You’d think taking on the mantle of suave super-spy James Bond would be a dream opportunity for most actors – but for some, it was easy not to get shaken or stirred about the prospect.
For many actors, the opportunity to play James Bond is almost impossible to turn down. Not only does it guarantee an ascent into superstardom and pop-culture lore, but it would also mean portraying the ultimate action-man movie role: gun in hand, Bond girl on your arm, Aston Martins and all matter of cool-spy gadgets at your disposal, and a gnarly villain to defeat in order to save the world…
The opportunity to play James Bond is not for every actor, though, with the commitment needed for a multi-picture deal; the very hands-on approach by producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson; and the constant comparisons to Bonds of the past, far outweighing the pros.
Here are the actors who said “no thanks” to playing Bond, James Bond.
Irish actor Liam Neeson recently revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that producer Barbara Broccoli approached him about taking on the role of James Bond after Timothy Dalton departed from the film franchise.
“I know the Broccolis,” Neeson said, adding that “they looked at a bunch of actors. Schindler’s List had come out and Barbara had called me a couple of times to ask if I was interested, and I said, ‘Yes, I would be interested.’”
Neeson would end up turning down the role, though, when his then-fiancée (now late wife) Natasha Richardson gave Neeson an ultimatum: “If you play James Bond, we’re not getting married.”
“And she meant it! Come on, there’s all those gorgeous girls in various countries getting into bed and getting out of bed. I’m sure a lot of her decision-making was based on that!”Liam Neeson
Neeson would go on to become an action star in his own right with his roles in the Taken films, The A-Team, and Unknown.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman spoke about how he took his name out of consideration when the producers of the James Bond series were looking for a new actor to headline the next film.
During a 2018 interview on The Howard Stern Show, Jackman said of his Bond experience: “I got a call from my agent saying they are interested in you for Bond and wanted to know if it was something you’re interested in… They were canvasing six or seven people, and at the time I was like ‘well, I’ve got X-Men, and I know there will be an X-Men 2.’”
Jackman would go on to seek the advice of fellow Antipodean actor Russell Crowe: “I actually rang Russell and said ‘Mate, what do you think I should do?’”
“He said to me: ‘Make sure you know the direction that it is going in, because if you say yes to that and it works, you’ve got X-Men and Bond. So, you want to make sure you are doing something you really love.’”Hugh Jackman on his chat with Russell Crowe
When Jackman could not get any clarity as to who will direct the new Bond film, or what creative approach the series would take, he refused to commit to the role. Jackman instead would go on to create his own action-man legacy as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise.
Oscar-winning director and Mad Max star Mel Gibson had been offered the role of James Bond when he was working on the Peter Weir movie The Year of Living Dangerously, which was released in 1982.
In an interview with JoBlo last year, Gibson said of the 007 offer: “I got offered the James Bond movies when I was like 26, which is like 40 years ago, okay? And they said: ‘Hey, we want you to be the next James Bond’.”
“And I thought about it; I was in Australia, I was working with Peter Weir. And I did think about it, and I sort of turned it down, for that reason. Because I thought, look what happened to poor Sean [Connery], he got stuck there for like three decades.”Mel Gibson
While the fear of being typecast in the Bond role was a deal breaker for Gibson, turning down the role didn’t harm his career with the Mad Max franchise, the Lethal Weapon films, and eventually becoming an award-winning director on Braveheart and Hacksaw Ridge, resulted in a career at the top of the Hollywood food chain.
British actor Clive Owen was the hot favourite to play the role of James Bond before Daniel Craig snagged the role. One of the rising actors of the mid-2000s, it was Owen’s role in the 1998 crime film Croupier that had many salivating at the prospect of Owen taking over the Bond role from then-outgoing actor Pierce Brosnan.
For Owen, however, the idea of playing James Bond was one that had limited appeal. In an interview with Glamour, Owen said: “Playing James Bond would have been like entering a golden prison, and I doubt that would have suited me.”
“I may be the only actor who consistently said, ‘No, no and no’. I never understood what I would have been able to add to the role, or how I could play a character who has already been defined in the past. For me, Sean Connery is the real James Bond.”Clive Owen
Owen would go on to have a successful career with acclaimed performances in Children of Men and Closer (for which he received an Oscar nomination), but he never had that franchise action-man role that shot him to movie stardom.
In a case of truth is stranger than fiction, Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood was once actually approached to take on the role of James Bond after Sean Connery left the franchise.
In an interview with the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog, Eastwood said: “I was also offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role. This was after Sean Connery left. My lawyer represented the Broccolis [who produce the Bond franchise] and he came and said, ‘They would love to have you’.”
“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.”Clint Eastwood
Eastwood, of course, would go on to headline the Dirty Harry movies and continue his dominance as a western star in films such as High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales, before winning Oscars as a director with The Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.