To date only six men have portrayed James Bond on the big screen over the last 52 years, but they weren't always the first choice and there were also many other actors who either came very close to playing the part, or were seriously considered for the role. So join me as we look back at 30 actors who could've played James Bond in the early years of the franchise.
Richard Burton was the first person considered to portray James Bond on the big screen. He was approached in 1959 and then again in 1961, and on both occasions he declined the role because he felt the concept was too new and untested.
From then on Harry Saltzman and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli approached many other actors for the role of Bond including The Time Machine's Rod Taylor, who felt the role was beneath him! Cary Grant declined on the grounds that, at 58, he felt he was too old for the role, and TVs Danger Man, Patrick McGoohan (above) turned the part down was because he felt the character was too promiscuous.
Dr. No director Terence Young was very keen to cast Richard Johnson as Bond, but he was under contract with MGM at the time and so unavailable. Stanley Baker was also considered, but was unwilling to commit to a three picture contract, the same deal offered to James Mason (above). Mason did however say he was willing to commit to two movies. The producers decided that was not an option, so the search continued.
It's said that Ian Fleming's first choice was Richard Todd, but again it was a scheduling conflict that stopped him taking the role. George Baker, who would go on to play Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, auditioned in 1962 but was not offered the part, however American born Steve Reeves (above), who played Hercules in the late 1950s movies, was offered the role of Bond, but he demanded more money than the producers were prepared to pay.
Finally, we have a group of three actors, two of which were turned down in favour of the third - Sean Connery. One of them was Rex Harrison, and the other in contention, five years before he played the part in the 1967 unofficial Bond spoof Casino Royale, was David Niven (above). Niven did have Ian Fleming's approval, but the Scot was chosen, and history was made.
After You Only Live Twice, and Sean Connery's first departure from the franchise, the search was on once again to find a new Bond. Richard Burton was once again offered the role, this time he asked for more money than the producers were willing to pay, and for a period of time both Jeremy Brett and Patrick Mower (above) were potential contenders. Daniel Pilon was briefly considered, but at 27 Harry Saltzman felt he was too young. German born Eric Braeden revealed that Cubby Broccoli had asked him to audition believing he was British, but when Cubby discovered else wise Braeden was told that no one from outside of the Commonwealth would be a suitable contender.
It was long rumoured that Roger Moore had been in contention for the part back in 1962, but in his 2008 autobiography (My Word In My Bond) Moore says this was not the case and it wasn't until 1966 when he first heard potential talk of him being considered for Bond. However, at this time he was not chosen as Connery's replacement. One person who was though was Michael Caine (above), but he felt that if he'd accepted the role he would've been typecast in the spy genre, having already played Harry Palmer in three movies.
In possibly the most bizarre casting idea for the franchise, Cubby Broccoli invited John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan to screen test for the role of Bond. He turned it down after deciding he would not pursue acting. In possibly the second most bizarre casting idea for the franchise, Dick Van Dyke (above) did audition, however his English accent failed to impress 'Cubby'. Chim-chim-cher-ee!
Neal before Zod! Terence Stamp (above) was keen on the role, and had ideas for future films and the direction he'd like to take the character of 007. However, they were deemed too radical for producer Harry Saltzman.
We now come to the short list of five actors, four of which would lose out to George Lazenby, thanks to him championing in an on-screen fight test. Robert Campbell, John Richardson, Hans De Vries and Anthony Rogers were the runners-up.
With George Lazenby vacating the role after just one outing, the search was on again. Just as Roger Moore was rumoured to be in contention years before he actually was, the same has been said for Timothy Dalton. There was a long held belief that Dalton was first approached in 1968, but he has himself stated talks didn't happen until after he'd filmed Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1970. Either way Dalton turned the part down, feeling at the time he was too young for the role.
A new direction for the franchise was considered, when Clint Eastwood (above) was offered the role of Bond, but turned it down as he felt the character had to be British.
The same reason was given by TVs Batman, Adam West (above), when he declined the role. Oliver Reed was briefly considered as the new Bond, as was Michael Gambon, who personally felt he didn't have the looks to play 007 anyway!
The producers really must've wanted an American in 1970, because even Burt Reynolds (above) was approached to play Bond back then. Again, he decided that the role was just too British.
Finally a new James Bond 007 was found - John Gavin. Gavin, who's been seen in both Psycho and Sparticus, was actually signed to play Bond in the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever, but Head of United Artists, David Picker, decided he wanted the box office insurance of Sean Connery, and made Connery a highly lucrative offer to return. Gavin's contract was still honored in full, and he was given assurance that if Connery didn't stick around then he'd be playing Bond in the next film.
However, Harry Saltzman insisted that a Brit be cast in Live and Let Die, and so the search was on again....
Next Thursday we'll continue the list of actors who could've been James Bond.
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