Who Was The Best James Bond We NEVER Had? 007 Films

We all have our favourite James Bond and James Bond films. The age-old debate between Sean Connery and Roger Moore will continue to the end of time.

James Bond is the world's most famous secret agent, and while we've seen many great actors play the role over the years, there's always been one who was never given a chance. So today, we ask who was the one that got away – who was the best James Bond we NEVER had? Was it someone like Michael Caine or Patrick McGoohan? Or maybe it was somebody a little bit more offbeat, like Lewis Collins or Oliver Reed? 

We decided to open this can of worms and ask our ever faithful Facebook Springchickens to let us know what they thought. As ever they didn't disappoint with over 1,000 votes, we found out finally who the British public always wanted to see sipping a dry martini. 

The James Bond Outliers

The history of film is littered with actors that 'allegedly' were offered the role and turned it down. Some admit it was a foolish decision whilst others are adamant it was the right move for them.

We thought we would look at some of the more unusual choices for that would have Ian Fleming spinning in his grave.  

Dick Van Dyke

Whilst an incredibly talented entertainer we struggle to visualise the Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang (another Ian Fleming novel) actor with a licence to kill. Luckily for us so did Albert Broccoli. Broccoli decided against the taking the gamble on Dick Van Dyke after witnessing his much-maligned English accent in Mary Poppins. 

Trevor Howard

Trevor Howard was considered alongside Sean Connery but perhaps Connery's physicality pipped the seasoned British actor. Undoubtedly, Howard could've made the role his own, perhaps making James Bond an altogether saltier character, truer to Fleming's literature persona.

Alas, it was not to be and luckily for us Trevor Howard continued to produce sublime performances in films such as Mutiny On The Bounty, Battle Of Britain and Ryan's Daughter.

Rex Harrison

Another fine British actor who was side-lined by Connery's appointment. Again, wisely so, as we are sure his perfect diction and ability to talk to the animals may well have been useful. It is generally accepted that the Broccolis made the right choice with Sean Connery. 

Fortunately for the film going public Rex Harrison was to continue to enthral cinema goers with his masterful roles in classics such as My Fair Lady, Dr Doolittle and The Agony and The Ecstasy.

However, it would be intriguing to hear Harrison singing a Bond theme song. Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me would be two at the top of my hit list for the Rex Harrison treatment, if only…

The James Bond Serious Contenders

OK, so now we've gotten some of the outliers out of the way there remains a list of intriguing actors that you just can't help but ask yourself, 'What if?'

The role of James Bond, for many, would be considered career defining. However, for the following list of celebrated performers this was not to be the case. 

Michael Caine

The iconic English actor, known as much for his East End accent as for his 130 films spanning 6 decades, looked like the perfect choice.

After all, Michael Caine was virtually living the James Bond playboy lifestyle in the '60s, so why not throw him a Walther PPK and make it official. It appears Michael had different ideas. Whilst he knew the role could be 'career defining' he also knew it could result in him being typecast. A problem that Connery struggled with upon leaving the 007 franchise. 

Caine had also played his own, more earthier spy character, Harry Palmer in a trilogy of well acclaimed films in the '60s based on the Len Deighton Cold War character. With good reason Caine was conscious of being taken on the spy/espionage road by agreeing to the James Bond role. 

In later years, Caine commented, "I was always much more ordinary. Bond was a glamorous, imaginative creation. I’ve always played real people."

Patrick McGoohan

The Prisoner and Danger Man lead was a much sought after talent for the The James Bond Franchise. Patrick McGoohan had a striking screen presence and was a highly respected stage actor. Orson Welles applauded him for his role as Starbuck in Welles' respected 'Moby Dick - rehearsed' commenting that he was 'intimidated' with McGoohan performance.   

McGoohan's John Drake character in Danger Man was perhaps more James Bond than some of the James Bond characterisations. He wore sharp suits, drove an Aston Martin and outwitted dullard spies from foreign lands often with just a raise of an eyebrow (before Connery). He was the premier gentleman super spy.

The only thing you would never find Drake doing was womanising and this was still crucial for a 1960s James Bond. It might be said that McGoohan was well before his times in his attitudes to this. However, more accurately it was his devout Catholicism that dictated these parameters more so than Women's Rights. So, in short McGoohan was to say a definite no to Dr No and the rest is history.

McGoohan was always resolute that he never, ever wanted to be a number, 007, so perhaps Broccoli's efforts were always in vain.


Lewis Collins 

Why did this never happen? He had everything, the sharp good looks, no nonsense hair, the ability to deliver a killer line and the physique to deliver a killer blow. Lewis Collins came marauding onto our screens in the long running crime series 'The Professionals'.

Clearly, he had the screen presence, even opposite classy actors like Gordon Jackson and Martin Shaw, Lewis managed to hold his own. Surely, he would be perfect for the part. It seemed inevitable that he would soon be swapping the keys for the Ford Capri for a brand shiny new Aston Martin DB5. 

Sadly, it wasn't to be. It seems the aggressive brooding swagger was too much for Cubby and co. They were looking towards a softer, friendlier James Bond, choosing to cast the inimitable Roger Moore.

Collins' audition was simply too aggressive and myth has it he left a frightened franchise in his wake. Too tough for Bond, now that's not something everyone has on their CV.

Oliver Reed 

This might be considered by many as the wild card in the pack but who wouldn't have paid top ticket prices to see Oliver Reed jumping out of a plane with a Union Jack parachute whilst sipping on a dry Martini or two? 

 Afterall the ‘60s hellraiser was no stranger to death defying action sequences in real life and on celluloid.   

It is rumoured that he was considered upon Connery's departure. However, the Bond Franchise had grown so big by this point there was little room for risk. And risk was what Oliver Reed was all about, not only off-screen antics but onscreen too, Reed was a force of nature. Undeniably Reed had the acting chops to pull it off. His roles in Women In Love, The Jokers and The Assassination Bureau bore testament to that. 

The very antithesis of Patrick McGoohan's moral high ground, Reed was simply too rough, too unpredictable and too much to ask the cinema going public to believe. Perhaps they were right but as time goes on the more you think about it the more tantalising the prospect of Oliver Reed being licensed to kill seems!    

Peter O'Toole 

Surely, if James Bond requires sartorial elegance and dashing good looks, Peter O'Toole should be top of the shopping list. Strangely though Peter O'Toole never took the role seriously enough to even audition for the part. 

In later years it has been rumoured that Derek Combs, Peter O'Toole's one time brother-in-law had made attempts to secure the film rights to Live and Let Die, Casino Royale and Diamonds Are Forever with a view to Peter playing the lead role. Combs was denied the rights and sought fame and fortune elsewhere in the Houses of Parliament.   


It seems more demanding roles in Lawrence Of Arabia, The Lion In Winter and Becket were more suited to the blue eyed Celtic charmer.  However, he did have a rare cameo in the 1967 Casino Royale as the loan piper. O'Toole's range and talents could have transformed the late '60s Bond if only Roger Moore hadn't  been so damn charming!

Springchicken James Bond Poll  

So, the votes are in.

The Springchicken Facebook community have cast their votes on the 'Best James Bond we NEVER had?'   


It looks like the public had a passion for the blond Bond way before Daniel Craig was on the scene. Michael Caine is the clear winner with over 34% of the votes.

However, the impressive polling by Patrick McGoohan shows that the public also still have a penchant for the brooding, dangerous Bond circa George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Undoubtedly, McGoohan could have transformed the role, sadly it wasn’t to be.

Strangely, it seems completely foolhardy in so many ways to give either Collins or Reed a licence to kill. The very thought of it would send most Bond girls running for the hills and the rest of us running for our lives.    

Lastly, the majesty of seeing Peter O’Toole fighting for Queen and country would most certainly have had the critics baying for blood. But for some perverse reason it is also the James Bond that we would have loved to have seen, just one time!    


Header Image Pixabay 

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