James Bond is big, really big, business. Domestic box office grosses for the twenty-four Bond films are reportedly around $2 billion. And, over the years, a number of Bonds have cashed in big time. Reportedly, Daniel Craig was paid some $48 million for his last two Bond films, Skyfall and Spectre. And now he is making noises that enough is enough. CBS News reports that he wants to get his life back. He swears that he is not being coy and holding out for more money, but who knows. Whatever happens, there will have to be a new Bond at some point. Revenues have continued to swell. Whereas box office for Dr. No, the first Bond movie in 1963 was in the millions, the box office for later films such as Skyfall and Spectre, was in the hundreds of millions.
So, who’s in the running? In 2015 Forbes put out its own list naming its favorites. Making the list are Michael Fassbender of X Men fame, black English actor Idris Elba (Star Trek Beyond), Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and Emily Blunt. What? “Jamie Bond”? Some have called Hiddleston’s performance as a hunky spy in the BBC’s 2016 mini-series The Night Manager a six hour Bond audition tape. In the UK The Independent’s favorites were Damian Lewis (Homeland) and Tom Hardy, whose machismo was there in abundance in Mad Max: Fury Road. Our favorite? Well, we liked the spoof Matthew McConaughey
“audition” on YouTube. But what about in the past? What actors were considered for Bond and were either rejected or turned it down? Here follows our list.
12. Mel Gibson – 1987
In recent years, after numerous tirades, run-ins and rants, Mel Gibson has become box office poison. But back in the day, when Gibson was scoring big box office in the Lethal Weapon comic police partners franchise, he was considered very macho and very bankable. And reportedly, he expressed an interest in playing Bond. Some said he would be a great Bond. No way, said producer Cubby Broccoli. Why? Well, according to Zimbio there were two reasons: At 5’9″ Mel was too short and Cubby quipped he didn’t want to make a Mel Gibson movie. He wanted to make a James Bond movie. If you think about it, most, if not all, of the Bonds were relatively unknown when they started portraying JB. In that year it was Timothy Dalton that got the role.
11. Dick Van Dyke – 1967
What? Younger audiences will remember Van Dyke as the comically conniving museum guard in the Night at the Museum films. But in the 60s and 70s, he was a huge comedy star thanks to TV’s The Dick Van Dyke show and Disney’s movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Believe it or not, Ian Fleming, who wrote the Bond books, wrote the novel on which the movie musical was loosely based. So, there was kind of a connection. In the late 60s, Sean Connery was calling time on his portrayal of Bond and the search was on for a replacement. Stories vary. Some say Cubby Broccoli turned Van Dyke down because the American’s English accent was so bad. Digital Spy reports that Van Dyke claimed he turned the role down for the same reason. And Daniel Craig? Van Dyke says he’s a great actor, but lacks panache. Sour grapes?
10. Liam Neeson – 1994
In 2014, The Independent reported that the hunky Northern Ireland actor turned down the James Bond role. As he says, he was “heavily courted”. So, why did he turn it down? After all, Neeson is noted for his action man roles. Well, he did it for love. “It was about 18 or 19 years ago,” he said in 2014, “and my-wife-to-be [the late Natasha Richardson] said ‘if you play James Bond we’re not getting married.” And he chose love, not the martinis and the Bond girls. The Non Stop star says he doesn’t regret his decision. Pierce Brosnan was eventually cast and made his first Bond, Golden Eye, in 1995.
9. Sean Bean – 1994
Back in 1987, Timothy Dalton began playing Bond. He made two films in the late 1980s (The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill). Then, due to legal battles, there was a five year gap. So, Dalton quit. Sean Bean was reportedly Cubby Broccoli’s first choice to replace Dalton. Bean was rugged enough, but blonde. MGM said ‘no way’ and Pierce Brosnan was chosen. Brosnan was a classic Bond in the dark and handsome Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton tradition. Not to be totally outdone, the producers decided to cast Bean as the dastardly villain Alec Trevelyan in the movie. The role was beefed up for Bean and he played Agent 006. Another Goldeneye first: “M” became female and Judi Dench began her long run in the role.
8. Michael Caine – 1967
When Sean Connery got tired of Bond in 1967, a number of actors were considered. Timothy Dalton was reportedly approached, but thought himself too young and turned down the role. Michael Caine was also on the list. That came as no surprise to fans and movie people alike. He had been a great success as a hard fighting soldier in the epic war film Zulu, and Harry Palmer, a thrilling Cold War spy in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain. He was the perfect action man, cool, calm and smart. But enough was enough for Caine. He declined the chance to play Bond, fearing type casting as a spy. He was probably right. The Batman and Now You See Me star has appeared in over a hundred films and has picked up a number of Oscars and Golden Globes in a career that has spanned over sixty years.
7. Clint Eastwood – 1970
Eastwood had a pretty good run between 1959 and 1965, playing Rowdy Yates in TV’s classic Rawhide. He then surprised many by going to Italy to act in so-called “Spaghetti Westerns” such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. His cigar chomping character didn’t say much, but he could kick bu . . with the best of ’em. He is probably the icon of macho movie stars. So, it’s no surprise he was considered for Bond after George Lazenby’s brief tenure in the role. There was just one problem, Eastwood was a very American action hero, and he turned it down. Bond, he decided, should be British. Burt Reynolds, another actor in the running at the time, ruled himself out for the same reason. Many have forgotten that Sean Connery came back in 1971 to play Bond in Diamonds are Forever. After that, Roger Moore took up the role.
6. Michael Gambon – 1960s
What? Dumbledore as Bond? It’s not as unlikely as it might seem now. A long established British star of stage and screen, Gambon was, at the time a tall, dark, if not overly handsome, star. In the running at the same time as George Lazenby, Gambon was asked to audition for the role. He met with Cubby Broccoli, but apparently ruled himself out, saying that he simply was not handsome enough. The Independent reported that Gambon told Broccoli: “I haven’t got nice hair and I’m a bit fat . .” The producer’s reply? He told Gambon that the present James Bond (Sean Connery) didn’t have any hair and wore a wig.
5. James Brolin – 1983
Roger Moore (not everybody’s favorite Bond) had been Bond since the early 1970s, but in 1982/83 was playing hard to get. Would he return? English actors such as Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were in the running. And, James Brolin, the man who was “Mr. Barbara Streisand”, actually made a Bond audition tape in the early 1980s. He looks a bit “Magnum P.I.” and doesn’t quite seem to pull off the understated cool that had been Sean Connery’s stock in trade. And the accent is way off. Some reports say he landed the role and had even bought a house in London before (miraculously) Roger Moore agreed to return. Close, but no 007.
4. Cary Grant – 1961
Before there was Sean Connery, there was Cary Grant. Born in England, Grant came over to the US in the 1920s, with a traveling show of roustabouts. He made it to Hollywood, and in the 1930s and 1940s, he was the epitome of cool, suave and debonair. In the 1950s an ageing, but still handsome Grant made a series of very successful movies with Alfred Hitchcock in which he played, well, Cary Grant. In 1961, he was approached to play the first Bond. He said no. Why? Well, at 58 he felt he was too old and he didn’t want to obligate himself to the multi-picture deal the producers were demanding. What would have happened if they had started the Bond films ten years earlier?
3. Sam Neill – 1986
Seemingly all that survives of the New Zealand actor’s audition for Bond in 1986 is a very short, but very Bond bedroom scene with the obligatory blonde on YouTube. Best known for his role as the Doctor in Jurassic Park, Neill also impressed in the 1983 mini-series Reilly, Ace of Spies. The show was based on the life of Sidney Reilly, a master spy who worked for the British in the early 20th century. Reilly’s exploits were legendary and the show was well received. But, clearly it wasn’t enough. Timothy Dalton got the role. A little known piece of trivia: Pierce Brosnan (who later played Bond) was also considered for the role at the same time.
2. Richard Burton
Before there was Connery and Cary Grant, there was Richard Burton. The Welsh actor, famous for his talent, his drinking and marrying Elizabeth Taylor more than once, was considered as early as 1959 for the role as the first Bond of the series. But, there were several problems; Burton was already a mega-star, both in England and America, and he thought the whole idea of a super suave and manly spy was just a bit untested. And there was one other “small” issue. He was demanding more money than the fledgling producers were willing to pay. He was considered for the role at the end of the 1960s when Connery had decided to leave. But nothing came of it.
1. Ralph Fiennes – 1994
Fiennes played Gareth Mallory (“M”) in both Skyfall and Spectre. But before Pierce Brosnan got the role, Fiennes was also approached to play Bond. According to a 2014 article in The Telegraph, Fiennes met with Cubby Broccoli. He said the meeting was “terrific”. But things just didn’t move forward, in part because Fiennes didn’t think he was right for the role and, in part, because Broccoli was probably already favoring Brosnan. He has no regrets and says that Daniel Craig is a fantastic bond. We love Fiennes and think he and Craig are great together. But still miss Judi Dench.