Bond goodbyes can get complicated.
Daniel Craig made that clear after his fourth Bond outing, 2015's "Spectre." The British actor said he would rather "slit my wrists" than return as the superspy but was lured back for a fifth turn in "No Time to Die" (returning to IMAX theaters today in celebration o the franchise's 60th anniversary).
"With 'Spectre,' we hadn't really had a real conclusion to (Craig's) story line," says longtime Bond producer Barbara Broccoli. Craig and the filmmakers had the rare opportunity to actually plan Bond's farewell movie in advance rather than parting ways after the release.
"We've done everything we can possibly do with this movie," Broccoli says. "(Craig) has tied up all the loose ends of the storyline. There's nowhere for him to go from here."
How does Craig's 007 exit stack up against those of his predecessors? None saw quite as tidy of a farewell.
'I didn't feel I could do it anymore': Daniel Craig on why he almost quit Bond before 'No Time to Die'
The Scottish actor who started it all with 1962's "Dr. No" threatened to leave Bond behind a few times. After sitting out 1969's “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Connery returned for 1971’s "Diamonds are Forever" for a record $1.25 million payout. His sixth and final Eon Productions Bond film finds the spy investigating shady dealings in the world diamond market. Bond foils nemesis Blofeld’s (Charles Gray) plot to make a deadly laser satellite out of diamonds, ending in an oil rig explosion and fiery fistfight with Blofeld’s henchmen.
With Blofeld out of the picture, Bond and his love interest, Tiffany (Jill St. John), are left to wonder aloud how they can retrieve the stolen diamonds from space.
Connery quit the franchise for a myriad of expressed reasons, including getting "really fed up with the space stuff and special effects. I just found it getting more and more influential in the movies,” Connery told the BBC in 2005.
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In his unofficial, non-Eon Productions Bond return –1983's "Never Say Never Again" – Connery's final scene featured a poolside plea to return to service from British government flak Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson). Bond vows "Never again" before slyly winking to the camera.
The one-time 007 appeared only in 1969’s "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service," a film with fingerprints all over “No Time to Die.” (Just listen to Hans Zimmer’s score, which features callbacks to “On Her Majesty’s” theme song, “We Have All the Time in World” by Louis Armstrong).
Like Craig, Lazenby’s Bond has surprising emotional depth. After rescuing her from Blofeld, 007 marries Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) in Germany. Bond pulls to the side of the road to remove flowers from the car when Blofeld and his henchwoman (Ilse Steppat) drive by and shoot Tracy. Devastated, Bond tearfully caresses her lifeless body before the end credits roll.
Former model Lazenby, after starring in his first film, did not seek to return to the franchise because of his and his agent's misgivings. "I had advice that James Bond was over anyway," Lazenby told The Guardian in 2017.
The only Australian Bond was replaced by Connery for 1971's "Diamonds Are Forever."
Moore's seventh turn as 007 in 1985’s “A View to a Kill” features Bond defeating the menacing Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his scheme to start a microchip monopoly by wiping out all of Silicon Valley. The spy goes missing afterward, and, true to the lighter spirit of Moore’s Bond movies, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) sends a remote-controlled robot in search of 007. Bond is found taking a shower with oil heiress Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) in the film’s final moments.
Six months after "A View to Kill's" release, in December 1985, 58-year-old Moore announced his retirement. The oldest actor to portray Bond played the part for more than 12 years. "It had been on my mind for a long time," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2008. "I was 57 in the last one. You can see I was getting a little scraggy around the neck."
Dalton made his second and last appearance as Bond in 1989's "License to Kill." The first Bond movie to see the spy's license to kill revoked featured Dalton's brooding Bond on a personal vendetta against drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), avenging the wedding attack of his friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison).
During a party at the defeated, deceased Sanchez's house, Bond finds he has his job back. He jumps over a balcony into a pool to romance his beautiful pilot accomplice, Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell).
Largely because of legal problems at studio MGM, the next Bond film was delayed, leading to contract issues. "Because of the lawsuit, I was free of the contract," Dalton told The Week in 2015. He parted ways with Eon Productions and the 1995 "GoldenEye" role landed with long-discussed Bond-apparent, "Remington Steele" star Pierce Brosnan.
Brosnan’s 2002 farewell outing, "Die Another Day," his fourth film as Bond, once again brings diamonds and destructive lasers into the fold. Bond has a climactic midair standoff with British billionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), who gets sucked into a plane engine after trying to escape by parachute. Bond and rogue NSA operative Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) take off in a helicopter and land in bed together, where Brosnan sprinkles her with Graves’ diamonds before going in for a kiss.
"Die Another Day" was critically panned, but it was a box-office hit. Brosnan, 49, was in negotiations to return as Bond, but the producers pulled out. They turned to a fresh, less-expensive 007, 36-year-old Craig, for 2006's "Casino Royale."
Brosnan's motto after exiting the Bond franchise has been dive into the work and "let go a little bit more," he told USA TODAY in 2015. "I'm as famous as I'm ever going to be. I like to make a good living and be able to take care of my family. The passion is still there to really be an unexpected surprise to myself every now and then and to keep the audience that you have."
Craig's exit is definite, as the final moments of "No Time to Die" make clear in unprecedented style.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is ready for the outcry.
"The majority of Bond fans will love this film," Fukunaga says. "There's going to be a percentage of Bond fans that may not be as excited by it. If you do something well, it's going to disturb some. That's how things innovate and move toward to the future."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Daniel Craig's last Bond: How Sean Connery, Roger Moore said goodbye