The Search for Bond An exclusive
three-part article



by Robert Sellers

The exclusive never-before-told story behind the actors who won, and the many who lost, the most coveted role in cinema history!

A three-part article with 21 pages of untold stories on the search to cast 007.

The Search For Bond - How the 007 role was won and lost!


Only six men can lay claim to wearing the famous Savile Row tuxedo but hundreds more came within an inch of the 007 role. In this new exclusive three-part series, ROBERT SELLERS (author of the controversial book Battle for Bond) tells the extraordinary story of how cinema’s most famous role was cast, featuring ‘exclusive’ contributions from Michael Billington, Michael Craig, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Julian Glover, Michael Jayston, Sam Neill, Ian Ogilvy, Adrian Paul, Peter Snow, Oliver Tobias, Rikki Lee Travolta, and many others.



The search for an actor to play James Bond didn’t start with the journey that ultimately led to the monumental casting of Sean Connery in 1962, but a full three years before in 1959 when 007 looked a dead cert to make his cinematic debut in a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock; though Ian Fleming had his fingers heavily crossed on that one. After years of hawking his books around film studios in England and Hollywood, with no takers, Fleming had teamed up with a young maverick Irish filmmaker called Kevin McClory and together formulated an original plot line that saw Bond take on nuclear terrorism.

The Search For Bond - Richard Burton

It was during Fleming’s meetings with Paul Dehn, an early candidate to write the screenplay, that the subject of who to cast as Bond first arose. In a letter dated 11th August 1959 to his long-standing friend Ivar Bryce, Fleming announced, ‘Both Dehn and I think that Richard Burton would be by far the best James Bond!’ It’s a fascinating suggestion, and undeniably the first recorded statement by Fleming about who should play his hero. Years later Fleming would champion David Niven as Bond, a very traditional English actor and a million miles away from the wild Celtic image and brooding manner of Burton. But what a Bond a pre-Cleopatra/pre-Elizabeth Taylor Burton would have been, before vats of vodka and a heady dose of disillusionment had frayed his edges beyond repair. According to Burton’s brother, Graham Jenkins, the Welsh actor was a fan of the Bond books, numbering them amongst his favourite pulp reading along with Agatha Christie. Guy Masterson, a theatrical producer and director, and Burton’s great-nephew, told me that the great man once confided in him about his decision to turn the Bond role down. “At the time he was doing Camelot on stage and enjoying great stardom because of it. My uncle told me that Ian Fleming had approached him, asking him to play Bond. But back then Bond was a new concept – nobody had any idea it would be as big as it became. My uncle told me that he thought it was going to be just another movie.” No matter how big Bond became Burton never admitted to family or friends that he regretted missing out on the role. “Had Burton played Bond,” says Masterson. “I think he would have been absolutely fantastic.” ...


Sean Connery’s resignation from the Bond films came at a momentous time. The Sixties were drawing to a close and the state of world cinema was very different to that of 1962 when Dr. No burst onto the screen. Society too had vastly altered, this was the era of the counter-culture, drugs and the Civil Rights movement and the series' producers wondered how much of this social change should be reflected in the new James Bond. While we were never going to get a paisley-shirted, weed-toting Bond who says, ‘groovy Blofeld baby, groovy,’ there was potential here to reinvent the character. Instead, what everybody wanted was a Sean Connery clone.

Early in 1968 the search for the new Bond began in earnest, principally to find an unknown who would have no associations with any other role. Actor’s agencies and provincial repertory companies were trawled for suitable talent, “testing the people who had that sort of sexual quality that Sean had” according to Peter Hunt, the man charged with directing the new 007 movie.

In a press interview Harry Saltzman suggested that Roger Moore would make a great Bond. “But we couldn’t use him. He’s too well known as The Saint. So it’ll have to be an unknown, and finding good, undiscovered actors of 30 is not easy.” Not easy, indeed. To get an idea of just how wide the producers were casting their net, or perhaps an example of how desperate they were, among the people approached was a television journalist for ITN’s News at Ten called Peter Snow, later to become something of a TV legend with his ‘swing-o-meter’ in BBC General Election broadcasts. Was it Snow's trouble shooting television persona as a roving reporter, covering everything from bank raids in London to war zones in the Middle East, that prompted EON to contact him? 'I went round to this house in the middle of Mayfair,' Snow recalls. 'It was a fairly modest little house, and there was a small grill on the door. I knocked on the door and I saw a little slot opening and these eyes stared out at me and started looking me up and down and I saw a definite sense of the eyes dropping when they saw how tall I was, I am six foot five. So the eye let me in and said, "Do sit down, we are considering from a wide range of people who should be James Bond. But to be perfectly honest from the moment I saw how tall you were outside I realized that you were probably not going to qualify." And I said, "Oh I’m very disappointed to hear that." We had a very pleasant chat and then I went off and that was it.' ...

The Search For Bond - Peter Snow


With Live And Let Die a sizeable hit the producers moved quickly and raced the next Bond into production while the image of the new 007 was still fresh in the mind of audiences. But there was one man who wanted to rain on EON’s parade. That man was Archer, Jeffrey Archer. In 1975 Archer had just resigned as an MP over financial problems and turned instead to writing, producing his first novel, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, that would become an international best seller. “But when Jeffrey burst into my office like a tornado with a proof copy of his first book, that wasn’t the point of the visit,” top London agent Michael Whitehall revealed in his memoirs. “He wanted to play James Bond and he wanted me to sort it out. I asked him what acting experience he had and while he admitted he had none, he was convinced he could do it and even when I suggested he may have left an acting career a bit late in the day, he replied, ‘I don’t want an acting career, I just want to play James Bond.’ Fortunately, when his book was published he put his acting aspirations on hold.” So the nation was saved the too dreadful to contemplate spectacle of Jeffrey Archer as 007...

The Search For Bond - Jeffrey Archer

Continue reading this picture-packed article, and much more besides, inside the encrypted pay-to-view area of the 007 MAGAZINE OnLine website, where you will discover many rare and never-before-seen images and exclusive features!

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Monthly subscription £4.99

SUBSCRIBE TO 007 Magazine OnLine                       THE SEARCH FOR BOND

Continue reading this picture-packed article, and much more besides, inside the encrypted pay-to-view area of the 007 MAGAZINE OnLine website, where you will discover many rare and never-before-seen images and exclusive features!

Yearly subscription only £9.99
Monthly subscription £4.99

SUBSCRIBE TO 007 Magazine OnLine                       THE SEARCH FOR BOND