Given the character’s status as a cinema icon and one of the most coveted roles in the business, a media circus inevitably ensues every time a new actor is being sought to assume the mantle of James Bond. Once No Time to Die is finally released in October the cycle will begin anew, while the continued rise of the internet and social media in the fifteen years since Daniel Craig was first appointed means that there’s going to be more speculation than ever before.
Of course, the audition process for 007 has generated countless headlines and column inches dating back decades, so it’s hardly a new phenomenon. One of the most important casting decisions the franchise ever had to make came when Goldeneye was looking for its leading man following the conclusion of the brief, yet sorely underrated, Timothy Dalton era.
The six-year gap between License to Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut remains the longest in Bond history dating right back to Sean Connery’s Dr. No, during which many names were considered. One of them was Liam Neeson, and in a new interview the veteran star revealed that his then-girlfriend Natasha Richardson would have refused to marry him if he’s ended up taking the plunge as the secret agent.
“They approached me. I believe I got a couple of calls from Barbara Broccoli, who’s now the main producer of the Bond films. This was after I had done Schindler’s List, which was 26 years ago, but I wasn’t offered it. I know they were looking at various actors, and I apparently was among them. However, my dear, departed wife did say to me, ‘Darling, if you’re offered James Bond and you’re going to play it, you’re not going to marry me’.”
Brosnan was always studio MGM’s number one choice for Goldeneye‘s James Bond, but contingency plans had to be put in place after he’d previously agreed to star in The Living Daylights almost a decade earlier before his TV show Remington Steele was renewed, and he couldn’t get out of his contract. Neeson was coming off the back of a career-best performance and Academy Award nomination for Schindler’s List at the time and would have been a solid pick, although he made his way to the pinnacle of the action genre eventually.