The James Bond mantle has only been passed down to a handful of people throughout the entirety of history. While Sir Roger Moore is perhaps the most prolific of the 007 actors, he still looked up to some of the former Bond stars, including David Niven, whose birthday is today, March 1, 2023.
Niven played countless characters in Hollywood across his 50-year career. But the most notable role he ever took on was that of Bond, James Bond, in the 1967 hit Casino Royale.
This version of Bond was not produced by Eon, and became the first off-brand version of 007 for the big screen. In it, Niven played Sir James Bond in a comedy parody adaptation of Ian Fleming’s original novel. In the movie he worked alongside some massive stars including Deborah Kerr, Orson Welles, Woody Allan and Peter Sellers.
Years later, Niven and Moore worked together in two films, Escape to Athena and The Sea Wolves. While shooting these pictures, the two Bonds became very good friends and frequently hung out when the cameras had stopped rolling.
Niven died on July 29, 1983, aged 73. He suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Moore later looked back on working with Niven and admitted getting emotional when watching his films.
James Bond author Ian Fleming actually called for Niven to play the hero on the big screen before Sean Connery received the role.
In fact, at first, Fleming didn’t think Connery would work as the spy, but he ultimately had his mind changed.
Moore also looked back fondly on playing Bond before he died on May 23, 2017. He embodied the British spy for almost 15 years across seven movies and explained how he loved being known as Bond.
He said: “Being eternally known as Bond has no downside. People often call me Mr Bond when we’re out and I don’t mind a bit. Why would I?”
Moore also spoke about the latest Bond at the time: Daniel Craig. He even called the young Brit the “best” version of 007 thus far.
“I think that he [Daniel Craig] is the Bond,” he said. “He’s quite brilliant. I wrote to [Bond bosses] Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [Wilson] and said… they’ve guaranteed Bond another 50 years of life.”
Moore died of cancer in his lung and liver. Craig paid tribute to the star by posting a photo of the pair of them together on Instagram. He captioned the image: “Nobody does it better.”