x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

James Bond: every man's fantasy, every actor's ambition

There are no guarantees in the world of 007. Less likely actors than Robert Pattinson have been considered for the role.

Robert Pattinson says he would love to play 007.
Robert Pattinson says he would love to play 007.

He's a brooding man of mystery who is irresistible to the ladies and the subject of a massively successful film franchise. We are, of course, talking about everyone's favourite spy, the ever-elusive and always alluring 007, aka James Bond. Bond is currently being portrayed by the perennially sour-faced actor Daniel Craig, who starred in Casino Royale in 2006 and Quantum of Solace in 2008, and is contracted to appear in two more films. But with James Bond, it's never too early for casting rumours to start.

This month, Robert Pattinson, the star of Twilight, told journalists at the UK premiere of his new film Remember Me that he would love to play Bond in a few years. The suggestion has been met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm online, but before anyone writes Pattinson off it should be remembered that at its height, anti-Craig sentiment was so pronounced that a website - www.craignotbond.com - was set up to campaign against his casting.

In the world of Bond there are no guarantees, and many less likely candidates have been considered for the role over the decades. Before Craig took up the role, the character had been played by five other men, from the bluff Scot Sean Connery to the forgettable George Lazenby, from Roger Moore to the underrated Timothy Dalton and on to the suave Pierce Brosnan. Gossip has always abounded on who will be next to fill the super-spy's polished shoes, and that's not including the big names who declined the role or were themselves rejected when the series was just beginning.

The screen legends Richard Burton and Cary Grant (on whom 007's creator, Ian Fleming, based aspects of Bond's character) both turned down the chance to play Bond in Dr No, while David Niven and Rex Harrison were considered but ultimately turned down in favour of Connery. When Brosnan's departure was announced, more than 200 names circulated the net. What if it had been the Aussie charmer Eric Bana? Too good-looking and amiable for his own good, probably. Those puppy dog eyes would not have been able to persuade hardened villains to give themselves up to justice.

The same goes for Hugh Jackman, he of the beaming grin and booming theatrical voice. James Bond: The Musical? Nope. The issue that these two highlight is that Bond cannot be Hollywood beautiful but should instead have a face that makes you think of a rugged, rough-around-the-edges kind of guy. The beauty factor is one of many reasons why the Nip/Tuck actor Julian McMahon would never have worked in the part.

The Scottish Lothario Gerard Butler was one of the strongest rumours making the rounds before Craig snapped up the role. Ruggedly handsome he might be, but a well-toned body and appropriate face alone do not a good Bond make (Lazenby, take note). It is also hard to imagine Butler being able to pull off any kind of accent bar his own convincingly. Connery got away with it, of course, but since then the clipped English accent has become part of the Bond persona.

What about James Purefoy? The man looks like he's been kept away from the sun his whole life. Can you imagine Eva Green falling in love with him? The ER veteran Goran Visnjic was another odd choice to have been in the running. The man is smouldering, granted, but that slightly dangerous look about him would surely make him more villain material than anything else. Clive Owen was a more convincing rumour. He's certainly played his share of tough-but-smooth roles, and would be perfectly able to tackle a bad guy, save the world, and handle a tricky romantic situation, all while still managing to look immaculate.

Other contenders, including the Avatar hunk Sam Worthington, The Young Victoria's Rupert Friend and the Moonlight star Alex O'Laughlin also fared well in the 2006 audition process but were ultimately considered too young. Craig's next film, the 23rd Bond, is not due out until late next year, and there's another to come after that, so it's possible that by then they'll be back in the running, having acquired the necessary gravitas.

The same is true of Henry Cavill, who is our current front-runner to be the seventh Bond. Best known at the moment for starring in the television series The Tudors, he was rejected last time after making it to the final three, along with Craig and Worthington. He has the looks, he has the charm and he would undoubtedly be able to carry off a dinner jacket just as well as he does a doublet. But who knows?

It is possible that EON Productions could decide to pick a wild card and take the series in a new direction again. One thing is for sure, though: we can all look forward to an entertaining few years of sizing up the contenders.