Top 10 Actors Who Almost Played James Bond

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Aaron Cameron
These are the top 10 actors who almost played James Bond. So close... but not quite. Join WatchMojo as we count down the most surprising actors who came close to taking on the 007 mantle, from Sean Bean, Dick Van Dyke, and even Clint Eastwood, among other super-suave picks who might shock you.

Top 10 Actors Who Almost Played James Bond

The name is... Bond? Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Almost Played James Bond.

For this list, we're looking at actors who were approached by, considered by, or even auditioned for James Bond producers, but were ultimately passed up in favor of the famous faces who made the role so iconic. To be clear, we're not playing dream casting here. These are actors who at some point were actual contenders for the role, only to see fate cruelly deny them a life of martinis, girls, guns, and fancy car keys.

Sean Bean

Lost to: Timothy Dalton & Pierce Brosnan

Poor Sean Bean. Not only does he die in everything, but he was also shafted as Bond. Twice! Bean auditioned for Bond prior to “The Living Daylights,” but was lost in the shuffle between Timothy Dalton – who ultimately won the role – and Pierce Brosnan, who won and then lost the role due to scheduling conflicts. A few years later, Bean would be viewed as the top choice to replace Dalton, only to have MGM – the Bond franchise's then US distributor – overrule in favor of Brosnan. Bean did at least get to play the film's baddie, however, and true to form ... he dies. Twice.

Dick van Dyke

Lost to: George Lazenby

By 1967, Sean Connery had enough of Bond's jet-set lifestyle, and hung up his toupee and Aston Martin keys for good... or so he thought. The producers looked high and low for a suitable – often in the broadest definition of the word – replacement, and in the end hitched their wagon to the Australian model turned actor George Lazenby. While most of Lazenby's competition lost out due to his superior onscreen fighting skills, the reason for Dick van Dyke's Double-Oh-Hell-No status was due to the Aussie's ability to morph his down-under accent into something far closer to an English accent than van Dyke could with his gorblimey chimney sweep.

Mel Gibson

Lost to: Timothy Dalton

When Roger Moore finally decided to turn in his PP7, producers zoned in on Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. However, signing either man proved to be a complicated matter, which likely only made Mel Gibson – a then rising superstar with the “Mad Max” trilogy to his name – look all the better. But Gibson had two things going against him: his American passport, and his price. Although once, at least casually, endorsed by Sean Connery himself, Albert. R. Broccoli rejected Gibson on the grounds that he was not British - although reports he wanted $10m for two films probably didn't help his chances.

Cary Grant

Declined, Role Given to Sean Connery

Age has always been a factor when casting Bond. In the '60s, Timothy Dalton turned down the role feeling he was too young for the part, while Roger Moore officially aged out of the role at 58. However, before Moore, before a 29-year-old George Lazenby, and even before Sean Connery, Bond was offered to a then 58-year-old Cary Grant. While it may have been awkward for Grant – an Englishman turned American who typically buried his native accent – to have portrayed the British super-spy, his willingness to only do a single film left producers to look elsewhere.

Henry Cavill

Lost to: Daniel Craig

Although the Bond team considered younger actors in the past – George Lazenby for example – apparently life experience is a requirement for double o status. “Casino Royale” co-writer Neil Purvis has stated that the possibility of Bond being played by Henry Cavill rather than Daniel Craig came “right down to the wire,” and Cavill was said to be the ideal candidate in director Martin Campbell’s eyes. However, the brass at Eon Productions felt differently, and rejected the then 22-year-old on the grounds that he was far too young for the iconic role, even in a rebooted timeline.

Richard Burton

Declined in Favor of Sean Connery & George Lazenby

The Bond producers not only wanted Richard Burton, but they also wanted him bad. Burton was approached for the role on three occasions, rejecting it all three times. The twice former Mr. Elizabeth Taylor was considered for Bond as far back as 1959, three years before “Dr. No” arrived to theaters. At the time Burton passed, he felt the concept and character were “unproven”, and re-offered this opinion in 1961. However, the actor also reportedly wanted more money than the film's limited budget would allow, which may have been a factor when Bond came knocking again in 1968 in Connery's absence.

Clive Owen

Lost to: Daniel Craig

If you were a betting man or woman in 2005, the smart money was on Clive Owen being the next Bond. Viewed by many to be an obvious frontrunner at the time, Owen is said to have sabotaged his chances by demanding gross profit points on the film. The actor also claimed at the time to have seen little to add to the character, while also viewing Connery as the definitive James Bond. However, in the years since, Owen has frequently praised Daniel Craig's suitability and performance as 007, while periodically denying that he himself was ever even offered the role.

Michael Caine

Declined Replacing Sean Connery & Cited Typecasting

If you watched “The Dark Knight” trilogy and felt like Bruce Wayne's humble butler could hand you your ass, you're not wrong. Even with thick glasses and a cockney accent, 1960s’ Michael Caine was a certified beefcake, which, despite the aforementioned spectacles and inflection, made him a worthy successor to Sean Connery. Trouble was, he didn't want it. With three Harry Palmer films to his name, Caine was worried adding James Bond to his CV would typecast him as a spy. Decades later, Ewan McGregor would reportedly pass on Bond with the same reasoning, while also suggesting the role would be a huge commitment schedule-wise.

Clint Eastwood

Declined Replacing Sean Connery

It's oft-repeated that Clint Eastwood passed on James Bond due to his belief that Bond must be British, but when this happened is a little fuzzy. Eastwood's comments on the matter seem to suggest it was following “You Only Live Twice” – but what he's been clearer about is that he didn't feel right about stepping into Connery's role, and that he passed up “pretty good money.” When Sean's replacement George Lazenby vacated the role one film later, producers again considered American talent, namely Burt Reynolds and Adam West (xref), both of whom did reject the idea on the grounds that Bond should be British.

Before we unveil our top pick here are a few honorable mentions.

Ralph Fiennes

Lost to: Pierce Brosnan & Daniel Craig

Hugh Jackman

Declined, Disliking Direction of the Character & Timing, Went to Daniel Craig

Sam Neill

Lost to: Timothy Dalton

James Brolin

Lost Out When Roger Moore Re-Signed

Dominic West

Declined, Believing Pierce Brosnan Would Return

Liam Neeson

Declined in Favor of Pierce Brosnan & Marrying His Girlfriend

Like Timothy Dalton before him, Pierce Brosnan was long a contender for the James Bond mantle. When he finally did receive the role, Brosnan became the first Irish Bond; however he faced a challenger on both fronts in Liam Neeson. But like so many nameless henchmen before him, Neeson didn't put up any kind of a fight. Although he claimed to have been “heavily courted,” the star of “Batman Begins,” “The A-Team,” and the “Taken” series declined to audition, stating he didn't want to be an action star... and later added Natasha Richardson wouldn't have married him if he accepted the role.