No Time To Die was more than just another James Bond film. It was the conclusion of one of the greatest runs in the franchise’s history. There were real connective tissues between all five films in the Daniel Craig era of 007. No Time To Die was essentially the Avengers: Endgame of Craig’s run, and concluded the thematic journey that began back in 2006 with Casino Royale. It served as a great farewell to Craig, and honored how he had reinvented the character with his darker interpretation.
However, the precedent that Craig established has certainly left the franchises with big shoes to fill. Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli stated that the next film is unlikely to begin filming until 2024. There will definitely be a lot of time and consideration dedicated to finding Craig’s replacement. The question of, “Who should be the next James Bond?” never goes away, but the pressure is on Broccoli to get the next casting right.
Craig was just one of many great Bonds. There have been several times throughout the franchise’s history where someone else could have been cast. Each Bond casting announcement comes after a long period of speculation and debate among fans. These actors nearly landed the role of Bond.
Outside of the classic 007, Sean Connery, there aren’t a lot of movie stars in history that were as inherently charismatic as Cary Grant. Grant’s magnetism made him a favorite of the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock and Grant worked together on several espionage films, including North by Northwest, Suspicion, To Catch A Thiefand Notorious. However, Grant nearly landed the role of cinema’s greatest spy. He had been approached by Dr. No director Terrence Young about starring as 007 in the first cinematic entry. However, Grant was hesitant about signing a multi-film deal. While it would have been interesting to see Grant in the role, Young cited him as an inspiration when he was directing Dr. No.
“Holy ‘shaken, not stirred,’ Batman!” Television’s Bruce Wayne almost landed the role of another one of the most iconic heroes in popular fiction. The late, great Adam West was offered the gig after Connery announced his retirement from the series following the release of 1967’s You Only Live Twice. Although West would definitely have had the sense of humor and charisma necessary to play Bond, he turned down the offer for a very simple reason. West believed that Bond had to be British. Ironically, Connery’s replacement was none other than George Lazenby, an Australian. That being said, Lazenby helped to create a unique installment in the series, so it’s probably a good thing that West passed on the offer.
James Mason was nearly involved with several James Bond films. Similar to Cary Grant, Mason was hesitant to play Bond in Dr. No due to the multi-film contract. The franchise’s producers wanted a bankable movie star who would agree to appear in a series of films that could be filmed close to each other; This was long before the multi-picture contracts that the Marvel Cinematic Universe requires. Like Grant, Mason was renowned for his charm. Considering that he’s actually British, he would have been a logical choice. In his memoir Bond on Bond, Roger Moore reflected that Mason was also nearly cast as the main villain Hugo Drax in 1979’s Moonraker. Mason would have been great as Bond, but it’s probably a good thing that he skipped out on Moonraker. The campy Star Wars-inspired Bond film is one of the franchise’s weakest entries.
Burt Reynolds certainly played many iconic characters. Deliverance, Boogie Nights, The Longest Yard, and Smokey and the Bandit are only a few of the classics within his filmography. However, Reynolds was close to playing a few other iconic screen characters, including Han Solo, Michael Corleone, John McClane, and RP McMurphy. Reynolds said that he “could’ve done it well” in an interview with USA Today in 2015. Although Reynolds may have regretted turning down the part, he also regretted starring in Boogie Nightsso perhaps he did not always know what was best for himself.
Clint Eastwood is one of the greatest action stars of all time. Dirty Harry essentially changed the genre forever when it debuted in 1971. However, Eastwood was hesitant about playing a character as beloved as 007. He turned down the offer to star as Bond, despite admitting that he was offered “good money.” Eastwood said he preferred to play realistic heroes, and called Bond “Sean’s deal.” Given the intense shooting schedule of the Bond series, Eastwood was wise to turn down the opportunity. If he accepted it, he may not have had the incredible directorial career that he has today.
Liam Neeson action movies have become his trademark now, but that was not the case in the 1990s. Following Schindler’s List and his first Oscar nomination, Neeson was best known as a dramatic actor. The James Bond franchise would have launched Neeson as an international action star long before Taken reinvented his career. However, he turned down the role out of loyalty to his late wife, Natasha Richardson. Richardson said she would not marry Neeson if he accepted the role in 1995’s Goldeneye. It became a running joke between the two before Richardson’s tragic death in 2009. In many ways, Bryan Mills of theTaken trilogy feels like a slightly more mature version of Bond.
Julian Glover is one of cinema’s greatest bad guys. He is the only actor that has played a Bond villain, a Star Wars villain, an Indiana Jones villain, and a Game of Thrones villain. Glover appeared as the memorable KGB agent Aristotle Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only. He helped to return the Bond series to a more grounded approach after the embarrassment of Moonraker. However, Glover had already auditioned to play the part of Bond himself in 1979, as Roger Moore was considering retiring from the role. Thankfully, he still got to be involved in the series somehow. Moore’s rogues’ gallery wasn’t as strong as Connery’s, but Kristatos was one of his most fearsome opponents.
Ralph Fiennes has a long history with the Bond franchise. He was considered for the role of the next 007 in both Goldeneye and Casino Royale. He would have been an interesting selection in both cases. In 1995, Fiennes would have been an up-and-coming actor, and in 2006, he would have been one of the oldest Bonds. When Fiennes finally appeared in the series in Skyfall, it appeared like his character Mallory would be a one-shot character. However, Mallory assumes the role of Bond’s boss, M, after the death of Judi Dench‘s character. Fiennes got to stick around as the new M in Specter and No Time To Die.
Chrisitian Bale transformed his career in 2000 when he starred in the satirical dark comedy American Psycho. After watching his demented performance as Patrick Bateman, it was hard to think of Bale as the same endearing child star who had appeared in Empire of the Sun and Newsies. Bale was told that the role of Bond was “his for the taking” in Casino Royale if he wanted it. Bale declined the offer for political reasons; he felt that Bond represented everything wrong with British stereotypes. This opened up the opportunity for him to become the best Batman ever.