15 Actors Who Could’ve Played James Bond

Peter King, Fox Photos/Getty Images
Peter King, Fox Photos/Getty Images

James Bond is one of the most coveted roles an actor can ever hope to land, and it’s been that way for decades. Six different men have played the role in a series of 24 films produced over nearly six decades, which means many, many more actors either tried to get the part and failed, or got the part but didn’t want it. In honor of Global James Bond Day, here are just a few Bond candidates you might not have seen coming.

1. CARY GRANT

Cary Grant
Getty Images

At first brush, Cary Grant seems like a natural choice for Bond, and he had both Bond creator Ian Fleming’s favor and a close friendship with producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli on his side. Grant was already in his late 50s by the time Dr. No began its journey to the screen, though, and would only commit to a single film. Hoping for a star who would sign a three-picture deal, the production moved on.

2. REX HARRISON

Best known for films like My Fair Lady and Doctor Dolittle, Harrison might not exactly be super-spy material, but he was among the many actors considered when Eon Productions began casting Dr. No. In the end, despite his debonair side, it was decided Harrison didn’t have the action chops for the role.

3. DAVID NIVEN


Fox Photos/Getty Images

David Niven certainly had Bond’s charming, tuxedo-clad side down, and was a favorite casting choice of Ian Fleming. The role ultimately went to Sean Connery, but Niven did get a revenge of sorts, playing a retired version of Bond in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale, loosely based on Fleming’s novel.

4. PATRICK MCGOOHAN

When casting on Dr. No began, Patrick McGoohan—perhaps best known today for the TV series The Prisoner—was starring in the series Danger Man (Secret Agent in the U.S.), and was asked to consider the Bond role. But McGoohan, a devout Catholic, turned it down.

“It has an insidious and powerful influence on children," McGoohan told the Express. "Would you like your son to grow up like James Bond? Since I hold these views strongly as an individual and parent I didn’t see how I could contribute to the very things to which I objected.”

5. RICHARD BURTON

Richard Burton
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Another favorite of Fleming’s, Richard Burton was just beginning his legendary film career when he was approached about the role. Disagreements over salary and his belief that the Bond concept might not have stood up on film got in the way, though, and he ultimately passed.

6. DICK VAN DYKE

Yes, it sounds weird, but when Sean Connery departed the Bond role after making You Only Live Twice (he would later return for a massive salary to make Diamonds Are Forever), Dick Van Dyke was among the actors considered to replace him. According to Van Dyke, he was asked to consider the part by Broccoli, but when he reminded the producer of his famously bad English accent from Mary Poppins, Broccoli replied: "Oh, that's right—forget it!"

7. TERENCE STAMP

Terence Stamp
George Freston, Fox Photos/Getty Images

Terence Stamp was one of the hottest young actors of the 1960s, so it was only natural the producers wanted him to consider playing Bond when Connery left after five films. When Stamp pitched his idea for how to introduce a new Bond to producer Harry Saltzman, though, it was quickly rejected.

“[Saltzman] took me out for dinner at the White Elephant in Curzon Street," Stamp told the Evening Standard. "He said, ‘We’re looking for the new 007. You’re really fit and really English.’

“I was very shocked but I thought it was great. ‘The fact is,’ I said, ‘Sean has made the role his own. The public will have trouble accepting anyone else. But in one of the books it starts with him disguised as a Japanese warrior. If we could do that one, I could start the movie in complete Japanese make-up. By the time it came off they are used to me a little bit. I would love to do it like that.’ He wasn’t impressed.”

8. PETER PURVES

In the mid-1960s, Peter Purves was a TV actor best known for his role as Steven Taylor on the then-relatively new sci-fi series Doctor Who, which he’d recently departed when he auditioned for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Needless to say he didn’t get the part, and was then dumped by his agent. His string of bad luck ended when he landed a presenter job on the long-running BBC children’s program Blue Peter in 1967, where he stayed for more than a decade.

9. MICHAEL GAMBON

Michael Gambon
Steve Finn, Getty Images

Michael Gambon, best known to modern audiences as Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise, was one of many actors considered when producers were looking to cast Diamonds Are Forever (the film Connery eventually returned for). Gambon argued to Broccoli that he wasn’t nearly fit enough for the role.

"I said, I can't play James Bond, because I'm bald, I've got a double chin and I've got girl's t*ts," Gambon recalled. "So he said, 'Well, so has Sean Connery, so we put a wig on him, and we put two big leather bags full of ice on his chest before the take. And then a man comes in just before the action and takes the bags off and then Connery has a beautiful flat chest and he has false teeth and all that.'

"He said, 'you could well do it.' But he didn't offer it to me!"

10. BURT REYNOLDS

No American has ever starred in the Bond series, but a few came close, and Burt Reynolds was one of them after George Lazenby departed the series following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Though he was offered the part, Reynolds said no, believing an American could never play the spy.

“I think I could have done it well,” the late actor later said. “In my stupidity, I said, ‘An American can’t play James Bond, it has to be an Englishman—Bond, James Bond. Nah, I can’t do it.’ Oops. Yeah, I could have done it.”

11. JAMES BROLIN

When Roger Moore decided he was done with Bond after For Your Eyes Only in 1981, producers again went after an American actor. After a great screen test, James Brolin essentially got the part, but when Warner Bros. announced their own Bond film—the Connery-starring Never Say Never Again—to compete with the upcoming Octopussy in 1983, the producers got nervous, and convinced Moore to return.

12. CLINT EASTWOOD

Clint Eastwood was yet another American star considered when Lazenby left the series. Then best known for his TV work and his Spaghetti westerns with director Sergio Leone, Eastwood just didn’t feel right taking the character over from another actor.

“I was offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role," Eastwood said. "But to me, well, that was somebody else’s gig. That’s Sean’s deal. It didn’t feel right for me to be doing it.”

13. SAM NEILL

When Moore finally retired from the Bond role for good, Sam Neill was a front-runner to replace him, alongside future Bonds Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton. Neill’s screen test impressed longtime Bond director John Glen, but Broccoli wasn’t so sure. With Brosnan forced back into another season of Remington Steele, the role ultimately went to Dalton.

14. LIAM NEESON

When the time came to revitalize the Bond franchise in the ‘90s, Liam Neeson was offered the role. He turned it down for a very simple reason: Love.

“My wife-to-be [the late actress Natasha Richardson] said, 'If you play James Bond we’re not getting married.' And I had to take that on board because I did want to marry her.”

15. EWAN MCGREGOR


Larry Busacca, Getty Images

When it came time to recast Bond following Pierce Brosnan’s tenure, dozens of actors were considered, and Ewan McGregor was among the serious contenders. In the end, he turned it down because he was afraid the job would take over his career.

"With Star Wars, we did a three-month shoot and a couple of weeks of pick-ups so it wasn't an enormous involvement," McGregor said. "But with Bond, I suppose it's a much longer shoot and there's a massive amount of publicity. I would worry about not being able to do any other work."

An earlier version of this article ran in 2017.

20 Facts About Eyes Wide Shut On Its 20th Anniversary

Warner Bros./Liaison via Getty Images Plus
Warner Bros./Liaison via Getty Images Plus

In the late 1990s, stories about what was happening on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s already-secretive film Eyes Wide Shut constantly made headlines. Everyone wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes with real-life celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and the 15-month shoot only intrigued people more. Finally, the film was released on July 16, 1999—more than four months after Kubrick had passed away. While there is still a lot we don’t know about the movie, here are 20 things we do.

1. Eyes Wide Shut is based on a 1926 novella.

Eyes Wide Shut is loosely is based on Arthur Schnitzler’s novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), which was published in 1926. Considering that the movie takes place in 1990s New York, it is obviously not a direct adaptation, but it overlaps in its plot and themes. “[The book] explores the sexual ambivalence of a happy marriage and tries to equate the importance of sexual dreams and might-have-beens with reality,” Kubrick said. “The book opposes the real adventures of a husband and the fantasy adventures of his wife, and asks the question: is there a serious difference between dreaming a sexual adventure, and actually having one?”

2. Production on Eyes Wide Shut began in 1996.

By then, Kubrick had been holding onto the rights to Traumnovelle—which screenwriter Jay Cocks purchased on his behalf, in order to keep the project under wraps—for nearly 30 years. Kubrick had planned to begin working on the film after making 2001: A Space Odyssey, but then got the opportunity to adapt A Clockwork Orange.

3. The studio pushed Stanley Kubrick to cast A-list names.

Terry Semel, then-head of Warner Bros., told Kubrick, “What I would really love you to consider is a movie star in the lead role; you haven't done that since Jack Nicholson [in The Shining].”

4. Stanley Kubrick wanted to cast Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

Kubrick liked the idea of casting a real-life married couple in the film, and originally considered Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. (He also liked the idea of Steve Martin.) Eventually, he went with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who were married from 1990 to 2001.

5. London stood in for New York City.

Though the film is set in New York, it was filmed in London. In order to construct the most accurate sets possible, Vanity Fair reported that Kubrick “sent a designer to New York to measure the exact width of the streets and the distance between newspaper vending machines.”

6. Some of the shots in Eyes Wide Shut required no set at all.

In order to give the movie a dream-like quality, the filmmakers used an old-school method of shooting—and a treadmill. “In some of the scenes, the backgrounds were rear-projection plates,” cinematographer Larry Smith explained. “Generally, when Tom’s facing the camera, the backgrounds are rear-projected; anything that shows him from a side view was done on the streets of London. We had the plates shot in New York by a second unit [that included cinematographers Patrick Turley, Malik Sayeed and Arthur Jafa]. Once the plates were sent to us, we had them force-developed and balanced to the necessary levels. We’d then go onto our street sets and shoot Tom walking on a treadmill. After setting the treadmill to a certain speed, we’d put some lighting effects on him to simulate the glow from the various storefronts that were passing by in the plates. We spent a few weeks on those shots.”

7. Eyes Wide Shut holds a Guinness World Record.

The film has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest constant movie shoot, with a total of 400 days, which was a surprise to the cast and crew. Cruise and Kidman had only committed to six months of filming. The extended shoot was a lot to ask of Cruise in particular, who was at the height of his career. He even had to delay work on Mission: Impossible II to finish Eyes Wide Shut. He didn’t seem to mind though. “We knew from the beginning the level of commitment needed,” Cruise told TIME. “We were going to do what it took to do this picture.”

8. The script for Eyes Wide Shut kept changing.

Todd Field as Nick Nightingale in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut
Warner Bros. via Getty Images Plus

According to Todd Field, who portrayed piano player Nick Nightingale (and is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker in his own right), “We’d rehearse and rehearse a scene, and it would change from hour to hour. We’d keep giving the script supervisor notes all the time, so by the end of the day the scene might be completely different. It wasn’t really improvisation, it was more like writing.”

9. Tom Cruise developed ulcers while shooting Eyes Wide Shut.

“I didn't want to tell Stanley," Cruise told TIME. “He panicked. I wanted this to work, but you're playing with dynamite when you act. Emotions kick up. You try not to kick things up, but you go through things you can't help.”

10. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman slept in their characters' bedroom.

In order to reflect their real-life relationship, Cruise and Kidman were asked to choose the color for the curtains in their on-screen bedroom, where they also slept.

11. The apartment featured in the movie was a re-creation of Stanley Kubrick's.

According to Cruise, “The apartment in the movie was the New York apartment [Stanley] and his wife Christianne lived in. He recreated it. The furniture in the house was furniture from their own home. Of course the paintings were Christianne's paintings. It was as personal a story as he's ever done.”

12. Stanley Kubrick temporarily banned Tom Cruise from the set.

Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise star in Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999).
Warner Bros. via Getty Images Plus

Given his penchant for accuracy, it’s quite possible that Kubrick wanted to stir up some real-life jealousy between his stars in order to help them embody their characters. In a fantasy sequence, Kidman’s character has sex with another man, which motivates the rest of the film’s plot. Kubrick banned Cruise from the set on the days that Kidman shot the scene with a male model. They spent six days filming the one-minute scene. Kubrick also forbid Kidman from telling Cruise any details about it.

13. It took 95 takes for Tom Cruise to walk through a doorway.

Six days for a one-minute scene is nothing compared to the time Kubrick had Cruise do 95 takes of one simple action: walking through a doorway. After watching the playback, he apparently told Cruise, “Hey, Tom, stick with me, I’ll make you a star.”

14. Security on the set was tight.

Aside from Kubrick, Kidman, Cruise, and their tiny crew, no one was allowed on the set, which was heavily guarded. In May 1997, one photographer managed to capture a picture of Cruise standing next to a man that the photographer thought was just an “old guy, scruffy with an anorak and a beard.” That man was Kubrick, who hadn’t been photographed in 17 years. After the incident, security on the set was tripled.

15. Paul Thomas Anderson spent some time on the set.

One person Cruise did manage to sneak onto the set was his future Magnolia director, Paul Thomas Anderson. While there, Anderson asked Kubrick, “Do you always work with so few people?” Kubrick responded, “Why? How many people do you need?” Anderson then recalled feeling “like such a Hollywood a**hole.”

16. Stanley Kubrick makes a cameo in the movie.


Warner Bros.

He’s not credited, but the film’s director can be seen sitting in a booth at the Sonata Café.

17. Stanley Kubrick died less than a week after showing the studio his final cut of Eyes Wide Shut.

Kubrick died less than a week after showing what would be his final cut of the film to Warner Bros. No one can say how much he would have kept editing the film. One thing that was changed after his death: bodies in the orgy scene were digitally altered so that the movie could be released with an R (rather than an NC-17) rating. Although many claim that Kubrick intended to do this, too. "I think Stanley would have been tinkering with it for the next 20 years," Kidman said. "He was still tinkering with movies he made decades ago. He was never finished. It was never perfect enough.”

18. By the time Eyes Wide Shut was released, a dozen years had passed since Stanley Kubrick's last directorial effort.

Eyes Wide Shut came out a full 12 years after Kubrick’s previous film, 1987's Full Metal Jacket.

19. Eyes Wide Shut topped the box office during its opening week.

The film earned $30,196,742 during its first week in release, which was enough to take the box office’s number one spot—making it Kubrick’s only film to do so.

20. Tom Cruise didn't like Dr. Harford.

One year after the film’s release, Cruise admitted that he “didn’t like playing Dr. Bill. I didn’t like him. It was unpleasant. But I would have absolutely kicked myself if I hadn’t done this.”

An earlier version of this article ran in 2015.

Top 50 Best-Selling Artists of All Time

Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
Victor Blackman, Express/Getty Images

Who are America’s all-time favorite musicians and bands? When it comes to the best-selling artists of all time, The Beatles still rule—yes, even a half-century after their breakup. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these are the 50 best-selling artists of all time.

  1. The Beatles

Albums sold: 183 million

  1. Garth Brooks

Albums sold: 148 million

  1. Elvis Presley

    Elvis Presley is seen playing the guitar in his 1966 film, 'Spinout'
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 146.5 million

  1. Eagles

Albums sold: 120 million

  1. Led Zeppelin

Albums sold: 111.5 million

  1. Billy Joel

Albums sold: 84.5 million

  1. Michael Jackson

Albums sold: 84 million

  1. Elton John

    Elton John plays a concert in 2008.
    LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images

Albums sold: 78.5 million

  1. Pink Floyd

Albums sold: 75 million

  1. AC/DC

Albums sold: 72 million

  1. George Strait

Albums sold: 69 million

  1. Barbra Streisand

    Barbra Streisand
    Terry Fincher, Express/Getty Images

Albums sold: 68.5 million

  1. The Rolling Stones

Albums sold: 66.5 million

  1. Aerosmith

Albums sold: 66.5 million

  1. Bruce Springsteen

Albums sold: 66.5 million

  1. Madonna

Albums sold: 64.5 million

  1. Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey performs during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
    Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Albums sold: 64 million

  1. Metallica

Albums sold: 63 million

  1. Whitney Houston

Albums sold: 58.5 million

  1. Van Halen

Albums sold: 56.5 million

  1. Fleetwood Mac

Albums sold: 54.5 million

  1. U2

    The Edge and Bono of the rock band U2 perform at Bridgestone Arena on May 26, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee
    Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Albums sold: 52 million

  1. Celine Dion

Albums sold: 50 million

  1. Neil Diamond

Albums sold: 49.5 million

  1. Journey

Albums sold: 48 million

  1. Kenny G

    Kenny G performs onstage during the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall
    Noam Galai, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Albums sold: 48 million

  1. Shania Twain

Albums sold: 48 million

  1. Kenny Rogers

Albums sold: 47.5 million

  1. Alabama

Albums sold: 46.5 million

  1. Eminem

    Eminem performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on TBS, TNT, and truTV at The Forum on March 11, 2018 in Inglewood, California
    Kevin Winter, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 46 million

  1. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Albums sold: 44.5 million

  1. Guns N’ Roses

Albums sold: 44.5 million

  1. Alan Jackson

Albums sold: 43.5 million

  1. Santana

Albums sold: 43.5 million

  1. Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift performs onstage at 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango presented by The JUVÉDERM® Collection of Dermal Fillers at Dignity Health Sports Park on June 01, 2019
    Rich Fury, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 43 million

  1. Reba McEntire

Albums sold: 41 million

  1. Eric Clapton

Albums sold: 40 million

  1. Chicago

Albums sold: 38.5 million

  1. Simon & Garfunkel

    Pop duo Simon and Garfunkel, comprising (L-R) singer, Art Garfunkel and singer-songwriter, Paul Simon, performing on ITV's 'Ready, Steady, Go!', July 8, 1966
    Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Albums sold: 38.5 million

  1. Foreigner

Albums sold: 38 million

  1. Rod Stewart

Albums sold: 38 million

  1. Tim McGraw

Albums sold: 37.5 million

  1. Backstreet Boys

Albums sold: 37 million

  1. 2 Pac

Albums sold: 36.5 million

  1. Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan
    Evening Standard/Getty Images

Albums sold: 36 million

  1. Def Leppard

Albums sold: 35.5 million

  1. Queen

Albums sold: 35 million

  1. Dave Matthews Band

Albums sold: 34.5 million

  1. Britney Spears

    Britney Spears performs at the 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2016
    Christopher Polk, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Albums sold: 34.5 million

  1. Bon Jovi

Albums sold: 34.5 million

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