By Samantha Critchell
NEW YORK — Bond — James Bond — is blond.
As Daniel Craig makes his debut as the British super spy in "Casino Royale," he becomes the first fair-haired 007 on the screen. He’s also more rugged than suave, and not as perfect looking as fans of the movie series have come to expect over the years.
And that might be exactly the point.
Bond needs to court a new generation of fans — perhaps those looking for a more human, fallible character that they can relate to.
Save his hair color, the new Bond is probably more like the original character from Ian Fleming’s books than the brunette actors who first brought him to life: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. He wears his tuxedo bow tie open and keeps his eyes icy and his expression tough.
"Bond is a killer. He needs to have an edge," says Laurent Bouzereau, a documentary filmmaker and author of "The Art of Bond" (Harry N. Abrams).
"I think audiences are sophisticated today. Bond was at the origin of action movies — there was nothing like it before — but as it became more successful and more popular, you had people imitating Bond," Bouzereau says. "Bond constantly has to reinvent himself and try to push the envelope and bring a new flavor."
A new car or gadget is easy for audiences to accept. A new look, after three decades of tall, dark and handsome, might be harder, although Bouzereau suspects Bond buffs will fall in love with Craig in time.
He points to Dalton in the late 1980s: He was largely considered a stand-in for the role until Brosnan could take over (Brosnan was committed to the TV role "Remington Steele). But history has been kinder to Dalton, and his 1989’s "License to Kill" is now a fan favorite, Bouzereau says.
Someone like Clive Owen, a contender to be the new 007, would have been a more traditional choice, says Tom Julian, trend analyst for ad agency McCann-Erickson and Oscar.com’s style expert. But perhaps the filmmakers are concerned more with character than fashion.
Julian does note, however, that a decade ago Bond turned into a marketing machine, endorsing watches and suits, marking one of the few times a male character was held up as a style icon in the manner of, say, Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City." An upcoming Sean John fragrance campaign, shot in the French Riviera this summer and starring Sean "Diddy" Combs, is indeed Bond-inspired.
It might have been Brosnan’s particularly polished look that fueled commercial interest.
Even in his 50s, Brosnan has a classical Hollywood presence. But that has become somewhat of a rarity in Hollywood. George Clooney, Tom Cruise and to some extent Ben Affleck have it — notice that they’re all dark and handsome? — while Craig, who did star in Oscar-nominated "Munich," has largely flown under the radar.
The only blond who really stands out on the red carpet now is Leonardo DiCaprio, Julian notes. But the last time a blond leading man really influenced style was in the 1970s and 1980s when Robert Redford was starring in films such as "The Great Gatsby," "The Way We Were," "The Sting" and "Out of Africa."
"Redford, he’s probably been the only viable blond actor who has affected character, culture and moved beyond the film industry," Julian says. "People thought Brad Pitt was the next one, but he hasn’t really gone that way."
Lori Majewski, executive editor of Entertainment Weekly, points out that, historically, blonds have been the teen idols, such as Leif Garrett, Shaun Cassidy and even today’s Cole and Dylan Sprouse of Disney’s "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody."
But those stars can fade from gold to gray pretty quickly — just like their hair. Brunettes, it seems, are more likely to mature into meatier roles and distinguished gentlemen.