Imagining James Bond Without Daniel Craig: Who Were The Other 007 Contenders?
After seeing Skyfall this week, Roger Moore described Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes' new James Bond film as "without a doubt... the best Bond there's ever been." The film's crew is seemingly made up entirely of Oscar winners and critical reaction has suggested that Skyfall could be the first 007 movie to win big at the Academy Awards.
Though there were murmurings of discontent when British star Daniel Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan in the secret agent franchise, he's since become a revelation, with many considering him to be the finest Bond yet. His turn in Casino Royale had far more depth than anything Brosnan (or Dalton for that matter) had delivered, leaving Bond geeks squabbling between just three actors as to who was the best Bond ever: Moore, Connery or Craig? Though Quantum of Solace failed to reach the heady critical heights of its predecessor, early reaction suggests Skyfall betters Casino Royale and possibly anything before it. But it all could have been very different, couldn't it? Cast your mind back to 2005, when the protracted process of choosing the new James Bond was reaching its final stages. With Ralph Fiennes unable to commit to the filming schedule of Casino Royale, and Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana and Heath Ledger discounted, producers chose to go ahead and run screen tests on the four 'finalists'. (They had lost the chance of landing Clive Owen after refusing to include gross profit points in his contract) The contenders were Layer Cake star Daniel Craig, ER actor Goran Visnjic, Australian actor Sam Worthington and 22-year-old Henry Cavill, reported Variety. All were relatively inexperienced, though producers were keen for someone considerably younger than the 52-year-old Pierce Brosnan. In fact, writer Paul Haggis told the Hollywood Reporter at the time, "We're trying to reinvent Bond. He's 28 - no Q, no gadgets."
Sam Worthington The 29-year-old got his big break after winning the Australian Film Institute award for his role in the coming-of-age drama Somersault. He was perhaps more 'muscular' than the classic Bond look, though was reportedly one of the producers' favourites heading into the screen tests. Since then, he has told The Sun newspaper, "Daniel Craig is doing an awesome job. I wouldn't want to see a Bond movie with me in it." Nevertheless, he remains the 4/1 favourite with the bookmakers to take up the role after Craig's tenure.
Goran Visnjic The Croatian actor was already popular on American television - especially with the female audience - after playing Dr Luka Kovac on medical drama ER. He'd also appeared in films such as Elektra and The Deep End. He was perhaps the most 'Bond' looking of the contenders and had European sensibilities that would have perhaps lent themselves well to Casino Royale. He has since acted alongside Craig in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'.
Henry Cavill At the time, the Jersey actor was known for the likes of The Count of Monte Cristo and I Capture the Castle, however, at just 22 years-old, producers simply considered him too young for the role. Since then, Cavill's evident appeal to Hollywood filmmakers hasn't subsided and he plays Superman in a new blockbuster movie currently in development. Cavill still remains an outside bet for the post-Craig Bond role, though his turn as the comic book hero has probably scuppered any chance he had.
A Daily Mail internet poll at the time of the casting process showed Ralph Fiennes was the fans' favourite to replace Pierce Brosnan, getting 25% of the vote. Hollywood actor George Clooney came out second, with British actors Colin Firth and Clive Owen tied for third. 11 per cent of voters opted for Take That singer Robbie Williams.
Though Craig, Worthington, Visnjic and Cavill appeared to be the final four, there were no doubt plenty of other talks going on at the same time (Clive Owen). In fact, a bookmaker stopped taking bets on Judge John Deed star Colin Salmon to become the first black actor to play Bond. Ladbrokes received six £500 bets on Salmon to take the role, with a spokesperson for the bookmaker telling BBC News, "Our alarm bells started ringing - we felt somebody might be trying to use insider knowledge." Salmon, 41, had already appeared in the Bond series - playing M's chief of staff Charles Robinson - though the nature of the confident bets remains a mystery. His spokeswoman remained coy, "I guess everybody would like to play Bond," she said.
In 2004, MovieHole.net quoted a "top industry insider" who revealed Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd was the top choice to replace Pierce Brosnan as 007. The star of the Horatio Hornblower television movies was eventually phased out of talks for unknown reasons though he still harbours a desire to play Bond. Speaking to Daily Express in 2007, Gruffudd said, "I would love to play Bond one day but I think I am 10 years too young. Physically, I am not quite big enough. Of course, I could go to the gym or whatever! Maybe in seven years' time when Daniel is done and tired of it and can retire a very rich man then maybe I could step."
Skyfall hits cinemas worldwide on Friday (October 26, 2012). It stars Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ben Whishaw.