But Connery probably had a more successful post-Bond career than any of his successors, including Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. While some might think it's a professional dead end, the anointment of Craig as the new 007 was a major international news event, thrusting the relative unknown into the spotlight as the first blond Bond.
It's not hard to understand the hoopla. The 20 official Bond films are one of Hollywood's most successful and longest-running franchises, netting nearly $4 billion in global ticket sales, including Brosnan's last four, which racked up $1.5 billion.
For Craig, however, this means big changes. Up to this point, the 37-year-old has had a successful, but modest film career. He played Angela Jolie's boyfriend in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," Paul Newman's son in "Road to Perdition" and got good reviews for his starring role as a coke dealer in "Layer Cake." But Craig might be best-known as a former boyfriend to Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.
Already, Craig is acknowledging that Bond towers over your career, and filming for "Casino Royale" has not even begun. He's currently starring in perhaps the most controversial film of the year. "Munich" is the story of an Israeli hit squad ordered to gun down the Palestinian terrorists who kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
Israel has never acknowledged seeking such reprisals, and the Steven Spielberg film has sparked criticism from all sides. But when Craig is before reporters, he is constantly being asked about Bond.
Among the biggest questions: Who will be the next Bond girl? At this point, Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson and Jolie have all reportedly turned down the role.
"Well, I can't tell you, and I'm not going to, either, if I had the information," Craig said, trying to keep the focus on his current movie. This much he could say:
"Paul Haggis [the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 'Million Dollar Baby' and writer-director of 'Crash'] has done a rewrite of the script and has written great dialogue. The lead girl part is fantastic. The characters are fantastic. We're making a Bond movie first and foremost, but wait and see. I can't tell you. I haven't started shooting it."
Still, Craig is philosophical when asked whether he has second thoughts about his decision.
"If I don't take on opportunities that arise like this or challenges that arise like this, what am I doing?" he said. "Yes, I could fail miserably. But maybe I could do something that's different and make the franchise last another 30 years as opposed to another three."
If Brosnan is still angry about being abruptly relieved of his spying duties, it's not without reason. His last Bond outing, 2002's "Die Another Day," grossed $425 million internationally. And as recently as 2004, Quentin Tarantino was talking about filming a remake of "Casino Royale." The director told reporters at the Cannes film festival that he wanted Uma Thurman as a Bond girl and wanted Brosnan to return.
Bond producers, however, went with Martin Campbell as director, and they decided to go with a younger lead actor.
Now, a shaggy Brosnan sports facial hair that would probably get him immediately thrown out of Her Majesty's Secret Service. The new look is for his role as a crazed hit man who wanders into Kinnear's life, follows him home, and sleeps on his couch.
And now, Brosnan is adjusting and no longer sounds bitter.
"I was wondering, and had been wondering for a number of years, when would I find a part that was going to jolt my career in another direction and allow me to give a performance, which was different," Brosnan said.
"It came in the size, shape and color of this movie."