15 Famous Actors Who Almost Played James Bond
Love it or hate it but James Bond is the longest-running and one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time, starting back in the 1960s and lasting till these days. Since he first appeared on the big screen back in 1962 in Dr. No, Bond was a big hit with the audience and was played by many different actors during the years.
But before we take a look who were the actors that almost played James Bond, let’s answer a couple of questions like who were the actors who did play James Bond, who was the first actor to portray 007 and which actor has played James Bond the most.
Table of content:
- Who Was The First Actor To Play James Bond?
- Which actor has played James Bond the most?
- Actors Who’ve Played James Bond In Movies
- 15 Famous Actors Who Almost Played James Bond
Who Was The First Actor To Play James Bond?
The answer to this question seems like an easy one, but did you know that Sean Connery wasn’t the first actor who played James Bond? Although many are crediting Connery as the first actor that played 007, actually the first actor to portray James Bond was an American actor Barry Nelson (The Shining).
He played James Bond in 1954 in TV show Climax! in a episode based on Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale. Same novel was adapted two more times, first as an unofficial Bond movie in 1967 with David Niven, which was more of a parody, and than in 2006 as the first Bond movie with Daniel Craig (which is, by the way, the best Bond movie in the series).
So, yes, Sean Connery was the first actor to portray 007 on the big screen, but not the first actor who played Bond.
Which actor has played James Bond the most?
The answer to this question is not that simple. It depends – some will say, Roger Moore, while others Roger Moore and Sean Connery.
You see, most movies in the James Bond series were produced by Eon Productions and they are considered as a part of Bond cannon. There were 24 movies in total produced by Eon Productions with 25th, No Time To Die, set to arrive this November. And there were two unofficial Bond movies that aren’t part of the cannon – Casino Royale in 1967 with David Niven and Never Say Never Again in 1983 with Sean Connery. The first one was more of a parody and a really bad movie and personally I don’t count it as part of the James Bond franchise.
Never Say Never Again is a different story. Filmed during the Roger Moore era, Never Say Never Again is a remake of Thunderball. Kevin McClory, one of the original writers of the Thunderball, retained the filming rights of the novel after a long legal battle and in 1983 Never Say Never Again was released by Warner Bros. Connery was brought from retirement and although at 52 he was too old for this role, he was still 3 years younger than Roger Moore. So I count it as part of Bond series as it is based on original Ian Flemming’s novel and it has original Bond actor, Sean Connery, in the lead role.
Roger Moore played James Bond in 7 movies while Sean Connery played Bond also seven times but, in 6 official Bond movies produced by Eon Productions and in one unofficial Bond movie. So answer to the question depends on a fact do you count Never Say Never Again as part of Bond series.
Actors Who’ve Played James Bond In Movies
As I already said I don’t count Casino Royale from 1967 as a Bond movie, so that’s a reason David Niven isn’t on this list. There were six different actors that portrayed James Bond on the big screen – Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
Sean Connery – played Bond from 1962-1967, and then in 1971, and 1983
Scottish actor Sean Connery was born on August 25, 1930, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is considered by many as the best actor who portrayed James Bond. In my opinion, he was an excellent Bond as he had the looks, charm, and cool for the role, while at the same time he was witty and dangerous and convincing as a capable spy and a killer. Sean Connery played Bond seven times – in 6 official Bond movies produced by Eon Productions and in one unofficial Bond movie.
Initially, Connery played Bond in 5 movies from 1962 till 1967. He left after finishing You Only Live Twice in 1967 and the role of 007 was inherited by George Lazenby who played Bond only once in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Connery returned in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever, which was the worst Bond movie in history, and then again in 1983 for an unofficial Bond movie, called Never Say Never Again, which was basically a remake of Thunderball.
Sean Connery’s James Bond movies
- Dr. No (1962)
- From Russia With Love (1963)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Thunderball (1965)
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
George Lazenby – played Bond in 1969
Producers hired unknown Australian model George Lazenby as Connery’s successor for a next Bond adventure, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This was Lazenby’s only turn as 007 and although he’s not a particularly good actor and no Sean Connery, he wasn’t that bad as 007. At least he was better than his successor Roger Moore.
George Lazenby’s James Bond movies
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Roger Moore – played Bond from 1973-1985
English actor Roger Moore played James Bond in seven movies. Although many liked his version of 007, I was never his fan because he is completely unconvincing in the role. I mean, give him a wig and put a little makeup on him and the guy looks like someone’s aunt. He doesn’t have the looks or the charm for the role of 007, nor is he witty. He also isn’t cool and doesn’t have the physique for the role of a dangerous and capable spy. And even in his first 007 adventure, at the age of 46, Moore was too old for the role.
He was the first English actor to portray 007 as Connery was Scottish and Lazenby was an Australian actor.
Roger Moore’s James Bond movies
- Live And Let Die (1973)
- The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
- The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- Moonraker (1979)
- For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- Octopussy (1983)
- A View To Kill (1985)
Timothy Dalton – played Bond from 1987-1989
Timothy Dalton was offered the role of 007 a couple of times during the years before he accepted to star in The Living Daylights. Dalton is maybe not as charismatic and charming as Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan and leaves that “poor’s man James Bond” impression, but he’s a certainly better actor than Lazenby and more convincing and dangerous than Roger Moore.
He’s not the best actor that played James Bond but it’s definitely not the worst either and his Bond is one of the closest interpretations of 007 from Ian Fleming’s novels. He played 007 only two times.
Timothy Dalton’s James Bond movies
- The Living Daylights (1987)
- Licence To Kill (1989)
Pierce Brosnan – played Bond from 1995-2002
Pierce Brosnan was offered the role of James Bond back in 1986 for The Living Daylights but had to turn it down. His first big-screen adventure as 007 was GoldenEye in 1995.
Pierce Brosnan was born for the role of 007 and with Sean Connery and Daniel Craig is the best actor who portrayed James Bond. He had the looks and physique for the role, he was charming, witty, charismatic, and confident. It’s too bad his last adventure as 007 was awful Die Another Day which is one of the worst entries in the series. Brosnan played Bond four times from 1995 till 2002.
Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond movies
- GoldenEye (1995)
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
- The World Is Not Enough (1999)
- Die Another Day (2002)
Daniel Craig – played Bond from 2006-2020
When producers picked English actor Daniel Craig for the role of 007, fans were furious, threatening to boycott the film as blond Craig didn’t fit the image of the dark, charming, handsome, and charismatic man like James Bond.
Many were skeptical but in the end, Craig is one of the best actors who played James Bond. Yes, he’s not a dark and handsome man and he doesn’t have a face for 007 as he looks more like a Vladimir than James. But Craig is a good actor, and he has charisma and charm for the role. He has the physique and is the most convincing of all actors as a dangerous spy and a killer.
Craig played Bond four times and although he said that he’d never return to the role, he agreed to do one more movie, No Time To Die, which will be released this November.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies
- Casino Royale (2006)
- Quantum Of Solace (2008)
- Skyfall (2012)
- Spectre (2015)
- No Time To Die (2020)
15 Famous Actors Who Almost Played James Bond
Over the 50 years since 007 first appeared on the big screen there were many actors who have been considered for the role. For most actors to be offered a role of 007 is one of the most sought-after gigs which they would accept immediately but for some actors that offer wasn’t that tempting as they were afraid of being typecast in this kind of roles. So there were some actors who’ve turned the role down and some who auditioned for the part and didn’t get it.
Even some actors that played James Bond in the end, at first refused the offer – Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan were offered the role at least a decade before taking it. Dalton was offered the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), but he felt he was too young for the role (he was 24 at the time). Soon after, he was offered the role of 007 again in 1973 (Live and Let Die), but he didn’t want to be viewed as the actor who replaced Sean Connery. He was offered the role once more in 1979 but turned the role down as he did not like the direction the series was taking. Dalton eventually accepted the offer in 1986 for The Living Daylights. Pierce Brosnan, who played Bond four times between 1995 and 2002, was chosen for the role of 007 back in 1986 for The Living Daylights, but had to turn down the role because the show Remington Steele, in which Brosnan played the lead role, had been renewed. The role then went to Dalton and Brosnan made his debut as 007 in 1995 in GoldenEye.
So, from a very long list of actors, let’s take a look at 15 famous actors who were almost cast as James Bond and were serious contenders.
One of the biggest movie stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s, Australian actor (Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Ransom, Gallipoli, Signs) and director (Braveheart, Apocalypto, The Passion of the Christ) Mel Gibson, was considered for the role of 007 in 1987 for The Living Daylights as studio MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) wanted him for the role, but was rejected by producer Albert. R. Broccoli for not being British.
Gibson was considered once more in 1995 for Goldeneye but had to turn the role down as he was busy working on Braveheart (which he directed and played the lead role).
Legendary American actor (Dirty Harry, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Outlaw Josey Wales, In the Line of Fire, Gran Torino) and director (Unforgiven, A Perfect World, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, American Sniper) Clint Eastwood was approached in 1970 after Sean Connery quit the character. In the end Eastwood refused the offer because it didn’t feel right as he thought that Bond should be played by British actor. In one interview Eastwood said “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.”.
Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, Boogie Nights, The Cannonball Run) was offered a role of 007 in the 1970 for Diamonds Are Forever but, although he thought he would do a good job, turned it down as he was afraid that Bond fans wouldn’t accept an American in the role. In the end Sean Connery returned once more and played 007 last time if you don’t count Never Say Never Again in 1983.
In 1994 Irish actor Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Rob Roy, Taken, The Grey, Darkman) was offered the role of James Bond, but he turned it down as he didn’t want to be typecast as an action hero. He was also told by his late wife Natasha Richardson, and then a fiance, that she wouldn’t married him if he took the role. But as we all know, later in his career, Neeson changed opinion about action movies starring in films like Taken trilogy, Unknown, Non-Stop or The Commuter pioneering the geriaction subgenre (geriaction is a term used to describe a genre of action films starring aging actors and actresses).
One of the best actors of his generation, Oscar winner (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for The Fighter) and Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Christian Bale (American Psycho, Equilibrium, Prestige, Empire of the Sun, The Machinist, Vice, Ford v Ferrari, The Dark Knight) was approached in 2005 for the role of 007 in Casino Royale but turned it down as he didn’t want to take on another hero-type role after playing Batman and considered the franchise “very British” and that he had “already played a serial killer” in American Psycho.
Clive Owen (Children of Men, Sin City, Shoot ‘Em Up, Inside Man) was considered for the role of 007 back in 2005 for Casino Royale and nearly got the part but in the end lost the role to Daniel Craig because he couldn’t agree on a salary package as producers were unwilling to provide gross profit points which Owen demanded to take the role of next Bond.
Legendary actor Michael Caine (The Italian Job, The Man Who Would Be King, The Dark Knight, The Eagle Has Landed, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Children of Men, Harry Brown) was offered the role in 1967 but refused it as he previously starred in the three spy films (as Harry Palmer) and he was concerned about being typecast in spy roles.
Talented Scottish actor Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, The Ghost Writer, Fargo, Moulin Rouge, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) was offered the role of Bond for Casino Royale in 2005 but he turned it down as he was afraid that he would be typecast as an action hero. McGregor has since changed his mind, having admitted that if he were offered the role again, he’d be interested to take the part as at this stage in his career being typecast is not really an issue anymore.
Another big name considered to take over the role of 007 from Pierce Brosnan in 2005 for Casino Royale was Australian actor Hugh Jackman (Logan, X-Men, X2: X-Men United, The Prestige, Les Misérables, Prisoners, The Greatest Showman). Jackman turned the role down for multiple reasons mainly because he didn’t have time to commit to two major franchises as he was already starring in the X-Men movies as Wolverine. He also didn’t want to be typecast as an action hero and at that time, watching Brosnan’s Bond movies, he was not impressed with the direction the series was taking.
Irish-born New Zealand actor Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Event Horizon, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) impressed producers on audition in 1986 for The Living Daylights but in the end lost out to Timothy Dalton. As we wrote earlier Pierce Brosnan was first choice for the role of 007 for The Living Daylights but had to turn down the role because the show Remington Steele, in which Brosnan played the lead role, had been renewed.
Hollywood legend Cary Grant (North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, Charade ), an English-born American actor, known as one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men was offered a role of 007 back in 1961 when James Bond was first brought to the big screen (Dr No). He refused as he felt he was too old (Grant was 58 at the time) and wasn’t willing to commit to more than one or two movies. The role wen to Sean Connery and the rest became history.
One more actor who played famous DC superhero, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, The Witcher, Justice League, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) was considered for James Bond back in 2005 for Casino Royale and was actually one of the director Martin Campbell’s top choices. In the end the producers chose to offer the role to Daniel Craig as Cavill was deemed too young (he was at 22 years old in 2005). Instead, Cavill ended up playing a darker version of Superman in the Zack Snyder reboot Man of Steel. Who knows, after Daniel Craig departures from the role, maybe Cavill will get another chance as he was one of the top choices for Casino Royale and has expressed interest in recent years about potentially becoming James Bond.
Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Ronin, Patriot Games) auditioned for the role of James Bond twice – in 1987 for The Living Daylights but lost to Timothy Dalton (Bean was the second choice for EON) and in 1994 for Goldeneye but lost to Pierce Brosnan. He ended being cast as supporting character playing Bond’s villain Alec Trevelyan / 006 in GoldenEye (1995).
English actor Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List, Quiz Show, The English Patient, The Constant Gardener, Harry Potter franchise, In Bruges) was actually considered twice for the role. First in 1994 for Goldeneye but producers felt he wasn’t a big enough star and then in 2004 for Casino Royale. Same as Sean Bean, in the end he was cast as supporting character playing M in Daniel Craig Bond movies after the death of Judi Dench’s M at the end of Skyfall,
Back in the 1983 Roger Moore wanted to exit the series to search for other opportunities so producers were looking for his replacement.James Brolin (The Amityville Horror, Westworld, Traffic, Hotel), father of Josh Brolin and husband of Barbra Streisand, screen-tested for the role of James Bond for 1983’s Octopussy and was a serious contender for the role. But when it seemed it was a done deal producers ruled him out when Roger Moore agreed to reprise the role. For the producers and the studio it was important to win Moore back as the production of a rival Bond movie (Never Say Never Again) starring Sean Connery was under way, and they were afraid to release a new Bond movie with new actor in the same year when original 007 was returning to the role. In the end, in 1983 two James Bond movies were released and although both of them were hits, Moore’s Octopussy earned more money than Connery’s Never Say Never Again.
- Best James Bond Movies: All Movies Ranked From Worst To Best
- James Bond Girls With Funniest Names
- Funniest James Bond Disguises