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Liam Neeson’s Desire to Play James Bond Made Natasha Richardson Give Him an Ultimatum

Photo Credit: Francois Durand / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Francois Durand / Getty Images

Over the decades, James Bond’s secret agent character has been played by many notable actors such as David Niven, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. Rumors usually spread about who might step into the role next, and when there was a casting call for a replacement Bond, Liam Neeson was given a chance to swing for the role. His soon-to-be wife, Natasha Richardson, was not too excited about the idea of him becoming Bond and she told him so.

Neeson wasn’t technically offered the role

Headshot of Liam Neeson.
Liam Neeson attends the ‘A walk amongst the Tombstones’ Press Conference during Day 9 of Zurich Film Festival 2014 on October 3, 2014, in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images for ZFF)

Neeson explained in a February 2023 interview with Rolling Stone that he knew the Broccoli family – notably, Barbara Broccoli, a producer on many James Bond films. When the time came for casting a new James Bond for the 1995 film GoldenEye, Barbara reached out to Neeson to see if he would be interested in the role. At the time, Neeson told her that he was interested.

However, in his recent interview, Neeson made it very clear that he was simply being provided an opportunity to audition for the role. “I was not offered James Bond,” he said. “They looked at a bunch of actors. Schindler’s List had come out, and [Broccoli] had called me a couple of times to ask if I was interested, and I said, ‘Yes, I would be interested.'”

Richardson gave him a ‘James Bond ultimatum’

Headshot of Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson smiling for a photo.
Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson arrive at the BFI 52 London Film Festival: ‘The Other Man’ Premiere at the Odeon West End on October 17, 2008, in London, England. (Photo Credit: Chris Jackson / Getty Images)

When Neeson told his partner, Natasha Richardson, about the opportunity, she was not very open to the idea. Instead, she gave Neeson what he called a “James Bond ultimatum.” “And then my lovely wife [Natasha Richardson], god rest her soul, said to me while we were shooting Nell down in the Carolinas, ‘Liam, I want to tell you something: If you play James Bond, we’re not getting married.'”

Neeson found this rather amusing. “So I would tease her by going behind her back, making my fingers as though I’m holding a gun” and humming the James Bond theme, he said. Although he made a joke about her reaction, she was quite serious. “And she meant it!” he added, and offered an explanation why that may have been. “Come on, there’s all those gorgeous girls in various countries getting into bed and getting out of bed. I’m sure a lot of her decision-making was based on that!”

The two eventually got married

Liam Neeson hugging Natasha Richardson from behind while she looks up at him smiling.
Actress Natasha Richardson and actor Liam Neeson leave Studio 54 after the opening of “A Streetcar Named Desire” on April 26, 2005, in New York. (Photo Credit: Brad Barket / Getty Images)

Neeson and Richardson met while working on Broadway’s Anna Christie in 1993. At the time, Richardson was married to producer Robert Fox, but they were already on their way to separating when she began her relationship with Neeson. “Obviously I fell very much in love with him,” she later explained. The two got married in 1994 on their property in New York.

Tragically, during a 2009 skiing trip in Quebec, Canada, Richardson fell while coming down a beginner’s slope and took a hard hit to the head. She refused medical attention but had actually suffered a traumatic brain injury. She was taken to the hospital, but by the time Neeson arrived to be with his wife, she had already been declared brain-dead and was on life support. Natasha Richardson was only 45 years old.

More from us: Patrick Swayze Fought for Whoopi Goldberg to Get Her Iconic Role in ‘Ghost’

Over the years following her death, Neeson has continuously sung his wife’s praises and frequently shares charming anecdotes like this one from their precious time together.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!