You wouldn’t think anyone would turn down the chance to play James Bond, the world’s greatest fictional superspy. And you’d be very, very wrong. All told, 15 men have decided they didn’t want to play 007. Some of them are name-brand actors; others are less well known internationally and some… aren’t really actors at all. Here are the 15 most fascinating men who turned down the chance to play James Bond.
1. Richard Burton: Why not start at the beginning? Richard Burton, noted puffy alcoholic and the only man to marry Elizabeth Taylor twice, was the first person to turn down the role as Bond. He felt that the concept—a multi-picture deal to play a recurring character in a non-sequential series—was an untested concept. He also wanted way more than the producers could afford. He passed up the role three times.
2. Cary Grant: The next to pass on Bond was Cary Grant, who felt that he was too old to play Bond at the ripe old age of 58. Price wasn’t an issue, but the number of pictures was. Grant, who was at this time also an evangelist for regular LSD use (yes, really), only wanted to sign on for a single film, which was also a dealbreaker.
3. Patrick McGoohan: Patrick McGoohan is known for playing two other spies: the captured, retired spy Number 6 on The Prisoner, and John Drake on Danger Man (known as Secret Agent in the States), both of whom are possibly the same person. McGoohan was unhappy with the amount of sex in Bond films, so he passed on the role.
4. Rod Taylor: Rod Taylor was definitely an accomplished actor. He’s perhaps best known for his turns in The Birds and The Time Machine. He didn’t want to play James Bond because he thought the role was beneath him. This apparently didn’t apply to the role of Pongo in One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
5. Steve Reeves: Steve Reeves has a pretty exciting resume without playing James Bond. He was, at one time, the highest paid actor in Europe, which is probably why he turned down the role of Bond for not paying enough. No matter. He still got to play Hercules twice and was America’s first bodybuilding champion as the AAU’s Mr. America. Before there was Arnold, there was Steve Reeves.
6. John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan: Here’s possibly the weirdest entry on the list. John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan wasn’t even an actor. That’s OK, though, because neither was George Lazenby before he starred in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He declined the opportunity to screen test for Bond, after deciding against a career in cinema. Later on, his babysitter turned up murdered and he disappeared from the face of the earth. He was the last man in Britain convicted of murder by a coroner’s court.
7-8-9. Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Adam West: Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Adam West are all iconic actors in their own right. But all three of them turned down the opportunity to play James Bond for one simple reason: They felt the role should go to a Brit.
10. Michael Gambon: You might know him as Dumbledore, but you almost knew him as James Bond. He was offered the role in 1970, but didn’t feel that he was good looking enough to take the part. Roger Moore then became the man most of the world knew as James Bond throughout the 1970s.
11. Liam Neeson: Here’s a weird one. Liam Neeson was offered the role in 1994, when the series was shifting gears a lot. Neeson wasn’t quite yet the big name he was at the time, yet he turned it down, stating that he didn’t want to be an action movie star. Fast forward to today and he’s currently enjoying a career renaissance as one of the world’s oldest (he’s 65) action movie stars.
12-13-14-15 Bonus: Pierce Brosnan (top left), Roger Moore (top right), George Lazenby (bottom left) and Timothy Dalton (bottom right): Timothy Dalton was first offered the role of Bond at the age of 21 in 1967 but he didn’t want to be the man to replace Sean Connery. He turned the role down again in 1979 because he didn’t like the direction of the franchise. Roger Moore likewise turned down On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because he didn’t want to replace Connery. George Lazenby, who actually did play Bond in that film, turned down a seven-picture deal because his agent convinced him that the series would be outdated in the ’70s. Pierce Brosnan was actually cast in The Living Daylights, but had to leave as Remington Steele was unexpectedly renewed.