The Men Who Could Have Been Bond (Reloaded) - Part 1
THE 1950s BOND THAT NEVER WAS
were the candidates for the planned but never produced late 1950s Kevin
McClory/Ian Fleming Bond film? Who may have been the first movie James
Bond? Richard Burton's great nephew said in 2007 that his illustrious
relative once confided to him that Ian Fleming had asked in 1959 if he
would like to play James Bond in a film they were hoping to make. Memos
from Fleming confirm that he liked the concept of Richard Burton
playing his famous fictional spy and thought he would be terrific in
the role. Burton was in his early thirties at the time and about to
make Look Back in Anger.
passed on the offer and didn't see anything lucrative about a James
Bond film adaptation. He could not have guessed James Bond films would
be so popular. Curiously, in his diaries, Burton wrote that he enjoyed
reading Ian Fleming's Bond books and commented that although Bond was
an anti-hero he was strangely likeable. He appeared to be a fan. It
seems very likely that Burton's take on Bond would have been less
tongue-in-cheek than that which evolved in the Broccoli and Saltzman
films. Despite the Bond series becoming a cultural and financial
phenomenon in the sixties, Burton never expressed any regret (although
several years later he took a lead role in the classic action film
Where Eagles Dare because of a desire to do some 'super hero stuff' as
a contrast to his usual parts).
is inevitable that Cary Grant's name would have been floated in
conversations regarding an actor capable of playing James Bond in the
late 1950s. At this time Grant was still handsome and very spry in
North By Northwest - in many ways the prototype film for the Bond
series. Grant was even British (many assume he was American because he
lived there for so long). If this early Bond film had gone into
production it is possible that Grant might have been offered the part
(especially if Alfred Hitchcock was involved, as was possible at the
time) but his age (he was nearing his sixtieth birthday) and the money
needed to get him would have complicated matters.
most unlikely contender was James Stewart but memos reveal that Fleming
was willing to accept Stewart if it was the only way to get Hitchcock.
It's not easy to see the very American Jimmy Stewart as James Bond. At
the time, Stewart had just made Vertigo and while he would have brought
style and elegance to the part he was - like Cary Grant - a little on
the old side to be the actor who represents our first characterisation
of James Bond in the cinema.
Bogarde was a heartthrob in the 1950s, under contract to Rank, and
capable of light comedy and leading man roles. He was handsome and very
popular with audiences through the 'Doctor' series of comedy films.
McClory considered Bogarde as one possibility for his planned Bond
epic. Bogarde was about 38 at the time and a busy actor who seemed
happy to do most of the films that came his way. Later in his career he
became more esoteric in his choice of parts.
biggest obstacle to casting Bogarde would probably have been his fee.
Though Lewis Gilbert once commented that Bogarde was a fine actor but
too fey for Bond, he was capable of darker roles and playing villains
and was an intelligence officer in the army during the war. A few years
later Bogarde gave one of his finest performances in the landmark
British drama Victim. Bogarde later appeared in some spy films designed
to cash in on the success of the Sean Connery Bonds. Hot Enough for
June (retitled Agent 8¾ in the United States) and Modesty Blaise. In
1975 he starred with future Bond Timothy Dalton in the spy thriller
Permission to Kill. It's more than possible that Bogarde would have
done a 1950s Bond as a one off but it's hard to see him in a series of
Bond films having the same effect or appeal as Sean Connery did later
A few years before his first
breakout roles, Richard Harris was also considered by fellow Irishman
McClory as a potential Bond for the planned film. Harris had only just
made his film debut and was mostly a stage actor at this time. Like
Richard Burton, his Bond would have been less laid back and more
intense than the one established by Sean Connery in the decade that
followed. Harris might have been a controversial selection for Bond in
hindsight given his hell raising drunken reputation and apparent
support for the IRA (although he later retracted this and campaigned
against their foreign fundraising). Harris endured some fallow periods
as an actor after a bright start but a renaissance later in his career
(including most famously two Harry Potter films) was deserved for
someone of his talent.
Finch, the English born Australian actor, was someone Rank had tried
desperately to turn into a big star. Finch preferred London to
Hollywood and this probably stifled his options and fame. He was a
respected actor and later won a posthumous Oscar for Network. He was
one of the actors under consideration for the proposed late fifties
Bond film and it was Fleming who suggested him. Finch was in his early
forties at the time and quite handsome in a distinguished mature
looking way. A few years later Finch would star with future Bond Roger
Moore in The Sins of Rachel Cade.
Howard (fondly regarded by cinemagoers for Brief Encounter) was another
actor considered for this terminated first Bond adventure but memos
from Fleming reveal he was very never convinced by this suggestion and
felt that Howard was too old to play his literary hero. Howard seemed
more like an actor to play M rather than James Bond. He was nonetheless
a name that came up again when they were searching for 007 in Dr No.
Northern Irish actor Terence Cooper claimed to have been in contention
to portray Bond in McClory's never to be produced epic. Cooper later
played one of the 007 codenamed agents in the 1967 comedy version of
Casino Royale. Cooper, an imposing looking actor, was said to be
greatly annoyed when Casino Royale turned out to be a spoof with his
scenes cut down into a minor part.
Shakespearean actor Richard Johnson was the first choice of director
Terence Young to be the original cinema version of James Bond. Johnson
was suave, a commanding presence, and a competent actor. At a mature
looking 34 he seemed about the right age. The producers were happy with
Young's choice and asked Johnson if he would take the part. However,
Johnson, who was about to enjoy one of his most famous roles as Dr John
Markway in The Haunting, turned down the invitation to be the first man
to portray Ian Fleming's hero in a feature film because he disliked the
long term contract he would have to sign. In an interview many years
later, he reflected on why he made the decision to pass on James Bond.
"The producers, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, asked me - at
Terence Young's instigation - and I turned the job down. I was under
contract to MGM anyway, so that gave me a reasonable excuse to say no,
because they told me I'd have to be under exclusive contract to them
for seven years. Eventually they offered it to Sean Connery, who was
completely wrong for the part. But in getting the wrong man they got
the right man, because it turned the thing on its head and he made it
funny. And that's what propelled it to success."
passed on a chance to be James Bond it was curious that Johnson's film
career for the rest of the 1960s revolved around inferior James Bond
clones and copycats. He played a more modern James Bondish version of
Bulldog Drummond in Deadlier Than the Male and Some Girls Do and a spy
named Jonas Wilde in the forgotten Amicus film Danger Route. Johnson's
career seemed to mostly consist of horror films in the seventies and he
never became a big star but he was respected for his stage
performances, worked often in television, and appeared in major movies
like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Tomb Raider in the latter part
of his career.
well known at the time for his role as the spy John Drake in the
television series Danger Man, was another actor high on the shortlist
of potential James Bonds. The producers were very interested and he
would have been a very popular and interesting choice. But McGoohan,
who was strongly religious, decided not to pursue the part on moral
grounds. “I thought there was too much emphasis on sex and violence,”
McGoohan explained, a few years after turning down the role. “It has an
insidious and powerful influence on children. Would you like your son
to grow up like James Bond? Since I hold these views strongly as an
individual and parent I didn’t see how I could contribute to the very
things to which I objected.” Several years later, McGoohan marvelously
played imprisoned spy Number Six in the cult sci-fi spy series The
Prisoner and showed what a potentially great James Bond he might have
Australian actor Rod Taylor, riding high at the time after his lead
role in the fantastic cult film The Time Machine, was an obvious person
to consider for James Bond in the early sixties. Taylor was in his
early thirties, square jawed, handsome, and had a likeable screen
presence as well as an ability to be be physical. However, Taylor
didn't really understand the potential of James Bond and declined Cubby
Broccoli's offer of a screen test. Taylor later made light of this
error of judgment in an interview in the 1980s. "Producer Cubby
Broccoli wanted me to screen test for James Bond when he was preparing
Dr No in 1961. I refused because I thought it was beneath me. I didn't
think Bond would be successful in the movies. That was one of the
greatest mistakes of my career! Every time a new Bond picture became a
smash hit, I tore out my hair. Cubby and I have laughed about it ever
since." Taylor's career seemed to nosedive after the 1960s so that Bond
money would have come in handy. In 1965 he played John Gardner's Brian
"Boysie" Oakes in The Liquidator with future Bond girl Jill St John.
his autobiography, Cubby Broccoli named James Fox as one of the actors
who was considered for Dr No. According to Broccoli, Fox was approached
but declined for the same moral reasons as Patrick McGoohan. This
sounds odd as Fox went on to star in the controversial cult film
Performance with Mick Jagger. Fox is an interesting name to have in the
shake-up for the part of 007 in Dr No as he would have been in his
early twenties at the time and had yet to enjoy any breakout roles. He
was a child actor in a couple of 1950 films and about to take a small
part in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. It's possible that
the producers or Fleming knew the Fox family (famous for producing
actors and people in related professions) and the fact that James Fox
had been in the Coldstream Guards wouldn't have harmed his appeal.
legend Cary Grant was another actor sounded out of the producers.
Grant, as we have mentioned, had also been considered for the scrapped
late fifties Bond film. Despite his age, Grant was still a suave man
and certainly looked good in a tuxedo. Having such a big star attached
would have been a boost to the financing and promotion. Last but not
least, Grant was a friend of Cubby Broccoli and had been the best man
at his wedding. If anyone had the inside track on the part it was Cary
Grant. However, Grant would only agree to a contract for one film and
so the producers decided to look elsewhere for their 007 actor.
Clearly, they needed a more long term solution to their James Bond
Having failed to
entice Cary Grant, the producers turned to his North By Northwest
co-star James Mason. The urbane Mason had been acting since the 1930s
and played everyone from Rommel to Captain Nemo. Around this time he
was set for the part of Humbert Humbert in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita.
Mason was good looking and talented. The only drawback was Mason being
in his early fifties. Regardless, Mason was offered a three picture
contract to become the first James Bond but baulked at the long term
commitment required to play the part. Mason would only agree to sign
for two pictures at most and so a deal was not agreed. It is said that
Ian Fleming was a big advocate of Mason and would have been happy for
him to take the role. Mason was nearly a Bond villain years later but
lost the part of Hugo Drax in Moonraker to Michael Lonsdale when the
production moved to France and a quota of French actors had to be cast.
Underdown was a distinguished looking actor with roles that included
They Were Not Divided, Beat the Devil, Wings of the Morning, and The
Rainbow Jacket. Ian Fleming was said to be a fan and named him as a
possible candidate. However, Undertown was in his fifties when Dr No
was being planned and his age was probably the main factor in him not
becoming a viable contender. He looked his age more than many of the
other more mature candidates. Underdown later played an Air Vice
Marshal in Thunderball.
Hendry, a talented though troubled actor who battled drink problems
during his career, was apparently considered as a potential 007 at this
time. Hendry was about 30 years old and starring as Dr David Keel in
the first series of The Avengers. His film appearances included Sink
the Bismarck! Fine actor though he was, Hendry doesn't seem quite right
for Bond. He died far too young but his seventies horror film roles
(Tales from the Crypt, Theatre of Blood, Captain Kronos - Vampire
Hunter) secured him a sort of cult status.
Burton, considered by Fleming and McClory for their aborted film,
attracted interest again when it came to casting the part in Dr No. In
his memoir Cubby Broccoli names Burton as someone they discussed and -
as we have already noted - Fleming liked the idea of Burton playing
James Bond. Clearly though, Burton's interest in the part was not
sufficient for him to ever be a serious contender.
Moore would become Bond in the early 1970s but Broccoli mentions him in
his autobiography as someone who was on a long shortlist for the part
in Dr No. Around this time Moore had been based in Hollywood for most
of his career and made supporting appearances in films for MGM and
Warners. He acted in Diane with Lana Turner and starred in Gold of the
Seven Saints with Clint Walker around the time they were looking for
the first James Bond. Roger's television series The Saint would begin
in 1962. Broccoli felt that at this stage of his career Moore, who was
34, was a little too 'young and pretty' for the role. Roger claimed
that he was never approached for Dr No and had no knowledge that he was
apparently being discussed by the powers that be at the time. It is
often said that Ian Fleming was agreeable to Roger Moore playing James
It is always suggested that
David Niven was one of Fleming's choices for the part of Bond in Dr No.
If nothing else, the dapper English actor would have conveyed Bond's
love of the high life convincingly. In his memoir, Cubby Broccoli named
Niven as one of the actors who was under consideration. Like several
candidates, it was Niven's age more than anything that went against
him. He was already in his fifties when Dr No was being planned. Niven
later played James Bond in the overblown 1967 comedy Casino Royale.
Niven wasn't exactly known for his physicality so it's hard to see him
playing the character in the manner that Sean Connery did. His Bond
would have felt more patrician.
star of The Dam Busters, Richard Todd is often claimed to have been the
first choice of Ian Fleming to play Bond in Dr No. Scheduling
commitments are said to have prevented him from taking the interest any
further. It is possible that Todd might have been given the part if he
was available. One can see how Todd, a 42 year old former soldier known
for his heroic roles in war films, might have appealed to Fleming
around this time. Todd - with his deep theatrical voice - would have
been a solid very much of the time choice, albeit one lacking the
charisma and sardonic charm that Connery brought to the table.
Anthony was a 28-year-old model who won a Daily Express competition to
find the perfect Bond. Saltzman, Broccoli and Fleming were amongst the
judges. Anthony was given a screen test on the back of the competition
and there was speculation that the producers had found their Bond.
However, it appears that it was decided to widen the net in terms of
the search and so Anthony's lack of acting experience went against him.
Anthony claims he later tested for Diamonds Are Forever when George
Lazenby left the role. Anthony looks the part in some noir stills of
him from the era.
in later years to become known as the comedy voice announcer on Channel
4, was noted by the Daily Express as an actor that Broccoli was planing
to test in an article at the time. Allen was already an experienced
actor with credits including I Was Monty's Double and Never Take Sweets
from a Stranger. It doesn't appear that Allen's name got far up the
shortlist but he was at least discussed.
Craig is another actor named in the Express article as someone who
Broccoli planned to test. Craig was in his early thirties and known for
films like Yield To the Night with Diana Dors. Craig sort of replaced
Dirk Bogarde as the male lead in the last 'Doctor' film (a series of
British comedies set in hospitals) and was seen as someone who could
potentially be a star. Craig seemed to be an emerging leading man in
the sixties but his career faltered in the seventies. Horror fans might
recognise him from the Amicus compendium film Vault of Horror.
2004, Stanley Baker's widow claimed that he had been offered the part
of James Bond before it was given to Sean Connery. The Welsh actor, who
would become legendary for his lead role as Lieutenant John Chard in
the classic war film Zulu, had worked with Cubby Broccoli before so
there was credibility to the claim. Baker apparently declined the part
because he was reluctant to sign a three film contract. He didn't want
to be locked into a single role (which at the time no one could have
anticipated would be as successful as it was in the end).
seems to be a recurring pattern. Richard Johnson and James Mason also
declined the role because they didn't to be contracted to a series of
films. Baker might have regretted his decision to reject James Bond in
hindsight as he ran into money troubles in the 1970s after his
dabblings in the business side of the industry were hit by a stock
market crash and a decline in domestic film production. "My dad had to
accept any and everything to keep the companies afloat," said his son.
"Doing staggeringly-bad stuff like Popsy Pop, which was an
Italian–Venezuelan co-production and A Lizard in a Woman's Skin [both
1971] – a movie which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. At the
slowest period, Stanley still had a payroll of at least 100 in his
employ. So it was, 'Here we go – take the money, make this trash,
hopefully no one will ever see it.' Famous last words."
American bodybuilder and 'swords and sandals' star Steve Reeves claimed
he turned down an offer to play James Bond in Dr No because the salary
was far too low for his liking. Reeves was a big star of sorts so it
isn't inconceivable that he was someone who flew across the radar of
the producers. He was making $250,000 per Hercules film so wouldn't
have been cheap. Reeves also claimed to have turned down the nameless
cowboy part in A Fistful of Dollars before it was taken by Clint
Rex Harrison is
often said to have been one of the names floated for the part of Bond
in Dr No. Like David Niven though, he was a little on the old side
(Harrison was about 53 at the time) to be starting out as Bond and it's
hard to see a Rex Harrison Bond being very convincing in fight scenes
and action man stunt mayhem. Harrison was also (allegedly) a difficult
man to get along with on a film set. Perhaps it was for all these very
reasons that his name did not go to the end of the casting process.
he became a film director, John Frankenheimer said that as a budding
young actor he was asked by the Bond producers to test for the part of
James Bond in Dr No. Apocryphal? Maybe. He was though tall and very
athletic from playing a lot of tennis so it's possible that he
encountered someone from Eon or the studio and they liked the look of
Broccoli named Trevor Howard
as someone who was discussed when they were in the early stages of Dr
No but it appears an open secret that Ian Fleming wasn't too enthused
by Howard, mainly on the grounds of his age. There does seem to be an
inconsistency with Fleming regarding the age of actors. It appears he
was never completely sold on Howard whereas he might have been more
accommodating to older actors if he liked them more, or could picture
them as Bond.
Well known for
romantic adventurer roles, Stewart Granger was said to be on Fleming's
personal shortlist. But Granger (born in 1913) was yet another actor
rather on the old side to be starting out as James Bond. He later
featured in The Wild Geese with Roger Moore.
immortal for his brilliant performance as nutty ventriloquist Maxwell
Frere in the classic Ealing compendium horror film Dead of Night,
Michael Redgrave was another actor named by Cubby Broccoli in his
memoirs as someone who was discussed when they were casting Bond in Dr
No. Like so many actors who might have made a good Bond a decade or so
earlier his age must have counted against him.
Franklyn is another actor often cited as a potential Bond at this time.
Franklyn appeared in some Hammer productions but later became best
known for voicing the "Schhh... You Know Who" adverts for Schweppes
from 1965 to 1973. Franklyn doesn't seem to have got as close to the
part as some of the other Dr No contenders. In 1965 he acted in the
Morecambe and Wise Bond spoof The Intelligence Men.
Baker was considered for Bond during the Dr No casting frenzy but was
tied to another studio and unavailable. He later played Sir Hilary Bray
in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and dubbed George Lazenby in the
Alpine scenes. He was also in You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who
Loved Me. The producers clearly liked Baker and enjoyed working
with him. Years later Baker became part of the furniture for British
television viewers playing Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
fashionable sixties icon Terence Stamp, star of films like Far from the
Madding Crowd and The Collector, had dinner with Harry Saltzman to
discuss taking over from Sean Connery. Stamp was British, handsome, a
fine actor. He seemed to tick most of the right boxes. The interest in
Stamp as a potential 007 went no further than the dinner thanks to
Stamp's eccentric take on the character. “I was taken out to dinner by
Harry Saltzman and he put it out there that he’d be interested in me
doing it. I was flattered, but felt so self-conscious because Sean had
been so successful, so identified with it. I said to Harry: ‘Let’s do
the one where Bond is disguised as a Japanese. I’d play the whole film
in the disguised make-up and at the very end, you see it’s me!' I
thought this very unusual idea would get over the self-consciousness of
there suddenly being a different 007. Needless to say, I never heard
from him again!"
Roy Thinnes, the
star of the TV show The invaders, is said to have been thought of as a
potential new Bond at this time. Thinnes made Journey to the Far Side
of the Sun for Thunderbirds supremo Gerry Anderson in London and the
Bond team would have sized him up - if they hadn't already. The
handsome Thinnes was about 30 at the time. He does not appear to have
been a serious contender in the final equation.
Caine is often reported to have been a candidate to take over from
Connery. Caine had his own spy franchise in the 1960s with the Harry
Palmer series - also produced by Harry Saltzman. It is believed that
Michael Caine dodged any flicker of interest in him becoming James Bond
because he didn't want to be typecast. Perhaps he didn't feel the part
was right for him. Another factor that would have made it unlikely is
that he was a good friend of Sean Connery. It would be understandable
if Caine hadn't relished the prospect of taking over a part so closely
identified with his pal.
John Bingham (7th Earl of Lucan) - commonly known as Lord Lucan - was a
British peer suspected of murder who disappeared in 1974. It remains a
great unsolved mystery. In the 1960´s Lucan became a regular gambler
and an early member of John Aspinall’s Clermont gaming club, located in
Berkeley Square. It was here that he met Ian Fleming. The upper-crust
Lucan, who even owned an Aston Martin, was - it is presumed -
recommended by the Bond author as a potential 007. However, Lucan is
said to have declined the offer of a screen test around the time they
were having to replace Sean Connery. Why did Lucan decline the chance?
In September 1966 he unsuccessfully screen tested for a part in Woman
Times Seven starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine. This rejection
seemed to convince him that he wasn't meant to be an actor.
boss David Picker had the bizarre suggestion of Australian tennis ace
John Newcombe becoming the new Bond. "What an interesting idea:
terrific looking tennis player to become movie star." This
'interesting' idea obviously didn't get very far.
alternative to Connery in terms of screen presence seemed to be rising
star Oliver Reed. Though on the pudgy side, he had the acting chops to
make an interesting Bond if in shape, although Reed would have been
risky and a brave piece of casting. "Oliver Reed was very near the top
of the list,” Cubby Broccoli said in a later interview. “Lazenby was an
unknown. We could mould Lazenby into the public perception of James
Bond, into the kind of Bond we knew the fans wanted. With Oliver Reed
we would have had a far greater problem. Oliver already had a public
image; he was well known and working hard at making himself even better
known. We would have had to destroy that image and rebuild Oliver Reed
as James Bond – and we just didn’t have the time or the money.” There
are stories that Reed was in line for a screen test before a drunken
fight made the producers decide to forget about him. They didn't need
the aggravation and bad publicity that Reed seemed to generate.
Pilon was a Canadian-born actor, later known for his role in Dallas as
Naldo Marchetta. Pilon was considered for On Her Majesty's Secret
Service but deemed too young. He was apparently later considered as a
replacement for Roger Moore in the early 1980s.
Purves was later famous as a presenter on children's show Blue Peter.
But Purves first became known to television audiences in 1965 as Steven
Taylor, one of the early time-travelling companions in Doctor Who, when
the Doctor was played by William Hartnell. Purves says that as a young
actor he unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of James Bond when Sean
Was chat show host
Simon Dee really asked to test for Bond? Here is the bfi website:
"Simon Dee was television's man of moment, and his prime time BBC talk
show, Dee Time , was the very epitome of Britain in the late Sixties.
An average audience of 17 million viewers tuned in each week to see
this Sixties swinger in his trademark white suit, and anyone who was
anyone wanted to be interviewed by him. As well as being the original
cool and trendy man about town, he was also the first British presenter
truly to master the art of the live television chat show, and the first
to make it seem completely natural. His charisma and screen presence
were beyond question (so much so that he was even asked to audition for
the part of James Bond in 1969), and many historians of popular culture
maintain that Simon Dee was the real Austin Powers." Dee acted in
Doctor in Trouble and The Italian Job before his career took a nosedive
in the seventies and he fell on hard times.
Mower, a familiar fixture on British television for decades with his
rakish charm and dimpled chin, claims he tested for Bond numerous times
at various junctures in the franchise. The first of which, according to
Mower, was for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. "I was the first person
to be told Sean wasn't returning to the role. Sean was a super, super
star. Back then he was God. I couldn't believe it when the producers
called me in and asked if I'd like to do it. I was 28. They tested me
as they thought I was too young. And I did, too. I mean, Sean was a man
and I still saw myself as a little boy."
that there seems to be no one in the world who doesn't claim Cubby
Broccoli once asked them to be James Bond we have the comedian and
actor Dick Van Dyke - who says he was approached in the late sixties.
Van Dyke pointed out his famous appalling English accent, to which
Broccoli said: "Oh, that's right - forget it!"
Dalton first came to the attention of the producers through his role in
the film The Lion in Winter and his promising stage work. However,
Dalton felt that at twenty-four he was too young to play Bond. He would
get his chance a few decades later. “When Sean Connerty gave up the
role. I guess I, alongside quite a few other actors, was approached
about the possibility of playing the part. That was for OHMSS. I was
very flattered, but I think anybody would have been off their head to
have taken over from Connery. I was also too young. Bond should be a
man in his mid-30s, at least - a mature adult who has been around.”
journalist Peter Snow, later to become an eccentric fixture on British
election nights with his comic Swingometer antics, claims he was asked
to test for On Her Majesty's Secret Service but was deemed too tall. 'I
was asked to audition for James Bond, but I was so tall they'd have to
put the girls on soapboxes. Later on people said I’d have made a good
Ian Richardson, who was
perhaps best known for his role many years later as the Machiavellian
Tory politician Francis Urquhart in the BBC's House of Cards, is often
reported to have been one of the actors involved in auditions for On
Her Majesty's Secret Service. Richardson was in his thirties at the
time and known for stage work. Years later he made a very good Sherlock
Patrick Mower said that
when he had an interview for Bond, Anthony Valentine was one of the
other actors waiting to go in for a chat. Valentine was a prolific
television actor and later narrated some James Bond audio books. He
made his name in the late sixties on television as psychopathic Toby
Meres in Callan with Edward Woodwood.
director Paul Annett, who knew Broccoli and Saltzman quite well, said
in an interview many years later that Tom Adams was always auditioning
for Bond. In the sixties, Adams starred as the lead of a film series
featuring a low budget imitation James Bond named Charles Vine in three
films - beginning with Licensed to Kill (aka The Second Best Secret
Agent in the Whole Wide World, 1965) and the sequels Where the Bullets
Fly (1966) and Somebody's Stolen Our Russian Spy (aka "O.K.
Yevtushenko" 1967). Adams was rugged with a sixties male model look. If
he did audition more than once he may have also been considered for the
early seventies Bonds. Around the time they were looking for Connery's
replacement for the first time Adams would have been about 30 so it
seems feasible that he was considered for On Her Majesty's Secret
Service. His role as Vine in the Bond pastiches might not have endeared
him to Eon.
On Her Majesty's
Secret Service seems to be the first time that Ian Ogilvy, then a young
actor known for his appearances in horror films, was apparently linked
to the part. Olgilvy would also be linked again in the eighties. For
the record, Ogilvy has stated that he was never tested or approached
about playing Bond. While there was no official contact it sounds crazy
to think that he never appeared on a list of potential Bond actors at
some point in his career. Ogilvy would go on to take over the role of
Simon Templar from Roger Moore in The Saint.
Moore said in an interview for the book The Incredible World of 007
that he was approached to take over as Bond before it was offered to
George Lazenby. "At that time they were talking about going to
Cambodia, and all hell broke loose and things got postponed. Lew Grade
decided to sell a series Tony Curtis and I did - The Persuaders - which
sort of precluded me from doing Bond. Then they had the search and came
up with George Lazenby."
Warbeck. Star of European action and horror exploitation cheapies, he
had only television credits at this stage in his career. Warbeck, a New
Zealander, claimed in his memoir that he tested for Bond more than once
and was on the Eon payroll as a reserve 007, ready to step in if they
needed someone quickly. "All that froth going on," said Warbeck of On
Her Majesty's Secret Service. "They were seeing everybody. I went along
just to meet the director and sort of argued with them that I was quite
wrong. But when I heard the blokes that were going for it I thought,
well, why not me? No, I was still too young.”
Jones. Yes, Tom Jones. The man who sang the Thunderball song. "When I
was young I would have liked to be James Bond, and at one time it was
discussed," he revealed in 2010. "I think it came from Cubby Broccoli,
who was the man in charge, of course, and he said when my name was put
forward, 'Tom Jones is so recognisable as Tom Jones - he's a character,
he's become this singer with a big character. So in order for him to do
James Bond, would people accept him as being James Bond? Could they get
past him being Tom Jones?' - and so apparently that was what the
problem was." Quite.
George Fountas claimed he tested for On Her Majesty's Secret Service
and was liked by the producers but wasn't given enough time to make his
English good enough to be comfortable taking the part.
actor Eric Braeden, already becoming a famous face on American
television at the time, attracted the interest of Cubby Broccoli as a
potential James Bond as they scrambled around looking for that right
person to tackle the daunting task of stepping into Sean Connery's
shoes. However, Broccoli had wrongly assumed that Braeden was British.
When he found out Braeden was German he lost interest.
Rogers was becoming a modestly familiar face through television roles
like that of a 'Sensorite' in Doctor Who and an appearance in The
Avengers. Screen roles in El Dorado with John Wayne and musical Camelot
with Richard Harris helped to get him a screen test as one of the final
five candidates to play Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Many
years later, still photographs of the final five candidates testing to
replace Connery were released and Rogers appeared slightly out of
place, looking more like Jon Pertwee than James Bond. Rogers seemed to
drop off the face of the planet after his failed Bond audition. He
didn't do anything else.
aspiring American actor named Robert Campbell also tested for the part.
Campbell was the less famous brother of the prolific television actor
William Campbell. Campbell resembles Pierce Brosnan in some of the Time
Magazine OHMSS audition stills. He clearly had the Bond look but it
seems they were not too convinced by his acting prowess.
De Vries, another of the final five candidates, played a control room
technician in You Only Live Twice. His other credits included Doctor
Who (of course), the Saltzman produced Harry Palmer film Billion Dollar
Brain, and the Sean Connery vehicle Shalako. The serious looking De
Vries tested with actress France Anglade and - from the stills - looks
sort of Bondian. De Vries seems to have vanished soon after and his
acting credits end in the early seventies. It appears that the actors
who tested with George Lazenby were cursed with a rapid fall into
obscurity. Even Lazenby was not immune to this (although that was
mostly his own fault).
actor John Richardson began his career with small roles in British
movies at the end of the 1950s. His biggest breakthrough was as the
Rock Tribe hunter Tomak in Hammer's silly but fun and ambitious caveman
epic One Million Years B.C. The film is best known for Raquel Welch's
supermodel cavegirl with a fur-skin bikini and fake eyelashes.
Richardson was one of the final five candidates and presented the
stiffest competition to Lazenby. Richardson looked like he'd need
bulking up and might require Sean Connery's old toupee but he was a
handsome twinkle eyed actor. Richardson didn't quite disappear into
oblivion like the other On Her Majesty's Secret Service candidates and
made a lot of low budget Italian films before becoming a photographer.
But clearly, missing out on 007 nixed any chance Richardson had of
becoming a star.
Billington came closer to playing James Bond without getting the part
than anyone. He tested for Live and Let Die and was on standby during
For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy (in case of a deal with Roger Moore
falling through at the last hour). On Her Majesty's Secret Service was
his first brush with potential Bond duty. "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."