Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Men who would be James Bond


The Casino 'Le Cercle' London. It is 4 in the morning when the man from the Secret Service walks into the casino. He presents his card and asks for a 'Mister Bond'. The concierge takes the card through to the salon where a game is in play. This is chemin de fer and as the name implies, an iron nerve is required. This certainly seems to be reflected in the rigid demeanor of the beautiful woman at the table. She loses and calls suive, loses again and calls again, asking the house to make up the loss. A third loss and she writes a cheque for another £1,000. Admiring her courage, the Banker, his face as yet unseen opens a gunmetal cigarette case and asked her name she replies 'Trench... Sylvia Trench.' She admires his luck and his name?...
David Niven in Dr.No
You know the answer. Now the scene again, but this time Sean Connery wasn't the man playing James Bond. No, in this reality the Producers went with Ian Fleming's choice for the role; David Niven. Can you imagine him – anyone else uttering the immortal 'Bond... James Bond' ?. How about Richard Burton?, Cary Grant or James Mason?. Burton sniffed at the role and demanded a fortune, Cary Grant felt he was too old and offered to do the one film (It would have been wonderful had he been younger) and Mason was offered a three-film deal, but only agreed to two. No dice James... Now, jump forward to 2015 and the recent furore that ensued after Sir.Roger Moore's comment that Idris Elba wouldn't be suitable for the role. Even a comment that was patently innocuous brought forth a hail of rebuke, accusations of racism included. Can you see a black Bond? - sure, Idris is a fine actor and he could play a spy with no more difficulty than any other role, but given Bond's Scottish heritage (Established fairly late in the novels by Fleming after seeing Connery in the film role) does it play?... 
If Niven as Bond is a stretch, how about Jeremy Brett? - yes, the former Sherlock Holmes himself. 

He was considered to replace Connery in 1967, as were Terence Stamp, Michael Caine and John Bingham
 ABOVE: Terence Stamp, sixties icon and General Zod in Superman 2
OHMSS - Michael Caine as Bond
Caine rejected the role, fearing he'd be typecast as a spy after his Harry Palmer films. Stamp?; he wanted to take the character into groovy uncharted waters that the Producers felt were too way out, even for 007. If sublime doesn't do it for you here, how about Dick van Dyke?. Amazingly, his English accent wasn't convincing... and what about that Bingham chap?, well, Lord Lucan, as he was better known went on the run after his children's nanny was found murdered. 
Or perhaps John Bingham, Lord Lucan as 007?
John Gavin was an actor for many years before becoming Ronald Reagan's US Ambassador to Mexico. In 1971 he was actually signed to play Bond when Connery was enticed back at the behest of United Artists, but not before half of Hollywood's A-list had been considered.
John Gavin starred in films including sixties spy thriller OSS 117 - Double Agent
Live & Let Die. Solitaire enters her Tarot chamber to find 007 seated at her throne. Timothy Dalton offers her a card?; he turned down the role, citing his youth as a barrier to plausibility. 


 ABOVE: Was Dalton too young to Live & Let Die?
BELOW: Ranulph Fiennes in his Army days, seconded to the Sultan of Oman's forces.
Former S.A.S. man, later World's Greatest Living Explorer Ranulph Fiennes – whose second Cousin is none other than the new 'M', Ralph Fiennes – was turned down for having large hands and looking 'like a farmer'. Actor William Gaunt – famous for roles in TV shows such as The Champions auditioned, but failed to impress. Oh, and remember John Gavin? - he lost out a second time when it was decided Bond must be British.

1979: Timothy Dalton turns down the role again. 
Collins... Lewis Collins in Octopussy
1982: TV hard man Lewis Collins, star of The Professionals and the S.A.S. film Who Dares Wins auditions, but his macho persona is deemed too aggressive for the role.

'Ahh-a-aha, the Living Dayy-lights...' and Mel Gibson parachutes onto a luxury yacht to make a call and seduce a woman... perhaps it was Sam Neill or even Highlander himself, Christophe Lambert?. Famously, Remington Steele Pierce Brosnan was offered the role, only to be sabotaged by the Bond Villains NBC who took up the option for another series just as Brosnan was packing his bags for Pinewood.
Mel Gibson didn't sound British enough...
Sharpe star Sean Bean – an excellent British actor, was in the running for a double-O number. He got one; 008. After Pierce Brosnan was cast, Bean was offered the role of Trevelyan in Goldeneye, but had been the favourite if Timothy Dalton stepped down, as of course happened in 1994. Laughably, Liam Neeson turned the role down as he didn't want to do action flicks. Perhaps he wasn't 'taken' with the role. Another contender was a certain Ralph Fiennes...
Goldeneye... Ralph Fiennes in iconic stance...
Finally, we're up to 2004, and the eve of the Craig era. The Man of Steel Henry Cavill was 'too young', Hugh Jackman didn't like the way the series was going and Obi-eWan McGregor didn't want to be typecast. 


ABOVE: Hugh Jackman looking sharp for Montblanc pens
BELOW: The fans voted for Clive Owen.
After turning over Ralph Fiennes again, the Producers said 'No' to People's favourite Clive Owen's requested share of the profits (Another potentially fantastic Bond had Daniel Craig not been chosen) and it seems Idris wasn't the first Black actor in the frame for Bond. Colin Salmon – MI6 Man Charles Robinson in the Brosnan Bonds – was looked at for Casino Royale.
Clive Owen as 007 across the table from Le Chiffre at Casino Royale
Daniel Craig's Bond is animalistic, brutal – and utterly compelling. Where Connery's animal-magnetic Bond slouched magnificently across the screen, Craig explodes and punches his way through the bad people. A different animal for a different world. After SPECTRE he's signed for one more film. Who might replace him then?...
ABOVE: Idris Elba in SPECTRE...



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