Everyone now knows Daniel Craig but he had a crazy time getting in. And we can never forget about Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and Pierce Brosnan who played the part before him.
It’s a list of suave gentlemen. But, some might say that the list of actors who could have been James Bond is more interesting. There are always rumors about who could be the next Bond with pretty much every dashing male being named from Idris Elba to Harry Styles (really). These 16 actors were more than name drops. They had a real chance to play 007 but for one reason or another never got the guns, gadgets, or girls.
1. Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson is known for being in a lot of action/suspense films. So, it made sense that he was “courted” to be 007 in the mid-1990s. In an interview with Men’s Journal, the actor from Northern Ireland confirmed he was being considered, but he turned it down on the advice of then-girlfriend Natasha Richardson. She said he was going to “ruin his career” doing Bond following Schindler’s List and she wouldn’t marry him if he did the role.
2. Burt Reynolds
Many would likely have been in favor of Burt Reynolds and his mustache joining the Bond franchise. The actor was considered to fill the role after George Lazenby parted ways with the franchise, but Burt actually turned it down because he felt James Bond must be British and he was American. He later admitted he regretted the decision. “I think I could have done it well,” he reflected in 2015 to the Guardian. “In my stupidity, I said, ‘An American can’t play James Bond, it has to be an Englishman — Bond, James Bond. Nah, I can’t do it.’ Oops. Yeah, I could have done it.”
3. Henry Cavill
Henry Cavill was Superman but he could have been Bond first. The British actor was in the running for the role in 2005, which would have put him in direct competition with Daniel Craig. What’s more, rumor has it he was the preferred choice of Casino Royale director Martin Campbell. There appeared to be some tight competition, but in the end it was decided he was too young for the role. He was in his early 20s compared to a thirtysomething Daniel. Who knows what would have happened to the Superman part if he took the role 007?
4. Sean Bean
Lord Eddard Stark as 007? You better believe that it could have happened. Game of Thrones actor Sean Bean was reportedly considered twice to play the iconic secret agent. It’s thought he was considered for 1987’s The Living Daylights, which Timothy Dalton eventually got. In 1994, Sean was also in the running for the lead in Goldeneye, but this time he lost out to Pierce Brosnan. Things didn’t work out so bad because Sean did get cast in the latter film as villain Alec Trevelyan, aka agent 006.
5. Dominic West
English actor Dominic West is another one who could have been Bond. He auditioned in 2005 which is when Daniel Craig was the eventual replacement. There are reports that he heard Pierce Brosnan was returning to the role so he stepped back. In a 2005 interview he claimed he wasn’t “bothered” about the audition and actually said he found the franchise “cheesy” before Daniel came. He apparently showed up to his audition in an old T-shirt and jeans. But, in a 2016 interview he revealed he’d “love to be James Bond” but thought he was probably too old. Hmmmm.
6. Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon was in the running to be Bond along with George Lazenby in the Seventies. But, he didn’t think he was right for the role. In an interview with the Telegraph, he recalled the meeting with James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli . “I said I didn’t want the part because I’m not like [Bond]. I haven’t got nice hair and I’m a bit fat.” Cubby’s response? “Well, the present James Bond doesn’t have any hair … it’s a wig.” Michael still didn’t get the part, but he did go on to play icons like Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter and Winston Churchill in Churchill’s Secret.
7. Mel Gibson
Unsurprisingly, there have been a lot of Brits who have been close to playing the role of Bond. Here’s another American for you. Mel Gibson was a candidate during the 1987 hunt for 007 when Roger Moore retired. It was rumored Mel was put forth, but Cubby Broccoli rejected him because he wanted Bond to stay British. In a 2017 interview, Mel stated he turned down the role when he was offered it in his 20s but he “wasn’t interested.” He ended up doing Mad Max and Lethal Weapon and some would say they delivered plenty of action.
8. Cary Grant
Many would likely agree that Cary Grant would have been a brilliant Bond given that he oozed charisma and looked dashing in a suit. He was one of the first in the long history of 007 films to be considered for 1962’s Dr. No. The odds were stacked in his favor he would get the role because he was a favorite of Cubby Broccoli and was actually a friend of Bond author Ian Fleming. But, Cary felt he was getting too old at 58. He wanted to do one movie whereas the studio wanted a long term commitment. So, Sean Connery ended up in the film.
9. Ralph Fiennes
Yes, Ralph Fiennes has appeared in James Bond. Twice. He played Gareth Mallory/M in 2012’s Skyfall and the same character in 2015’s Spectre. The roles actually made his Bond journey come full circle considering he was one of the actors who was being put forth to be 007 in Goldeneye. In a 2014 Telegraph interview, he recalled the audition was great for him and producers but it didn’t end up going anywhere. He also didn’t feel ready to commit to the part.
10. Terence Stamp
If you were around in the 1960s, you will know that Terence Stamp was very popular. If you weren’t, now you know. His A-list status and the facts he was good-looking and British seemed to make him a worthy candidate to play 007. Terence was aware that Sean Connery left a big legacy with the role and knew people might have a hard time accepting a new actor. When he was gunning for the part, he told producers about how to get the audience used to a new 007. “In one of the books it starts with him disguised as a Japanese warrior,” Terence recounted what he said to producers to the Evening Standard. “If we could do that one, I could start the movie in complete Japanese makeup. By the time it came off they are used to me a little bit. I would love to do it like that.” Producer Harry Saltzman wasn’t impressed.
11. Clive Owen
Clive Owen is someone who frequently appears on potential Bond lists. What some people might not realize is that he was reportedly considered in 2005 after Pierce. It’s said he was rejected because of contract issues. He apparently wanted “gross profit points,” meaning he’d get a percentage of new Bond films. In some interviews, he’s claimed he was never offered the part…
12. Clint Eastwood
There are a lot of intriguing options on the list, but Clint Eastwood as James Bond might be the one that has people wondering “what if” the most. Similar to Burt Reynolds, Clint was approached in the ’70s and also felt very strongly that Bond must remain British. The legendary actor talked about being the one to follow Sean Connery. “I was offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role,” he stated in 2010. “But to me, well, that was somebody else’s gig. That’s Sean’s deal. It didn’t feel right for me to be doing it.” FYI: He also rejected the role of Superman.
13. Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor is another name you can add to the long list of actors who could have replaced Pierce Brosnan. He was hesitant to get involved in the project fearing typecasting and a long commitment with shooting and promotional tours. Given that he had just completed the Star Wars sequels, he had some idea of what could be involved. Interestingly, in 2015 the Scottish actor said it would be “quite cool” to do the role and is no longer worried about being typecast. For what it’s worth, there are petitions for him to be 007.
14. Sam Worthington
It’s another actor who lost to Daniel Craig. The British-born, Australia-raised actor was part of the line-up of potential dashing men to replace Pierce Brosnan. In 2011, post-Avatar Sam revealed that continuing franchises didn’t really excite him. “What intrigues me more is the chance to start my own franchise and put my own stamp on a character that is iconic rather than just jumping on something that is already established,” he told Australia’s Daily Telegraph. “I like the risk of getting my own one going.” He has been “tipped” to play Bond since 2005 a few times, but we all know that nothing has come of it.
15. Rupert Friend
And the people who lost out to Daniel Craig just keep on coming. There’s some debate whether Rupert Friend turned down the role or he was rejected, but one thing is clear: Daniel got the part and Rupert didn’t. Rup was later cast as a spy in Homeland, so we guess it’s not all bad, right?
16. Dick van Dyke
This is a surprising one. When Sean Connery wanted to break away from Bond after You Only Live Twice, Dick van Dyke‘s name came up. Yes, he of Mary Poppins, The Dick van Dyke Show and Diagnosis: Murder. It was 1967 and Dick has later claimed he was “offered” the part, despite the American actor revealing that Cubby Broccoli said, “Oh, that’s right — forget it!” after Dick brought up his “cockney” accent in Mary Poppins.