Perhaps no spy in the history of literature has made as smooth a transition to the silver screen as Ian Fleming’s creation, James Bond. In fact, the man with the licence to kill remains one of the few cases in which the film version of a character has totally overshadowed the literary one. Which makes it all the more surprising that a number of well-known actors have turned down the opportunity to essay the man they call 007. Here’s our look at eleven of the greatest actors who refused to play James Bond:
1. Richard Burton
One of the earliest to be considered for the role, Burton turned it down, feeling the concept was too new to work. Oh, and he wanted a packet too!
2. Clint Eastwood
Dirty Harry Callahan with a licence to kill? Who knows what might have become of Bond, if Eastwood had not turned down the role because of Bond’s nationality – we would have loved to see him try out a British accent, though.
3. Michael Caine
Many considered him to be a perfect fit for Bond, but Caine felt he was doing too many spy roles at the time and did not want to be stereotyped. George Lazenby’s gain was the frnachise’s loss.
4. Cary Grant
He was 58 when the role was offered to him. And felt he was too old for it. He might have played Bond but he insisted that he would do it for just one film. That ended it all. A pity really.
5. Pierce Brosnan
Don’t give us the “but he played Bond” line. The stark fact is that Brosnan had the role for the taking in 1986, but opted to do another season of the TV series, Remington Steele.
6. Liam Neeson
In what must be the mother or all ironies, Neeson opted against playing Bond because he did not want to do action films. He would change his mind about action films later – witness the Taken series.
7. Burt Reynolds
Oh yes, they had gone to the man who had acted in The Longest Yard, but he refused the role because well, Bond was British. And he was not.
8. Hugh Jackman
He had everything going for him as far as the role was concerned but decided to steer clear of the role because he felt it would box him in.
9. Michael Gambon
The man who many in the current generation know best for playing Albus Dumbledore in the final Harry Potter films could have also played Bond, but he opted out, saying he was simply not good-looking enough!
10. Adam West
He was a massive hit as Batman on TV in the sixties and was in the running to play the British secret service agent. But nationality got in the way yet again – West felt that Bond should be British.
11. Timothy Dalton
Yes, yes, he did play Bond for a while, but only after turning down the role not once, but twice – first because he was too young (in 1967) and the second time because he felt the plots were losing their sting (in 1979). He did accept when offered the role a third time, but ’twas not a case of third time lucky.