9 Actors Who Turned Down Playing James Bond

Updated on August 28, 2019
Rachel M Johnson profile image

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.

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Arguably one of the most coveted and iconic roles an actor can ever vie for, James Bond has appeared in 26 films (24 with Eon Productions) spanning nearly six decades. We know the many famous faces who've portrayed the super spy, but what about those who have passed on the role? Here are 9 actors that turned down playing James Bond.

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Richard Burton

Year Considered: 1959, 1961, 1968

Welsh actor Richard Burton was in the early stages of his epic film career when he was approached by Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, to portray the lead in film adaption. Fleming was looking for someone dark and brooding and believed the up-and-coming Burton to be the perfect fit. The actor was apprehensive of risking an "unproven concept" and was not convinced the character would translate on screen. Burton also had a high salary demand that could not be met, and ultimately decided to pass on the role.

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Cary Grant

Year Considered: 1961

Famous for being classic Hollywood's favorite leading man, Cary Grant appeared to be the perfect candidate to portray James Bond. He was handsome and debonair, and Ian Fleming even favored him for the role. Grant was also close friends with the producer of the film, Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli. The only problem? The seasoned actor believed he was a bit too old to be playing the spy, being in his late 50s at the time. Grant also only wanted to commit to one feature film, but producers were seeking someone who would be part of the franchise. The production had no choice but to move on.

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Burt Reynolds

Year Considered: 1970

Though no American has ever starred in the role of James Bond, there were a few candidates who came awfully close. It may be somewhat surprising to learn that Burt Reynolds was one of these possibilities. Producer Albert R. Broccoli had reached out to the Gunsmoke actor to see if he wanted to take over the character from Sean Connery. Reynolds turned down the part, having said, "An American can't play James Bond. It just can't be done." Years later the late actor reflected on his decision, having said, "I think I could have done it well. In my stupidity, I said, 'An American can't play Bond, it has to be an Englishman--Bond, James Bond. Nah, I can't do it.' Oops. Yeah, i could have done it."

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Clint Eastwood

Year Considered: 1970

Another American leading man that was a top contender for the role of James Bond was the iconic Clint Eastwood. The Dirty Harry star was approached after Sean Connery quit the character, but denied the role due to strongly believing that Bond should be British. It seems that both Eastwood and Reynolds were apprehensive being American and playing a beloved English character. The talented director and actor remains adamant he made the right choice, as he was once quoted of saying, "I thought James Bond should be British. I am of British descent but by that same token, I thought that it should be more of the culture there and also, it was not my thing."

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Adam West

Year Considered: 1970

The original Caped Crusader Adam West was known for his role as Batman in the 1960s television series. The American actor was considered for portraying James Bond for the film Diamonds Are Forever, but like the other Americans approached West felt the iconic character should be British. He ended up turning the role down. Burt Ward, who portrayed loyal sidekick Robin in the TV series, recently expressed his thoughts on West's decision to say no. "I think he would have been great, he would have been fabulous. He would have been closer, in my opinion, to Sean Connery, even than Roger Moore. Sean has more of that satirical twinkle in his eye."

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Sir Michael Gambon

Year Considered: 1970

Albus Dumbledore as James Bond? It may sound wild but it almost happened! Irish born actor Sir Michael Gambon was one of the many actors in the running to take over for Sean Connery (before he eventually returned). Gambon argued with producer Albert R. Broccoli that he simply wasn't fit enough for the role. The Harry Potter actor recalled, "I said, I can't play James Bond, because I'm bald, I've got a double chin and I've got girl's t*ts." The actor simply felt he did not have good enough looks to play Bond and essentially took himself out of the running.

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Liam Neeson

Year Considered: 1994

Irish actor Liam Neeson is known for starring in action films, appearing in hits like the Taken series, The Grey and The Commuter, as well as Schindler's List and Star Wars. Interestingly, the actor was a front runner to become the new James Bond but was apprehensive because he didn't want to be typecast as an action hero. He was also told by his then fiance, late wife Natasha Richardson that, "'If you play James Bond we're not getting married.' And I had to take that on board because I did want to marry her." Apparently it was a pretty easy decision to make for the actor!

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Ewan McGregor

Year Considered: 2005

After Pierce Brosnan completed his tenure as James Bond, there were many actors vying to lock down the role. The Scottish Ewan McGregor was among the serious contenders for the character, but he too feared being typecast and worried it would take over his career. The actor once expressed, "With Star Wars, we did a three-month shoot and a couple of weeks of pick-ups so it wasn't an enormous involvement. But with Bond, I suppose it's a much longer shoot and there's a massive amount of publicity. I would worry about not being able to do any other work." McGregor has since changed his tune, having recently revealed, "I think it would be quite cool to play James Bond. At this stage in my career (being typecast) is not really an issue anymore."

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Hugh Jackman

Year Considered: 2005

Australian mega-star and X-Men actor Hugh Jackman was also a big contender to take over James Bond from Pierce Brosnan. There were multiple reasons why Jackman ultimately declined the part, primarily because he wanted to avoid being pigeonholded in just action roles. The actor was also not impressed with the direction producers wanted James Bond to go in, having once said, "I just felt at the time that the scripts had become so unbelievable and crazy, and I felt like they needed to become grittier and real."

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    © 2019 Rachel M Johnson

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        Jacqueline G Rozell 

        2 weeks ago

        Though Sean Connery is iconic as James Bond because he was the first and played the character for so long, my favorite is Pierce Brosnan. That man was so cool, so sexy, my husband at the time was actually jealous of my major crush on Brosnan. I had had a crush on the actor from his Remington Steele days and was so gratified for him when he finally was allowed to take the role.

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