Almost Doesn’t Count

Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, and More Actors Who Almost Played James Bond (PHOTOS)

Liam Neeson? Cary Grant? A look at the thespians who nearly introduced themselves as “Bond, James Bond.”

AP Photo (5); Getty Images (top left)

AP Photo (5); Getty Images (top left)

Sean Connery? Daniel Craig? Timothy Dalton? George Lazenby? (OK, maybe not him.) Everyone has their own opinion on which hunky actor best filled out 007’s suave suit, or most devastatingly quipped the indelible introduction: “Bond, James Bond.” But could Mel Gibson have measured up? How would have Michael Caine wielded the gun? From Cary Grant to Clint Eastwood, here’s a look at some of the stars who almost had their shot at preferring their martinis “shaken, not stirred.”

Chris Pizzello / AP Photo

Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson proved with his own hit action franchise that he can be lethal and knows his way around a weapon. So the dashing Aussie seemed a logical choice to play Bond—except for one crucial fault. He was too short. The height elitist? Producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. “At one point Mel Gibson wanted to play Bond. And Cubby was against it. Cubby first of all had a thing about tall people. Bond had to be tall. And so Mel Gibson was too short," said Bond screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. “Somebody at (film studio) United Artists said to me, ‘Call him and tell him Mel Gibson would be great.’ And Cubby said, ‘I don't want to make a Mel Gibson movie, I want to make a James Bond movie.’”

Jeff Christensen / AP Photo

James Brolin

Mr. Barbra Streisand reportedly screen tested to play Bond when Roger Moore was dropping hints that he wanted to hang up his spy suit. Unfortunately for Brolin, Moore ultimately decided to continue on with the franchise.

Matt Sayles / AP Photo

Clint Eastwood

Credit Clint Eastwood with having a canny sense of awareness. When he was offered Bond after the success of Dirty Harry, he told producers that 007 needed to be played by a Brit.

Valerie Macon, AFP / Getty Images

Sam Neill

Of all the actors who almost played Bond, Sam Neill may have actually been the closest. The Jurassic Park actor was the frontrunner to star in The Living Daylights after Pierce Brosnan couldn’t get out of his commitment to Remington Steele to take on the part (Brosnan, of course, eventually played Bond in several films). Neill screen tested for the part, but eventually lost out to Timothy Dalton, who himself was considered for 007 when he was younger, but was passed over for looking too boyish.

Ian Gavan

Michael Gambon

Before endearing himself to a new generation as Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, Michael Gambon was among 10 predominantly stage actors considered to replace George Lazenby’s failed Bond. Gambon passed on the part—though with a sense of humor. He said he was too “bald, had a double chin, and had girls’s tits.” Producers responded to the self-deprecating note with equal wit: “so has Sean Connery, we just put a wig on him.”

AP Photo

Michael Caine

You can thank Michael Caine for the George Lazenby catastrophe. The actor was hired for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when Caine first passed on the part.

Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill may be donning Superman’s red cape for the upcoming new spin on the superhero, but the actor had a frustrating previous track record of almost donning various other spandex uniforms and inhabiting iconic franchise leads. Cavill was among the final group of actors considered for Batman Begins, Edward Cullen in Twilight, Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (he must really hate Robert Pattinson), Superman in a never-off-the-ground film by McG, and, before Daniel Craig signed on, James Bond in Casino Royale.

AP Photo

Cary Grant

Ian Fleming was reportedly inspired to write Bond after watching Cary Grant’s performance in Notorious. But when the actor was offered the part in the film adaptation of Fleming’s novels, Grant, then 59 years old, had the wisdom to call himself too old for the project, and turned it down.

Katy Winn / AP Photo

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson’s unlikely status as one of the box office’s top action stars is a little ironic, as the actor was reportedly offered Goldeneye, but turned it down because he didn’t want to star in action films.

AP Photo

Rex Harrison

Dolittle, Dr. Dolittle. After Sean Connery’s uber-cool characterization of Bond, it seems almost silly that the Doctor Dolitle and My Fair Lady star was considered for the first film. But Rex Harrison was on the shortlist.

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

David Niven

How perfect did Ian Fleming think the sophisticated Brit was for Bond? The writer name-checked David Niven twice in his 007 novels, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. Producers, however, thought he was too old, and conversations moved on to other actors.

Getty Images

Richard Burton

Two of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s most bankable stars were first floated as potential Bonds. Alfred Hitchcock was in talks to shepherd Ian Fleming’s agent hero to the big screen with Jimmy Stewart in the lead. However, when the legendary director jumped ship, so did his celluloid star. Talks then moved on to Richard Burton, who Fleming himself wrote “would be by far the best James Bond.” Burton passed, though, dismissing what would be one of the most successful franchises of all time as “just another movie.”

Alastair Grant / AP Photo

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes appears in the upcoming Skyfall, but he’s flirted with Bond before. Fresh off his Oscar-nominated turn in Schindler’s List, he was among the top choices to reinvigorate the franchise in Goldeneye. Ultimately, the role went to Pierce Brosnan.

Lefteris Pitarakis / AP Photo

Clive Owen

It’s hard to imagine considering how indelible his take on the role has become, but Daniel Craig was originally a fairly divisive choice to play Bond in Casino Royale. The actor with far more support for the role? Clive Owen, who, understandably, topped many fans’ shortlists and was reportedly considered by producers to play 007—though Owen denies he was ever seriously up for the role.

Matt Sayles / AP Photo

Julian McMahon

Is it bad luck to publicly campaign for a role? Nip/Tuck hunk Julian McMahon may argue so. The actor spoke openly about being in the final round of thesps considered for Bond in Casino Royale, saying, “I met the producers for a final audition. They told me to expect a decision in a couple of months. It’s going to be a very nervous wait.” Of course, we all know how that wait ended: with Daniel Craig emerging from the surf in a tiny blue Speedo—and McMahon likely weeping.

CBS / Landov

Susan Hayward

A female Bond? It almost happened. When Fleming’s character was being adapted for the big screen, screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr., thought Bond was lame, and thought the fix was to make him Jane, not James. “Frankly, we thought that James Bond was kind of unbelievable and, as I recall, even kind of stupid,” he said. “So we thought the solution was to make Bond a woman, ‘Jane Bond,’ if you will. There was even a plan to cast Susan Hayward in the role.”