’t be the last.
The Bond franchise is a rarity in Hollywood: its protagonist is bigger than the actor behind the wheel of the spy’s beloved Aston Martin DB5.
What follows is a breakdown of six franchises that have survived—and, in some cases, thrived—after the actor who originated the lead character was replaced with a new face. But does inheriting a franchise also lead to bigger and better roles?
Previous Stars: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan
Replaced By: Daniel Craig
The Bottom Line: So much for the new blond Bond being “James Bland,” as the U.K.’s Daily Mirror described Daniel Craig last year when he inherited 007’s license to kill from Pierce Brosnan. The early word from across the pond is that the rough-and-ready Craig exudes “the kind of edgy menace that recalls Sean Connery at his best.” And that lofty praise comes from the back-peddling Mirror. Craig certainly needs to win over skeptical audiences if his purportedly gritty Bond prequel Casino Royale is to earn anything close to Brosnan’s Die Another Day ($160.9 million). A flop would tarnish Craig's reputation, but it won’t destroy his career. He’s already established himself as a compelling presence with such little-seen films as Enduring Love, Infamous and Layer Cake. That should help him avoid the same fate as the undeservedly maligned Timothy Dalton, a Shakespearean-trained actor best known for his stage work. Consequently, Dalton’s brief—but financially disappointing—tenure as Bond prevented him from fully capitalizing on his brief—but financially disappointing—tenure as Bond. So you can’t blame Craig for already looking ahead to the future. He’s reunited with Nicole Kidman, his costar in The Invasion (Aug. 17), for His Dark Materials 1: The Golden Compass. At least Craig now has another potential franchise— à la Harry Potter—to fall back on if he fails to live up to Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s lofty expectations.
Previous Stars: Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford
Replaced By: Ben Affleck
The Bottom Line: When Harrison Ford balked at the script for The Sum of All Fears, Paramount went for youth appeal and cast the then-hot Ben Affleck as a young Jack Ryan at the start of his CIA career. The studio’s faith in Affleck paid off, as The Sum of All Fears ($118.9 million) did as well as Ford’s Clear and Present Danger ($122.1 million). But Affleck can no longer bank on Ryan putting an end to his Bennifer-induced reversal of fortunes. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount is now searching for its fourth Jack Ryan in the wake of Affleck’s fall from grace. Things just go from bad to worse for Affleck.
Previous Stars: Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney
Replaced By: Christian Bale
The Bottom Line: Gotham City’s been good to Christian Bale. An indie mainstay, the ex-American Psycho never truly achieved mainstream success before suiting up for Batman Begins. “People now know Christian’s name,” his Harsh Times costar Freddy Rodriguez tells Hollywood.com. And that’s helped Bale carry his first commercial hit, The Prestige. The Vietnam-era Rescue Dawn (March 30) will arrive hoping to capitalize on its Toronto Film Festival buzz. 3:10 to Yuma (Oct. 12) should be a tense showdown between Bale and Russell Crowe. Rodriguez says Bale's higher profile will help Harsh Times “commercially,” but this morality play—which opened Nov. 10—is too bleak to draw much of a crowd. Too bad, as Bale gives an electrifying performance as a self-destructive “soldier of the apocalypse” cruising the streets of L.A. Harsh Times is probably closer to Bale's heart than Batman Begins, but its sequel The Dark Knight (2008) should allow him to continue making the films he really wants to for years to come.
Previous Star: Christopher Reeve
Replaced By: Brandon Routh
The Bottom Line: Christopher Reeve never managed to escape the Man of Steel’s firm grasp. That should a lesson Brandon Routh should heed. But he’s taking his sweet time to prove there’s more to him than looking all very macho in Superman’s blue tights. "There have been quite a few roles that have come my way that are very different from Superman, but they are too much the other way," he tells TV Guide Magazine. With the Superman Returns sequel due in 2009, the clock’s ticking on Routh’s efforts to avoid the same fate that befell his predecessor.
Inspector Jacques Clouseau
Previous Star: Peter Sellers
Replaced By: Steve Martin
The Bottom Line: Trying to imitate the indomitable Peter Sellers could have left Steve Martin with oeuf on his face. But however forced and contrived Martin seemed in his efforts to outdo Sellers as the bumbling, idiotic Inspector Clouseau, kids couldn’t get enough of The Pink Panther’s PG-rated pratfalls and fart jokes. That means Martin’s new but unimproved Clouseau will return to solve another crime. And once again justify Martin's profitable practice of redoing old classics. C'est la vie.
Previous Star: Jodie Foster
Replaced By: Julianne Moore
The Bottom Line: The Silence of the Lamb marked the end of Jodie Foster’s successful transition from child actress to Oscar-winning leading lady and action heroine. And that allowed her to say no to playing more head games with the Chianti-sipping serial killer. Sure, Julianne Moore looked uncomfortable stepping into Clarice Starling’s shoes, but Hannibal didn’t hurt her reputation as an art-house darling. Now it makes no difference which Starling was better at matching wits with Lecter. The franchise is more intrigued in Lecter’s past—per the prequels Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising (Feb. 9)—than pursuing his strange relationship with Starling.