EON, the company that controls the film rights to James Bond, has recast the role several times, for the most part very successfully. But with a character that’s been in movies for over 50 years, the producers have several times had to consider hiring actors to replace the current Bond only to renew a contract with the existing actor or have successfully hired those we know as Bond: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. We’re only talking about the “official” James Bond films but here are the top ten (out of almost 50) who came close to playing 007 on the big screen, listed in chronological order of when they auditioned:
10) Dick van Dyke, 1967
Talk about wrong for the role. 1967 was the last film on Sean Connery’s original contract so the producers were looking for someone to take over. Somehow this American sitcom actor did not end up as Bond. Why? Because his cartoony English accent (which we can all see in Mary Poppins) was rejected for not being accurate. I guarantee this would’ve killed Bond movies at the time.
9) Terence Stamp, 1967
Now Terence Stamp could absolutely have pulled off the brutality of James Bond mixed with suave Englishman. His charisma has been on display from Superman through The Limey. But according to Stamp, the ideas he pitched to producer Harry Saltzman were just too radical and he blew his chance. Stamp wanted to start the film in complete Japanese makeup disguise (as used in You Only Live Twice) and let the audience get used to a new actor that way. The role ultimately went to Australian model George Lazenby and he could have continued but opted not to after just one movie.
8) Roger Green, 1970
Who? Roger Green was one of MANY who screen tested for James Bond in 1970. Lazenby had opted out and the producers needed a new guy. Green was a New Zealand rugby player who had fallen into acting and auditioned with 10 other guys on one day and was the only one to survive the cuts. He may have been the number one alternate but EON was able to convince Connery to come back for one more film as Bond instead.
7) TIE: Clint Eastwood, Adam West and Burt Reynolds
In 1970, the producers cast a WIDE net trying to find their new Bond and looked at these three American actors. All three claim they were offered the role but declined because they felt Bond should be British. Maybe so, but a squint, awkward pauses or a mustache would have been a pretty far out way to go for James Bond!
6) James Brolin, 1983
Here’s another absolutely bizzaro choice. James Brolin was screen-tested as Bond in 1983 when Roger Moore had decided he was getting too old for the part. But then Sean Connery signed up to play James Bond in Never Say Never Again, for a rival studio that had the right to remake Thunderball. EON decided they couldn’t risk using a new actor as James Bond and potentially lose the whole audience so Roger Moore was given a big payday to come back for Octopussy. An American as Bond is just wrong.
5) Sam Neill, 1986
After Roger Moore filmed yet another movie, A View to a Kill, which didn’t do as well as previous entries, EON knew it had to recast Bond. They looked at a number of actors, including Pierce Brosnan, but he was tied up with Remington Steele when NBC realized he might be cast as Bond. Timothy Dalton had also been an option the producers wanted but at the time Dalton was obligated to film Brenda Starr. One actor the producers really liked was Sam Neill who had impressed them in Reilly, Ace of Spies. Ultimately, Dalton was able to get enough time to agree to do Bond so he was selected instead. Neill went on to make Jurassic Park several years later and become famous through that.
4) Christopher Lambert, 1987
The producers weren’t sure about Dalton and looked at a number of other actors around this time including Christopher Lambert. At the time, he wasn’t very well known in the U.S. with Highlander only a cult hit. The producers also decided he had too strong a French accent. He went on to make The Sicilian and a bunch of low-budget sci-fi films until the end of time.
3) Paul McGann, 1994
The man who went on to be the 8th Doctor Who allegedly impressed producers with his audition and was one of their top choices but the film production company MGM which was financing the film wanted to go with Pierce Brosnan. It is believed that if Brosnan had elected not to be Bond, McGann would have been the choice. McGann went on to be in Alien3 and a lot of acclaimed British television.
2) Henry Cavill, 2005
The producers decided to actually reboot James Bond for 2006’s Casino Royale. Prior to that, even though Bond was recast, supposedly it was all in the same continuity. While Daniel Craig was ultimately selected, Henry Cavill was actually director Martin Campbell’s top choice but Cavill was not selected due to his young age. Cavill instead became Superman.
1) Clive Owen, 2005
Clive Owen has the right look and bearing for Bond and was the right age at the time, but took himself out of contention for the role when he asked for gross profit points, a common practice for marquee actors. It’s a form of getting paid more if the movie is a hit. Basically, he was priced out of the game.