The Men Who Could Have Been Bond

Only six men can have ever landed the part of James Bond. Behind those six actors is a wealth of screentests, contacts, interviews and nearly men. When the search for James Bond number six was on there couldn't have an actor in the Commonwealth or beyond under the age of fifty who didn't turn up in at least one silly story linking him to the part. Ewan Stewart; Orlando Bloom: even Matthew Perry was apparently under consideration. Decade by decade how many actors really came close to the part?

Cary Grant was clearly born to be James Bond. Sadly the Bond series didn't exist in the thirties and forties so Grant could never have been 007. Or could he? Even though he was knocking on a bit, the producers were keen enough to hold talks with the legendary star for Dr No. Grant declined and so did Patrick Mcgoohan. A few male-model types were tested and other names considered included Stewart Grainger, Richard Burton and Roger Moore. The Shakespearean actor Richard Johnson was screen tested no less than three times by the director Terence Young. Eventually a young actor/milkman called Sean Connery was cast and by all accounts it turned out rather well.

When Connery had to be replaced for OHMSS the British alternative to Connery in terms of stature seemed to be Oliver Reed. Cubby Broccoli later commented that, "...with Reed we would have had a far greater problem to destroy his image and remould him as James Bond. We just didn't have the time or money to do that." During the search an Australian model called George Lazenby so impressed Peter Hunt in the fight scenes he cut that he made an immediate case for Lazenby to be cast. British actor John Richardson was Lazenby's main rival, just missing out. Those who dropped out of the running included a twenty-four year-old Timothy Dalton and a certain Roger Moore. Moore was approached to replace Connery a couple of times, but was under contract to his television series The Saint. Other names who cropped up included Robert Campbell, Ian Ogilvy and, believe it or not, Batman star Adam West. They went with Lazenby and the rest is history.

John Gavin
American actor John Gavin originally signed to become the third James Bond for 1971's Diamonds Are Forever. When Connery was lured back by the studio (who were never keen on Gavin) Gavin stood aside and his contract was bought out. Best known for a part in Psycho Gavin didn't just come close to Bond. For a period he was Bond.

For Live and Let Die the studio put pressure on Eon to cast a Hollywood name to replace Sean Connery. Despite Guy Hamilton's push for Burt Reynolds, Broccoli insisted on a British actor and considered (young UFO star) Michael Billington and Jeremy Brett. In recent years a Jeremy Brett fansite commented:

"Name's Brett... Jeremy Brett." Well, actually, it could have been. Around 1971, Sean Connery announced (he was) to call it quits; due to this, a worldwide search for the next Bond actor was underway. Among the many dashing Englishmen who tested for the part, Jeremy Brett was seriously considered for the role. However, he obviously did not get it, Roger Moore did in the 1973 Bond film, Live and Let Die. He later confessed in an interview, "It's the sort of role you cannot afford to turn down, but I think if I had got it, it would have spoiled me."

When Roger Moore decided he would not return after 1979's Moonraker the hunt for James Bond number four was on. Michael Billington, still around, was considered yet again. David Warbeck, who claimed in his autobiography (David Warbeck: The Man and His Movies) to have been under contract to Eon as a 'reserve Bond' was also in the frame. British actor Patrick Mower is reported to have auditioned more than once during the Roger Moore era. Another actor on the Cubby radar was Timothy Dalton. In Bond DVDs both Broccoli and Michael G Wilson mention meetings with Dalton in the seventies to discuss the role. Mel Gibson was linked to the role several times from the early eighties onwards and Ian Ogilvy was still a very solid James Bond candidate around this time.

An oft-mooted future Bond was Lewis Collins. Collins was soon to jump to the big screen playing an SAS Captain in Who Dares Wins. His whole career seemed to be designed to land the James Bond role but it wasn't to be. Strongly considered for For Your Eyes Only, Collins later reflected on an awkward meeting with Cubby Broccoli that put paid to his chances. Not for the first time a deal was cut for Roger to return at the last minute. Michael Billington was also considered again. The Spy Who Loved Me pre-credit sequence offers an interesting glimpse of what a Billington James Bond would have been like. On his website the late actor wrote:

"I suppose my involvement began in the mid sixties when Bud Ornstein, then Head of Production at United Artists in Europe, saw me in late night theatre and asked me to meet with him at the U.A. Offices. He told me that he would get some photographs done and show them to Harry Saltzman.

Some weeks later I was called in for a Meeting by Dyson Lovell to meet with Peter Hunt for  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; but I believed from my ‘insider’ that they already had
George Lazenby under contract yet clearly hoped Connery would capitulate. When I saw a photograph of Lazenby I thought he had the perfect look for the role, so subsequently I put it out of my mind.

I didn’t hear anything again until about the time of Diamonds Are Forever, which was just opening I recall. I was filming a television series called U.F.O. when Harry Saltzman came to
see some footage from the filming, as he was planning to do Moonraker next and he was looking for some expertise with Special Effects. The Producer Sylvia Anderson, an
accomplished casting director herself, suggested I might be right to play Bond if it went ahead and I have to say that there was some evidence that the role of ‘Foster’ that I played might, with a little grooming, have served the part well.

It didn’t happen, so when I heard a year or two later that Cubby Broccoli wanted to meet me with the prospect of a Screen Test, I was somewhat surprised. I was having some success on British Television at the time but really wanted to do a quality movie. It seems he had seen a Publicity Photo Shoot of which the picture below was one. I felt the meeting went well and I liked Cubby as a person.

I think I did well on the test for Live And Let Die and liked Guy Hamilton, the Director. The scene was a specially written scene, which I played with an actress called Caroline Seymour.I heard from my Agent’s ‘Insider’ that there was going to be an offer made and there was some national press to that effect. When it was announced that Roger Moore was going to do it, I was stunned.

Time passed and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY was on the horizon. By this time the ‘usual suspects’ were gone. JOHN GLENN was at the helm; script by Richard Maibaum, close to retirement and Michael G. Wilson, a lawyer by profession. The sharp and witty Christopher Woods dialogue was, sadly no more. The troops were gathering to go to CORFU to begin filming but ROGER was being 'Coy'. I think the money was an issue. Cubby had me fitted out with Wardrobe and flew me to Corfu. We had a picture shoot.

OCTOPUSSY rolled around. Roger this time was being 'Extra Coy'. I tested once more with Deborah Sheldon and Susan Penhaligon but it was purely cosmetic. I didn’t feel John Glenn was ‘truly an actors’ director’. And anyway he seemed more secure with Roger so, in my view; he needed me and any other candidate for that matter, like acute pneumonia. And with all respect, Michael G. Wilson was not really a writer. And with all the will in the world, I couldn’t quite see myself, dressed as a Circus Clown clutching a Faberge Egg, and the finale with the ticking time bomb was in my view a resurrected dead turkey, so consequently I was uncharacteristically very, very nervous of the prospects.

I felt for a long time that Cubby wanted me to play Bond, but from my own point of View I think the Bonds lost something when Harry Saltzman left. I would have happily played the part quite well for Live and Let Die, for which I tested for director, Guy Hamilton, and The Man with the Golden Gun, for which I didn't test."

During For Your Eyes Only a young actor called Pierce Brosnan visited the set to see (his then) wife, Cassandra Harris, and Cubby Broccoli decided he may well have found the man to replace Roger Moore one day. Roger threatened to leave the role prior to Octopussy but returned, although not before the slightly bizarre prospect of 43 year old American actor James Brolin playing 007 was strongly considered to the point of screentests and Brolin seeking out a home in London. In 2003 a poster told this story on the Brit Movie Forum:

"About twenty odd years ago I was working near Pinewood and used to sneak in and use the canteen. Over a sunny week I watched James Brolin and Oliver Tobias do screen tests for James Bond. Directed, it looked like, by the stuntman Martin Grace. It involved beating up Clive Curtis on a lavish room set. 
Due to the hot weather, tables and chairs were out on the patio and the french windows of the bar opened out onto the garden. As I sat taking in the "life of the stars" with a coke and packet of dry roasted peanuts I noticed a lonely person sitting quietly under a Skol Lager brolly having a light ale. It was Oliver Tobias. After a while he was joined by a middle-aged lady with a metal cash box. The lady sat down opened the box a counted out sum cash. She gave him the money and he signed a page of foolscap. She then left. The whole thing took about a minute. He then got up went to the bar whare Martin Grace and the rest of the Crew were drinking and started chatting. I went past the restaurant and as I left I could see, through the window, James Brolin sitting with some suits having a meal."

In 1986 Roger Moore stood down and the search was on again. Popular American based Irishman Pierce Brosnan was straight out of the blocks first. His stunt double had been hired and actual footage of him doing a gunbarrel sequence was in the can when the producers of Remington Steele exercised an option in his contract and rather cruelly ended his 007 dream. Lambert Wilson and Mel Gibson (who claims to have turned he role down more than once) were considered although Timothy Dalton was out due to theatrical commitments. An Australian model called Finlay Light was strongly linked to the role but to this day no one is sure if such a person exists! Other potential Bonds included suave British actor Simon MacCorkindale, actor and model Anthony Hamilton and Neil Dickson. British actor Mark Greenstreet admitted testing for The Living Daylights in an interview with Terry Wogan. Eventually it was New Zealander Sam Neill who nearly bagged the part. His screentest went well and the television series Reilly, Ace Of Spies suggested he was capable of filling 007's shoes. However Broccoli was never completely sold on Neill and when Timothy Dalton unexpectedly became available again it was Dalton who was signed as Bond number four. Dalton would make two films and never quite catch on. He made Bond more human again but litigation between Eon and the studio made Licence To Kill a premature swansong for the fourth man to land the part.

When Timothy Dalton stood down in 1994 all eyes were on Pierce Brosnan again. Still only 41, Brosnan was now completely free to take the part and his recent run of tv films and duds suggested he needed Bond as much as Bond needed him. Screentests began again and a collection of British actors were brought in. These included Greg Wise, Mark Frankel (who sadly died in a motorcycle accident a few years later), James Purefoy, Jason Issacs, Nathaniel Parker, Sean Bean, Colin Wells and Jeremy Northam. Whether or not a young Clive Owen was amongst these candidates is a mystery to me. Some claim he was. Liam Neeson was another name floated around the project and Neeson was also linked to the abortive Mclory Warhead project in the same decade. In a 2000 interview in Boxing Monthly magazine former IBF Cruiserweight World Champion, sometime actor and Sky boxing pundit Glenn Mcrory spoke of reading for the part of James Bond in 1994. Ultimately the studio wanted Brosnan as the safest and most popular option. Barbara Broccoli according to some stories liked Sean Bean (who would win the part of 006 in the film) and apparently James Purefoy impressed everyone a great deal. Bean could have done Bond (watch the GoldenEye pre-credit sequence and pretend Bean is 007) but it is hard to see him having mass appeal over a number of films. Would Bean had jumpstarted the franchise? Doubtful. Brosnan was Bond and Bean was the villain.

Mark Frankel

Using the wonderful gift of hindsight we can look back at the search for a new James Bond for Casino Royale and name Daniel Craig, Sam Worthington, Alex O'Lachlan and Henry Cavill as actors who tested for the part. We can probably add Goran Visnjic to that list and British actor Dominic West has spoken openly of testing. James Purefoy spoke of meeting the producers again in 2005 to discuss the possibility of replacing Pierce Brosnan. New Zealand actors Antony Starr and Martin Henderson were both under consideration at some point as was the British actor Rupert Friend. There are more but how far they got is anyone's guess. Ewan Mcgregor's friend Charley Boorman let slip on their motorcycle travel programme that Mcgregor met with the Bond producers to discuss replacing Brosnan early in the casting process. Welsh actor Geraint Owen admitted to a newspaper that he made it through five auditions (for a possible 007 screentest) in the Casino Royale casting call. Irish actor Chris Feeney claims on his website to have made the final selections for the part in 2005. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers tested for the part earlier but did not feature in the final shake-up. Matthew Goode and Luke Mably were both leaked as early candidates being sized up for a 'young' Bond. Ioan Gruffudd was linked to the role in 2004 but appears not have tested or been seriously considered. Hugh Jackman and Clive Owen did not come into serious consideration for Casino Royale in the end (again anyone's guess if either were interested, approached or simply turned the part down) and Gerard Butler and Julian McMahon appear not to have tested with the final candidates. Was Steven Brand a candidate? Was Dougray Scott (who admitted talking to the producers about the role prior to Die Another Day) initially favoured but deemed a few years too old? Who was Ewan Stewart!? I have absolutely no idea.

Laurence Harvey

Finally, Kevin Mclory was keen on the suave sixties icon Laurence Harvey for a sixties remake of Thunderball which didn't happen. Joel Silver wanted to cast Mel Gibson as 007 when he attempted to buy the franchise in the early nineties and Orson Welles did not attempt to cast either Stanley Baker or Dirk Bogarde as Bond in a 1958 version of Moonraker because that was an internet hoax!
- Michael Cooper



c 2006 Alternative 007