Clint Eastwood is famous for playing tough, masculine characters. These have included the “Man with No Name” in the 1960s Spaghetti Western Dollars Trilogy and San Francisco Police Department Inspector Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry franchise. Many fans don’t know that in the 1970s, he almost took on another famous role – that of the most infamous fictional spy, James Bond.
The end of the Sean Connery era
Sean Connery was the first actor to take on the role of 007. First appearing in the film Dr. No in 1962, he would go on to play Bond in several more films before deciding to break away from the franchise. His 1967 film, You Only Live Twice, gave rise to a very unhappy Connery. While filming in Japan, he was reportedly followed into the bathroom by photographers and even had a stalker.
On top of this, he began to feel he wasn’t being paid what he deserved. He was the one and only James Bond, after all. Connery asked for $1 million in addition to a percentage of the next film’s revenue. An agreement was not reached, however, and before filming began on the next Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery left the franchise.
The role was then taken on by George Lazenby, an Australian model who eagerly wanted the role. But while Lazenby wanted to be Bond, he turned down playing 007 for more than that one film. For a second time, one of the most prominent roles in cinema was open.
Believing it was the only option, Connery was asked back, but this time, money didn’t play an issue. To reprise his role as 007, Connery was paid the then-record amount of $ 1.25 million and the option to choose two future films. However, after making 1971’s Diamonds are Forever, he bowed out, never to play Bond with Eon productions again.
For a third time, the role of the most recognizable spy depicted on screen was now open for the taking. Producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman began to look for someone who could replace Connery for good. One option was an American star known for westerns and action films: Clint Eastwood
Eastwood, Clint Eastwood
When offered the chance to switch Dirty Harry’s signature Smith & Wesson .44 magnum for James Bond’s Walther PPK, Eastwood said no. Years later, he recalled, “I was also offered pretty good money to do James Bond if I would take on the role… My lawyer represented the Broccolis and he came and said, ‘They would love to have you.’ But to me, well, that was somebody else’s gig. That’s Sean’s deal. It didn’t feel right for me to be doing it.”
Eastwood continued, “I thought James Bond should be British. I am of British descent, but by the same token, I thought that it should be more of the culture there, and also, it was not my thing.”
After Eastwood turned down the part, Roger Moore, then known for playing The Saint, said yes. Moore would go on to star in seven James Bond films, the most of any actor to take on the role, from 1973 until 1985.
A long career
Eastwood didn’t miss out, though. He continued on with the Dirty Harry franchise and took on various other roles, which included cowboys, a US Marine, Secret Service Agent, pilot, and an astronaut, just to name a few.
Eastwood also took on the role of director, producer, and even composer. It’s safe to say that even though he turned down the opportunity to play James Bond, he’s still had an incredible and legendary career.