Actors Who Have Turned Down the Role of James Bond

Which A-list star actors have rejected roles in the James Bond franchise?

With ‘No Time To Die’ still riding high at the box office, the role of super-spy James Bond is highly coveted parts even after 27 movies, but which of actors actually turned down the opportunity to play 007?

The legendary role of super-spy James Bond remains one of the most highly coveted parts in Hollywood history even after twenty-five cinematic outings for the character, so why have a handful of actors actually turned down the opportunity to play 007?

With Daniel Craig finishing his time as James Bond with 2021’s long-awaited No Time To Die, the world is wondering who will take on the part of 007 once the actor departs the role he has held for over a decade since 2006’s Casino Royale.

Tom Hardy is rumored to be the next James Bond, whilst some commentators have called for a more diverse revamp of the franchise to feature non-white stars with Idris Elba being a firm fan favourite with the pubilc. Also like Doctor Who could a non-male actor star in the role of 007. As it stands, only six actors have ever played the part, with all but one lasting longer than one movie outing in the role. It’s a role that many actors wait for their entire career for the opportunity to take on but believe it or not, some thespians have been offered the part of James Bond and opted to turn it down.

Liam Neeson

The star did not want to be typecast as an action hero. In reality, his girlfriend would not marry him if he had taken the role. Taken star Liam Neeson likely had the easiest time turning down Bond out of the names seen here, as the love of his life gave him an ultimatum that put the allure of the famous part in perspective. Wary of becoming typecast as an action hero, Neeson was unsure about taking on the role and becoming the first Irish Bond a year before Pierce Brosnan would take up this mantle instead. When then-fiancee Natasha Richardson informed Neeson she wouldn’t marry him if he took the part, Neeson dropped out of negotiations and never looked back, resulting in a long marriage and a fruitful tenure in the role for Brosnan.

Clive Owen

For many at one point, Clive was a perfect fit for James Bond thanks to his mix of action hero muscle and borderline sleazy charm, Shoot ‘Em Up star Clive Owen came close to taking on the role before it went to Daniel Craig. The Derailed antihero had even entered into negotiations for the part at the time. However, he eventually turned down the chance to play Bond for what must be the most blandly sensible reason listed here, as the producers refused to offer gross profit points for any movies Owen made in the role.

Richard Burton

He simply demanded too much money; didn’t want to risk an “unproven concept”. Having been offered the role of Bond before it ended up going to the relatively unknown star of Darby O’Gill and the Little People, the now immensely influential original Bond Sean Connery. However, Burton didn’t have any faith in the project and considered Bond an “unproven concept,” a claim which may seem silly given the franchise’s now-apparent staying power, but which was understandable when the producer’s wanted a multi-film commitment from the actor before the first film entered production. As a result of his skepticism, Burton demanded too high a salary for the producers to match with an offer, resulting in him being passed over for the role.

Cary Grant

The veteran star considered himself too old for the part; only wanted to appear in one film. Ever the charmer, Hitchcock hero Cary Grant was polite enough to break the bad news to Bond producers who sought him out for the role of the famous secret agent. In his late fifties at the time, Grant was “too old” to play the role in multiple movies and as such couldn’t be considered for the part, according to… himself. The producers listened and his offer was rescinded, although the same impediment didn’t stop Roger Moore from remaining in the role into his sixth decades when he starred in Moonraker years later.

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes – MarkMeets

Although Voldemort himself Ralph Fiennes would go on to play Bond’s boss M, the actor’s fear of committing to a franchise in the mid-90s led him to turn down the role of 007 himself. However, Fiennes did also note that he felt the producers wanted Pierce Brosnan more for the part of James Bond even as they approached him. As such, it may have been more than mere uncertainty that led Fiennes to turn down the opportunity, since the creators did indeed eventually opt to go with Brosnan.

Mel Gibson

Another unexpected name to see on here, Mad Max star Mel Gibson almost became Bond in the mid-80s after Roger Moore’s tenure in the role ended. However, in a more brash move than most of the actors offered the part ever considered, Gibson simply turned down the role because he simply did not want it. Thus the producers moved on to Timothy Dalton, and so began a multi-decade streak of Gibson’s unpredictable career moves which continues into his current role as Santa Claus in an R-rated action movie.

Clint Eastwood, Adam West and Burt Reynolds all Felt Bond had to be played by a British actor though Mr Eastwood was once offered the role of suave British super-spy James Bond in the early seventies. At this stage of the series, only Sean Connery had played the part to date (not including David Niven’s unofficial parody Casino Royale), and Eastwood wasn’t fond of the pressure that would come with following Connery’s class act. He turned down the role and continued in the world of westerns, eventually transitioning into directing in his later years. Whilst Burt Reynolds admitted to very few regrets throughout his long career onscreen, but the Cannonball Run star did concede in his memoir that he should have given the role of James Bond a second thought when he was offered the part. That said, Reynolds had good reason to reject the role, as he claimed he couldn’t see audiences accepting such an all-American actor in such a specifically British part. Maybe he was right on that one. Reynolds was eyed up as the replacement for Sean Connery’s Bond, but told USA Today in 2015 that he turned down the part because he thought the public wouldn’t accept an American 007. “It was a stupid thing to say, I could’ve done it and I could’ve done it well,” he said. He could have also been Han Solo in Star Wars, a part that was eventually played.

Hugh Jackman
Didn’t like the direction the producers were taking the character and conflicts between X-Men 2 and Bond filming dates.

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Michael Gambon
Didn’t consider himself handsome enough for the part.

Dominic West
Didn’t want to compete with Pierce Brosnan for the part.

Ewan McGregor
Didn’t want to be typecast.

Rod Taylor
Considered the role to be “beneath” him.

Idris Elba – was never asked to play Bond buy rumours surfaced years ago. The Dark Tower and Thor actor’s name resurfaced recently as Daniel Craig’s successor, something the actor already called “a very old rumor” way back in 2011! “I would do it, but I don’t want to be called the first black James Bond. Do you understand what I’m saying? Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond. So if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond,” Elba said in 2011. “If [then Bond distributor] Sony decided to call me and said hey, we wanted to do [James Bond], I’d definitely consider it.” (Note: Sony is no longer the distributor of the Bond movies and it will be the producers’ not the distributor’s call on who plays 007.) Many fans certainly want Elba for the role, but they have also said the same thing about.

Henry Cavill, Tom Hiddleston and Luke Evans have also been shortlisted as Bond too! Regé-Jean Page has recently been pitched by movie goers.

Interestingly whilst Timothy Dalton was actually ast as bond, thought himself too young and did not wish to follow Connery. Would decline the role again in 1979, before finally being cast in 1986.

And Pierce Brosnan became the front runner for The Living Daylights after Timothy Dalton could not take the part due to his commitment to Brenda Starr. However, Brosnan’s option to star in a further series of Remington Steele was taken up by NBC, and EON refused to have him do both Steele and Bond at the same time. Fortuitously, Dalton became freed up at just that time, and so reaccepted the role, which he played until 1989. Brosnan would later play Bond from GoldenEye through to Die Another Day.

With Daniel Craig stepping down as James Bond, in what was his fifth bond film in 15 years, with his first being Casino Royale, released in 2006 and last no time to die for which Craig made around £18 million.

Who should take over from Daniel Craig?

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Dan Dunn
Dan Dunn
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Editor and Admin at MarkMeets since Nov 2012. Columnist, reviewer and entertainment writer and oversees all of the section's news, features and interviews. During his career, he has written for numerous magazines.

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