It’s been 60 years since the first official James Bond movie Dr No hit cinemas starring Sean Connery. However, Ian Fleming’s 007 was almost played officially by an American – well, a British-born one. Cary Grant, who stars in 1955’s To Catch a Thief opposite Grace Kelly on BBC Two this afternoon, had been urged to take the role.
It’s hardly surprising given that Grant effortlessly exuded Bond’s credentials as a tall, handsome gentleman, not to mention being the star of action thrillers opposite beautiful leading ladies.
The Hollywood legend had been asked to play 007 in Dr No by Bond producer Cubby Broccoli, who’d had the actor as his best man at his wedding.
However, it was never meant to be. At 58 years old at the time of release, Grant felt he was too old for the role, although that’s the age Roger Moore was when his seventh and final 007 movie A View to a Kill hit cinemas in 1985.
The Hitchcock movie star also only wanted to commit to one movie, not five. Disappointed, Broccoli and fellow producer Harry Saltzman began looking elsewhere for their Bond.
Allegedly, Danger Man TV star Patrick McGoohan was considered after playing spy John Drake, while David Niven, who went on to play 007 in 1967 spoof Casino Royale, is rumoured to have been in contention.
Broccoli and Saltzman even set up a Find James Bond contest, screen-testing six finalists.
The winner was 28-year-old model Peter Anthony, who Broccoli compared to Gregory Peck, but he was supposedly unable to manage the 007 part.
In the end, the 007 producers found their Bond in 32-year-old Sean Connery, who could commit to five movies.
READ MORE: Cary Grant behind Alfred Hitchcock’s audacious ‘double bluff’
When Connery met with Broccoli and Saltzman, he turned up in scruffy clothing, but was able to play Fleming’s spy so well, that they cast him.
Dr No director Terence Young then set about teaching the Scottish bodybuilder the ways of the 007 lifestyle.
The filmmaker took the former milkman to his tailor and hairdresser while introducing him to the sort of restaurants, casinos and women Bond would seek out.
Connery would go on to star in those five James Bond films, finishing with 1967’s You Only Live Twice.
Connery did end up reprising Bond in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever after his replacement George Lazenby quit the franchise following just one movie in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The Scottish star then played 007 one more time in the unofficial 1983 outing, Never Say Never Again.
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