With Skyfall hitting theaters this past weekend, James Bond fever is gripping the nation. Though it’s Daniel Craig‘s third time playing Bond, it seems like everyone can’t stop talking about his gritty, “post 9/11” take on the character. While Craig’s ruggedness seemed like an unlikely fit for the character at first, Bond fans flocked to theaters to see his performance. But what about the Bond hopefuls who almost were?
Click through our list of 15 actors who lobbied (or are currently lobbying) for the role of the world’s most dangerous and smokin’ super spy.
Starting the list off with an actor likely obscure to modern audiences, Richard Todd was a British actor most well known for acting in the Alfred Hitchcock film Stage Fright. He was James Bond author Ian Fleming’s first choice for the role when casting began for 1962’s Dr. No. Todd didn’t get the part, but later attempted to adapt another Fleming book, The Diamond Smugglers, as a vehicle but it was unsuccessful.
Wouldn’t it have been “lovely” to see My Fair Lady star Rex Harrison in the role of Bond? The old school British actor was also in the running to play 007 in Dr. No. Harrison was an eccentric choice among his competition, that included David Niven and Sean Connery. Of course Sean Connery won it out, eventually, but the idea of a Bond played by Harrison is too strange not to list here.
Another Dr. No reject, iconic romantic lead Cary Grant was rumored to be producing team’s Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s first choice to play the super spy. The duo were said to have squashed the idea when Grant would only to commit to one feature, rather than a franchise. A year later, Grant would lead a wittier take on espionage in Charade opposite Audrey Hepburn.
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The Jurassic Park actor first caught the eye of 007 producers thanks to his starring role in the 1983 television mini-series Reilly, Ace of Spies. Neill was up to play the character in 1987’s The Living Daylights, but lost out to Timothy Dalton, who had been pursued for the role since 1979.
Another star considered for The Living Daylights, Gibson campaigned for the role but was rejected by Cubby Broccoli on the basis of not being British. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz later went on record stating Broccoli had also rejected him on the ground of not being tall enough to fill the role. Gibson’s star power at the time may have also been a factor, as Mankiewicz quoted Broccoli as saying “I don’t want to make a Mel Gibson movie, I want to make a James Bond movie.” Ironically, Gibson lost out to Timothy Dalton, an actor who went on to date Gibson divorcee Oksana Grigorieva and would later be a subject of one of Mel’s notorious ranting phone recordings.
Another odd candidate, French actor Christopher Lambert is best known for his lead role in the Highlander film series (opposite legendary Bond actor Sean Connery, no less). He was also apparently discussed for the part along with Gibson, Neill, and Dalton, but was rejected due to his obvious French accent.
The Amityville Horror-star James Brolin is perhaps the only American in history to perform a screen test for the role of James Bond. Brolin was considered to take over the role for Octopussy in 1983 around the time Roger Moore was preparing to exit the series. Though Moore ultimately decided to stick around for two more entries (Octopussy and A View To A Kill), Brolin’s audition can be viewed online.
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Sean Combs, on the other hand, is the only African American on the list to audition for Bond… with an unsolicited short film of his own making. In 2008, the actor/musician/entrepreneur financed “I Am King,” a video designed to promote his fragrance and act as an audition tape for the role of Bond. The video, which can also be found online, is a montage of Bond inspired imagery (Combs riding a jet ski in a tux, wearing a variety of suits, gambling at an ominous casino) set in far flung, exotic locations. Combs’ ambition to be the first black man to play the character has so far gone unfulfilled, as Daniel Craig continues to fill the agent’s designer shoes.
Perhaps the most obvious contemporary actor to fit the look and demeanor of Bond, Clive Owen has long denied rumors that he went after, or was even considered for, the role. Still, he remains a noteworthy entry on the list thanks to a period time following Pierce Brosnan’s departure where the news media was seized with “Owens-as-Bond” rumor fever. A SkyNews public opinion poll even showed that he was the UK’s number one choice to play the character. Of course, Daniel Craig got the spot, but Owen has made a career out of playing Bond-like characters in films like The International and Shadow Dancer. The actor even spoofed the rumors in 2006, when he appeared onscreen as a Bond parody in The Pink Panther.
In an interesting bit of trivia, Bloom was not among the Casino Royale running the occurred after Pierce Brosnan’s departure. Instead, the actor was going to take on the role of a much younger James Bond in a film adapted from the Charlie Higson Young Bond literary spin-off series. SilverFin was to be produced by Miramax and Dreamworks and centered on a teenage Bond solving a murder during holiday at a remote castle. Of course, the project was squashed in 2005 when Casino Royale went into production, but the book can still be found on shelves for those who have a good imagination.
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Colin Farrell emerged around 2004 as Pierce Brosnan’s choice to take the role of Bond and the press jumped all over it. Though Brosnan believed Farrell would “eat the head off” the role, he shot the idea down himself. Why? It seems Farrell had the series’ best interests in mind, saying the role should go to an actor unfamiliar to worldwide audiences.
300 star and all-around heartthrob Gerard Butler was also a strong leader in the Bond running that inevitably went to Daniel Craig. Since then, he has also remained among actors rumored to want to replace him. The actor has given mixed responses to the idea in several interviews, often joking with the press to find his words twisted into rumors. Butler has continued to display a great deal of affection for the character, though one could say the Scottish actor has already played a role in 007’s history thanks to his previous bit part in Tomorrow Never Dies.
Law, another top favorite to have followed Brosnan for the part, was also long-rumored among the top runners for the job that eventually went to Craig. Following the loss (if you can call it that), Law went on record as saying he was never offered the part in the first place. He later added he would’ve wanted to play a villain more, anyway. Perhaps the Broccolis should take note of that?
Henry Cavill, much like Butler, has also been long-connected as a contender for the part and a possible replacement for Daniel Craig. He was previously beaten out by Craig for the part in Casino Royale after a series of screen tests. However, Cavill recently expressed his continued interest in playing the character while on press-junket for Superman: The Man of Steel. Casino Royale and Goldeneye director Martin Campbell has also expressed his belief Cavill should play the character, having only been beaten out by Craig perhaps due to his age at the time (22, while Craig was in his late 30s at the time).
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Which brings us to perhaps the hottest actor rumored to take up Craig’s mantle as James Bond– British actor Idris Elba. Best known for his performances in The Wire, Thor, and Prometheus, Elba has should have the right amounts of charisma, looks, and stoicism to tackle the character. According to Skyfall actor Naomie Harris, current 007 producer Barbara Broccoli has been in talks with Elba regarding the matter. In an NPR interview, Elba regarded noted his interest, but also discussed that if he took the character he would not want his association with the character to just be as “the black James Bond.” The Broccoli family is currently refusing to discuss the matter, so only time will tell if Elba will be the next 007.