There are twenty-three official James Bond films produced by EON Productions and United Artists and distributed by MGM. The first, Dr. No was released in 1962 and the twenty-third installment, Skyfall, was released in 2012; making it the longest-running film series of all time. Combined, all 23 Bond films have grossed over $4.9 billion. (Adjusted for inflation: $11.6 billion.) There are also 17 planned Bond movies.
The films, derived from Ian Fleming's series of James Bond books began production after Fleming's novels failed to take off in the television sphere with a 1954 production of Casino Royale. In 1959, Albert R. Broccoli began pursuing the books for film adaptation and in 1961 his new business partner Harry Saltzman purchased the rights to all of Fleming's novels (except Casino Royale). The two began shopping Dr. No and Thunderball to production studios for funding but were shot down several times until United Artists struck a deal to produce Dr. No for $1.2 million. Broccoli and Saltzman then founded EON Productionstomanagethe film's production.
Broccoli and Saltzman began a UK-wide search to cast Bond and held a "Find James Bond" contest to encourage auditions. The winner, Peter Anthony, dropped out due to stress. Patrick McGoohan, Richard Johnson, James Mason, Rex Harrison, David Niven, Trevor Howard, and Broccoli's friend Cary Grant were all in contention at one point but Sean Connery won out in the end, having proven himself to the producers in his roles in On the Fiddle and Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
Connery appeared in five Bond films; 1962's Dr. No, 1963's From Russia with Love, 1964's Goldfinger, 1965's Thunderball, and 1967's You Only Live Twice; before announcing that he was leaving the series at the end of his contract. He was burnt out due to the rapid schedule and wanted to branch his carrer out.
Broccoli and Saltzman began another search for Bond and decided on Timothy Dalton who turned the role down because he believed he was too young for the role. The producers eventually discovered George Lazenby in an action-themed Fry's Chocolate Cream commercial. His Australian nationality caused something of a stir in the Bond community but his 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service turned out to be a decent critical and commercial success. Lazenby's talent agent urged him to move on from Bond and use his press to launch his acting career. He heeded his advice and dropped his 7-film contract.
Frustrated with Lazenby's departure, Broccoli and Saltzman wanted to reassure audiences of EON's steadfastness and the franchise's future by delivering another crowd-pleaser. The tried to recreate the magic of Goldfinger by getting director Guy Hamilton and star Sean Connery back together for another United States based Bond film. Connery demanded a $1.25 million paycheck plus 12.5% of all gross profits and an additional $145,000 per week if the film was in theaters for over 18 weeks. His fee was outrageously high for 1971 but producers granted it to him and the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever was released to thrilled audiences and critics. Connery later used all his proceeds from the film to fund the Scottish International Education Trust, a scholarship for Scottish artists.
Rejuvenated with the success of Diamonds Are Forever, Broccoli and Saltzman began a third hunt to cast James Bond. They were searching for a Bond who would best represent the 1970s -- suave and progressive. Jeremy Brett, Michael Billington, and Julian Glover were all considered but Roger Moore landed the spot. His previous TV roles in The Saint and The Persuaders gained him nation-wide attention and respect in the UK. Moore signed and respected his 7-film contract, making him the longest-tenured Bond in cinematic history. He first appeared in 1973's Live and Let Die and appeared in 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun, 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, 1979's Moonraker, 1981's For Your Eyes Only and 1983's Octopussy before hanging up his holster with 1985's A View to a Kill at age 57.
Saltzman left the series in 1974 after The Man with the Golden Gun to pursue other films. Michael G. Wilson joined as producer for Moore's A View to a Kill and is still producing Bond films in 2012.
Dalton was first approached to play Bond in 1969 and later in 1981 but was finally free from other obligations for 1987's The Living Daylights and felt he was finally ready to helm the role of 007. (Pierce Brosnan was briefly considered but was busy with Remington Steele.) Like Connery and Moore before, Dalton was a Bond for his era. More hard-edged than his predecessors, it is said that Dalton's Bond most accurately reflects Fleming's Bond.
Dalton returned in 1989's Licence to Kill which was fraught with complications. The film was the first to stray extremely far from Fleming's source material, to save money the film was shot in Mexico rather than Pinewood Studios, and the title was changed from License Revoked close to the release date. It performed mediocre at the box office but the real problems came with the sale of MGM and United Artists to Pathé Communications. Eon's parent company Danjaq sued Pathé for television distribution rights, freezing and Bond productions for until 1995. Dalton stepped away from the role in 1994.
After a seven year hiatus many wondered if Bond was still relevant to the world, namely since many of his foes were from the now-dissolved Soviet Union. At age 86 and fed up with the previous years of legal disputes, Albert R. Broccoli stepped away from the Bond series and was replaced by his daughter Barbara Broccoli.
Without a star for Bond, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided to reboot the franchise. They had previously met Pierce Brosnan on set of For Your Eyes Only and his schedule was now free for him to don the tuxedo as Bond. Brosnan portrayed a Bond for the 1990s -- technologically and culturally savvy. The 1995 film GoldenEye also brought on Judi Dench as M and was met with the highest attendance rates since Connery's films. Brosnan's success continued with 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, 1999's The World Is Not Enough and 2002's Die Another Day. Brosnan, now 50 years old, decided to leave the series on a high note in 2004.
Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson once again had a blank slate and had an opportunity to reinvent the Bond franchise. The success of the gritty and realistic films The Bourne Identity and Batman Begins, and the recently acquired rights to Fleming's first novel Casino Royale led the producers to entirely reboot the series with an origin story that was focused on Bond's motivations rather than gadgets, guns, and girls. In October 2005 Daniel Craig was announced as the new Bond. Die-hard fans complained of his blonde hair but his strong performance won their support.
2006's Casino Royale was the franchise's biggest financial success since Moonraker and successfully launched Craig's burgeoning career. 2008's Quantum of Solace was met with slightly less acclaim but still performed strong at the box office. The twenty-third Bond film was in preproduction when MGM declared bankruptcy in 2010. The film was postponed indefinitely (although Broccoli, Wilson, and Craig worked unofficially) until January 2011. The film, Skyfall was released in October 2012 -- fifty years after Dr. No first hit the silver screen in 1962.