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.

10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life was always an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time, Lee—who passed away on November 12 at the age of 95—became just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee.

1. HIS WIFE WAS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) revealed the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he wrote. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE CAME FROM HIS MOTHER.

Lee wrote that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read: “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He said that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (which became his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but according to Lee, the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee wrote, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he wrote. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He said that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

JK Rowling Reveals the Sweet Reason Why She Wrote Fantastic Beasts

Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss, AFP/Getty Images

With the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald just a week away, ​JK Rowling is reflecting on her time writing the book that inspired the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and why she decided to expand on the Wizarding World she had created with the Harry Potter series.

While on the red carpet for the premiere of ​The Crimes of Grindelwald in Paris last week, Rowling spoke about how appreciative she is of the Harry Potter fandom that allows her to keep writing books and films. She also revealed the reason why she wanted to continue past the original series and write these movies: Potterheads!

"This fandom is the most remarkable in the world, for me, obviously," Rowling said. "Their loyalty and their passion for these stories really is the reason that I went back, because, without that, I don’t think I would have written these movies."

So there you have it, Potterheads: you really have yourselves to thank for the ​Potter universe's continued expansion. Keep it up and maybe Rowling will keep giving us more. In the meantime, Fantastic Beasts 2 hits theaters on November 16.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER