James Bond is one of the biggest and most popular film franchises of all time. Anytime that there is a new installment on the horizon, there is an enormous debate about not only who will play the man himself, but also the Bond girl and of course the villain. Throughout the franchise’s long history, even the biggest Bond fans will admit that there have been some terrible films and some embarrassing performances which have stemmed from very poor casting decisions. Despite this, it remains an immensely popular franchise and this is a testament to Ian Fleming’s writing and the many excellent movies in the series.
10. Putter Smith – Diamonds Are Forever
The first of a few appearances from Diamonds Are Forever. Up first is a henchman. Out of all the Bond characters, the henchmen have the smallest and simplest roles, yet evidently even they can be horribly miscast. One way to do this is to give the role to somebody with zero acting experience, as was the case with jazz legend Putter Smith as Mr. Kidd. He and Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) are Blofeld’s henchmen, and are widely considered to be some of the worst characters in the entire series. Smith’s lack of acting skills are painfully on display as he delivers each line with too much enthusiasm, contributing to the camp and silly tone of the film. One critic would slam the duo’s performance, stating that in “looking and acting like a couple of pseudo-country bumpkins, they seem to have wandered by accident from the adjoining sound stage into the filming of this movie.”
9. Clifton James – Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun
One of the least entertaining roles in the long and storied series is Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Already a frustrating character, Clifton James takes his portrayal way over the top, which feels forced and unnatural in the Bond world (although this was the direction the films were headed in at this time). He first appeared in 1973’s Live and Let Die, where he is used for nothing more than comic relief. But he was particularly grating in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974, which he was actually written into for some bizarre reason. This shoehorning of the irritating, over-the-top and unfunny character was widely criticized, as was the shift to a generally more comedic approach to the series. This is perhaps the biggest flaw with the 1974 film. Sadly, not even Christopher Lee as villain Scaramanga could salvage the movie.
8. George Lazenby – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Stepping into Sean Connery’s shoes as James Bond was a task that nobody envied, and, unfortunately, Australian actor George Lazenby was unable to fill his boots. Lazenby was an unknown at the time, having only appeared as a model, but got the gig after producer Albert R. Broccoli met Lazenby whilst getting a hair cut. There is no doubt that he looked the part, but he lacked the acting skills to take on a leading role, especially one as large as James Bond. He lacked the on-screen charisma that is so crucial to the role, and this led him to become the only actor to play Bond once, and that was in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was originally offered a seven movie contract, but frequent clashes with the producers saw him walk away after just one film.
7. Sean Connery – Diamonds Are Forever
Following on from the Lazenby experiment, the studio wanted a safe pair of hands to play Bond, and who better than Lazenby’s predecessor, Sean Connery. The problem was that Connery’s heart was no longer in it, and it took a whopping $1.25 million (around $9 million today) to secure his services, which took a huge chunk out of the budget. This film is famous for beginning the humorous camp tone following the dark ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and this drew plenty of criticism for its silliness. Sean Connery clearly did not manage to suit this new tone, and instead it is a performance that lacked intensity. Connery is one of the great Bonds, but it was a mistake to bring him back for one last film, particularly when the franchise was being taken in a completely new direction.
6. Jill St. John – Diamonds Are Forever
It was not just Sean Connery’s lack of passion and a shift in tone that made Diamonds are Forever one of the more forgettable Bond installments; it was also the miscasting of Jill St. John as Bond girl Tiffany Case. In the film she does little more than show off her body, making it evident that her talents and style were not well-suited to the Bond films, which require the Bond girl to have a certain wittiness. She became the first American to play a Bond girl, but unfortunately she was too polished and did not have enough substance to create a character with depth and one that could match Bond (although his performance was poor too). Her performance was fittingly described as “beautiful, but shrill and helpless,” and this, along with a number of other areas of the film, was heavily criticized.
5. Britt Eckland – The Man with the Golden Gun
Everyone around the world would agree that Britt Eckland certainly had the looks to be a Bond girl, but sadly she lacked the energy and wits that is so crucial to the role. The Swedish actress, who was a sex symbol at the time, played the role of Mary Goodnight in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, but it would be a dopey performance that lacked conviction. What does not help Eckland’s case is the fact that Mary Goodnight is also far from the best character, managing to get herself locked in the trunk of a villain’s car whilst attempting to place a homing device, plus a poor script did her no favors. From the great Bond girls in the series, we know that they need to have the looks, the spunk and the wits, but Eckland had just the looks, which is why she is considered to be one of the worst castings in the role.
4. Charles Gray – Diamonds Are Forever
Both Donald Pleasence and Telly Savalas did a fantastic job portraying Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who is the brilliant villain that the hilarious Dr. Evil from Austin Powers is based on. Sadly, a character that was once a powerful and brilliant mastermind becomes nonthreatening and soft with Charles Gray taking on the role in Diamonds Are Forever (clearly far from the best film). What’s more, fans of the Bond series were also very disappointed to see that Charles Gray’s version also had a head of grey hair, where the character was previously famous for being completely bald, which was part of his iconic look. This all made him less threatening than Michael Myers’ spoofed version, complete with Mr. Bigglesworth, and the fans did not react well to this. At least Gray can take some solace knowing that he wasn’t the only poor casting decision for this film.
3. Roger Moore – A View to a Kill
After Connery got one last pay day, it was time for Roger Moore to step into 007’s shoes. He had been linked with the role for a long time, and would go on to become the longest standing Bond. Whilst his performances will divide opinion, most will agree that Moore was far too old by his seventh and final appearance in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Moore was 45 when he first played Bond, and 57 during filming of A View to a Kill. The action sequences consequently suffered, and instead, this and the few Bond films before were overly reliant on one liners, which saw it almost become self-parody. Moore’s age also made the sex scenes particularly creepy, especially with Tanya Roberts, as Moore was horrified to discover that he was older than Roberts’ mother. Moore admitted “I was only about 400 years too old for that part.”
2. Tanya Roberts – A View to a Kill
To be fair to all of the Bond girls, they had their work cut out for them to be able to match the brilliant performance of the original 007 girl, Ursula Andress in 1962’s Dr. No. Tanya Roberts gets nowhere near this memorable performance with her portrayal of Stacey Sutton in 1985’s A View to a Kill. This was far from the greatest Bond film for a number of reasons, and the miscasting of Stacey was one of these reasons. The character is the granddaughter of an oil tycoon whose company is taken over, but Roberts struggles to give the character any depth and this makes her both paper thin and very ditzy. This film is also known for the painful lack of chemistry between Roberts and Moore, and this is largely due to the worryingly large age gap between the two performers. Roberts was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress.
1. Denise Richards – The World is Not Enough
The role of Bond girl is not just to look good, but also to challenge Bond and match his wit. Sadly for Denise Richards, she is now remembered as one of the worst Bond girls of all time for her performance as nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones in 1999’s The World is Not Enough. At the time, Richards was mainly known for appearing topless in The Wild Things, and she did not possess the skills to make this an intriguing character with depth. She herself claimed that the role was “brainy,” but she was unable to portray it and it was hard to take her seriously as a nuclear scientist (particularly because she spends the majority of the film running around in a tiny tank top and short shorts). Richards was chosen as “worst supporting actress” at the Razzie Awards, making The World is Not Enough the first Bond film to win a Golden Raspberry.