Here’s why Anthony Hopkins passed on playing James Bond when approached for Live And Let Die, and the Bond villains he later turned down . While the James Bond series has had its peaks and valleys over the decades, there were doubts it could survive into the 1970s following Sean Connery’s departure. His replacement George Lazenby exited the role after only one movie and cited his fear of the character being outdated and uncool as one reason for his exit.
Connery was later lured back for 1971’s Diamond Are Forever thanks to a very generous cheque and to get other movies greenlit. The actor made it clear he wouldn’t be sticking around – though he later came back one final time for 1983’s unofficial Never Say Never Again – and the producers feared the series wouldn’t last. This was one reason why the 1971 spy thriller When Eight Bells Toll was greenlit, which was based on the novel by famed The Guns of Navarone author Alistair MacLean. The producer wanted to make a darker, grittier take on the spy genre that could also capitalize on the Bond series’ potential demise.
Anthony Hopkins was cast in the lead of When Eight Bells Toll as secret agent Phillip Calvert, and in addition to fistfights and shootouts, the actor got to play the part of a dashing, rugged spy. It’s a role quite unlike the one audiences would come to know the actor for, but the movie ultimately failed to make an impact. Surprisingly, it nearly nabbed him the James Bond role itself for Live And Let Die, with Hopkins revealing in 2012 during a conversion with BAFTA (via Independent) that he was approached. He stated, “I was, believe it or not, I met Cubby Broccoli and I didn’t think I was the right material for Bond but it was flattering to be offered it.”
When Eight Bells Toll makes a case that Anthony Hopkins could have made for an intriguing, more grounded take on 007, but it doesn’t appear he told the offer very seriously. Many actors were considered for Live And Let Die, including John Gavin, future Bond villain Julian Glover and even Burt Reynolds. Roger Moore was eventually cast and remains the longest-serving actor in the role with seven movies.
Being considered for the lead in Live And Let Die wasn’t Anthony Hopkins’ last connection to the Bond series either. He was linked to both the Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan versions of GoldenEye, where he would have played villain 006, who was originally conceived as an older mentor to Bond; the character was later retooled for Sean Bean. Hopkins was later approached to play the media mogul Elliot Carver in Brosnan’s follow-up adventure Tomorrow Never Dies. The part was actually tailored to him, but he instead opted for GoldenEye director Martin Campbell’s The Mask Of Zorro and Jonathan Pryce played Carver.