Timothy Dalton only starred in two James Bond films; George Lazenby’s moment in the tuxedo came once and once only.
But who are the journeymen (and women) of the 007 franchise, the stayers who stuck around a little longer and made the most appearances in the series?
We investigate the seven actors in the top seven….
7. WALTER GOTELL (1 appearance as Morzeny, 1963; 6 appearances as General Gogol, 1977-1987)
If Walter Gotell had made a seventh appearance as General Gogol, he would have made the top five outright. Alas, the Cold War ended and the KGB were phased out of the Bond series, leaving Gotell in a respectable joint fifth position.
Best moment: Gogol is disturbed in bed by a phone call from a US Air Force colonel in Moonraker. ‘Sorry to have awoken you,’ he says. ‘I was already awake,’ Gogol replies. ‘How can I sleep? Nothing but problems.’ He sits down on a bed with a beautiful blonde. ‘Problems, problems…’
6. DAME JUDI DENCH (7 appearances as M, 1995-2012)
Judi Dench’s incarnation of M is less testy than her predecessors – even though in recent years, Daniel Craig’s 007 has done his best to enrage her by ignoring his orders and heading off on crusades of his own – but she can still bluster with the best of them. Underneath, however, she genuinely cares for Bond, which is why we hope rumours of her demise in Skyfall are unfounded.
Best moment: The first female head of MI6 gives Bond a dressing-down on their first meeting in Goldeneye. ‘If you think for one moment I don’t have the balls to send a man out to die, your instincts are dead wrong. I have no compunction about sending you to your death.’
5. ROGER MOORE (7 appearances as James Bond, 1973-1985)
In his twelve years as a superspy, Roger Moore was the personification of charm and sophistication, with as many facial expressions as sentences beginning ‘Well, er …’ to convey his emotions. Did this make him the best Bond of all time? That argument will rage on forever, but unless Daniel Craig does another four movies after next year’s Bond 24, Sir Rog will keep the trophy for ‘Most films as 007’ for many decades to come.
Best moment: It’s impossible to choose one from so many, but few scenes in the history of James Bond can top the end of The Spy Who Loved Me. ‘007!’ moans M as the Bond ‘family’ discover the spy in a clinch with Anya Amasova. ‘Triple X!’ laments Gogol. ‘Bond, what do you think you’re doing?’ snaps the Minister of Defence. Moore looks up, adjusts his eyebrow, and retorts: ‘Keeping the British end up, sir.’
4. BERNARD LEE (11 appearances as M, 1962-1979)
Always irascible and frequently enraged by the unerring ability of certain agents to cause embarrassment for Her Majesty’s Government, the first M was a crusty, no-nonsense figure who nevertheless maintained a grudging respect for Bond, despite 007’s many misdemeanours. Bernard Lee made the part his own for two decades and was held in such high esteem by fans and colleagues alike that when he died, the role was not recast for several years.
Best moment: ‘Who’d pay a million dollars to have me killed?’ Bond asks in The Man with the Golden Gun. M replies: ‘Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors … the list is endless.’
3. LOIS MAXWELL (14 appearances as Miss Moneypenny, 1962-1985)
The original and best Miss Moneypenny appeared in the first fourteen instalments of the Bond franchise, never losing her devotion to 007 despite never getting as far as first base with him. You were always too good for him anyway, love.
Best moment: Hiding Miss Caruso inside a wardrobe in Live and Let Die so that M doesn’t find out the missing Italian agent has been copping off with Commander Bond. ‘Goodbye James,’ she says as she leaves. ‘Or should I say, “Ciao, bello”?’
2. MICHAEL G. WILSON (15 cameo appearances, 1964-2012)
With regular cameos in every Bond movie since The Spy Who Loved Me, the redoubtable producer of the series eases above Lois Maxwell into second place in the all-time appearances list. It shouldn’t really count, but it does.
Best moment: In Tomorrow Never Dies, Wilson plays an Elliot Carver acolyte who promises the Maxwell/Murdoch mogul that he’ll release a tape of the US President in a motel room with a cheerleader. ‘Consider him slimed!’
1. DESMOND LLEWELLYN (17 appearances as Q, 1963-1999)
If it weren’t for an inexplicable no-show in Live and Let Die, the incomparable Desmond Llewellyn would have starred in eighteen consecutive Bond films as the cantankerous old quartermaster with an insatiable love of gadgets. Thankfully, seventeen movies is more than enough to make him top of the pile – and the possibility of anyone beating his record number of appearances in a single role is about as likely as another actor ever being considered the definitive Q.
Best moment: One of the few worthy scenes in For Your Eyes Only is Bond entering a confessional booth in Greece and saying, ‘Forgive me father, for I have sinned.’ The panel slides back to reveal Q on the other side: ‘That’s putting it mildly, 007…’