If it for the current world news we would probably have found out who the next James Bond was going to be this year. By now, we’d either have seen or been about to see Daniel Craig’s final performance as 007 in ‘No Time To Die,’ and the attention of the entertainment press would have switched to the small question of who comes next.
Unfortunately, the world had other ideas which has essentially called a halt to almost every form of entertainment, and we now won’t be seeing the new Bond movie until November this year. The producers of the movies won’t want to take attention away from the film when it eventually launches, and so it’s likely that it will be early 2021 before we find out who the next Bond is. We’ve waited for this long, so we suppose we can wait a little longer.
Most of us who follow movie news are aware of who the likely contenders are. Tom Hiddleston, Richard Madden, Tom Hardy, and Aidan Turner are all in the frame. We also know who isn’t in the frame – anybody female. Barbara Broccoli has gone on record to say that James Bond will always be male so long as she’s alive. That’s despite the fact that a female Bond figure has proven to be a success at online slots websites, where ‘Agent Jane Blonde’ is a hugely popular title. In fact, so many people played and enjoyed the ‘Agent Jane Blonde’ casino slots that a sequel was released last year. We suppose that success in the world of online slots doesn’t necessarily translate into success at the box office.
With all this talk of who the new Bond might be and who might miss out, it got us thinking about actors who nearly became Bond in the past. How different might the movies have been if one of these names had picked up a ‘License to Kill’ instead of the actors we’ve seen in the part thus far?
Back in the early years of this century, the producers of the Bond films were looking to replace the outgoing Piers Brosnan with a new man – and preferably a younger man. ‘Casino Royale’ had been decided upon as the next 007 film, and as it provides an origin and a backstory for the character, it offered an opportunity to choose the youngest Bond actor of all time. At one point, Henry Cavill was believed to be among the frontrunners for the role. When ‘Casino Royale’ was released in 2005, he would have been just 22 years old. Ultimately the producers decided that 22 was just too young, and then they opted to abandon the ‘young Bond’ idea altogether and go with then-37-year-old Daniel Craig. The rejection didn’t do Cavill’s career any harm – he went on to play Superman multiple times on the big screen instead.
Paul McGann is arguably the more accomplished and gifted of all the McGann brothers who’ve made a career out of acting. There would be no argument whatsoever if he’d managed to add a further distinction to his career by playing James Bond – but he missed out by the narrowest of margins. The Liverpool-born actor impressed producers at his audition, but MGM ultimately decided that Piers Brosnan would be a bigger draw at the box office in 1995. The following year, McGann became the 8th Doctor Who instead. He’s still a highly-respected television actor to this day, but the biggest movie success of his career remains 1987’s ‘Withnail & I.’ He’d likely have been a more charming and gentle Bond than Brosnan, but we never got the chance to find out.
As hard as it is to believe that Australian Hollywood superstar Mel Gibson could have been James Bond, we came very close to seeing it happen during the 1980s. When Roger Moore finally stopped playing the part of Bond (arguably two films too late), MGM wanted to bring in an up-and-coming star, and at the time, Gibson fit the bill perfectly. If the studio had their way he’d have landed the part and we’d all be living in a world where Gibson had played 007 in two or three films – but Albert R. Broccoli was insistent that the part had to to to a British actor, and the studio eventually relented.
The producers of the Bond series had big problems in 1969. Sean Connery wanted no more to do with the part, and they were struggling to find an outstanding candidate to replace him. George Lazenby eventually got the part and played Bond for the first and last time in ‘On her Majesty’s Secret Service,’ but it could so easily have been Oliver Reed. The legendary British actor’s pedigree as a performer was well known, and his presence would have been ideal for the role. Unfortunately, his off-screen conduct was the last thing MGM wanted to be dealing with. As much as they respected his talents, MGM ultimately decided that Reed was too big a risk and went with Lazenby as a ‘safer choice.’ It’s safe to say that they lived to regret that.
As one of the best-known British actors of all time, it’s perhaps a surprise that Michael Caine has never played James Bond. He wasn’t overlooked for the part – he just didn’t want it. 1969 wasn’t Sean Connery’s first attempt to abandon the role he feared becoming typecast for – he wanted out before 1967’s ‘You Only Live Twice,’ too. When he did, Michael Caine was sounded out about stepping into his shoes, but he turned Cubby Broccoli down. Caine had already played a spy on the silver screen several times in the Harry Palmer series of movies, and he didn’t want to go straight from one spy role to another because he, like Connery, feared typecasting. Ultimately the producers were able to persuade Connery to return to the part – a trick they were able to repeat a second time in 1971 for ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ after the unsuccessful George Lazenby experiment.
Of the five names listed, we’d have to say that Mel Gibson would have been the most shocking choice – but we’ll always be a little sad that we never got to see Oliver Reed giving us his take on a suave, debonair secret agent. We wonder whether the next choice will be as bold?