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The Search For Bond Part 2 of an exclusive 3-part article


In February 1971 Picker informed the producers that he would authorise the payment of a huge salary to hook Connery. Stanley Sopel, a personal friend of the star, was despatched to meet him at the Dorchester hotel in London. Connery’s films had been a very mixed bag since quitting Bond, the western Shalako (1968) and The Molly Maguires (1970), a political film about immigrant miners in Pennsylvania co-starring Richard Harris, were expensive stiffs. And yet Connery was determined to develop his career in challenging ways, and a return to Bondage would be a step backwards, and perhaps an admission of failure; so the answer was no. Sopel did not leave the meeting empty handed, though, Connery managed to sell him a second hand Mercedes from a garage business he had an interest in!

Sean Connery and Ursula Andress

Amazingly, Broccoli & Saltzman next asked Ursula Andress, always Connery’s favourite Bond leading lady, to personally persuade him to change his mind. When that didn’t work, Picker decided to tackle the star himself and flew to London with an unprecedented offer; a staggering basic fee of $1.25 million and a 10% cut of the gross profits. Furthermore, Picker promised Connery that United Artists would financially back, to the tune of one million dollars apiece, any two films of his choosing; to either star in or direct. One of those films turned out to be the gritty police drama The Offence (1972), for which Connery gave one of his best performances; the other project never materialised.

Surely this was a deal too good to refuse, though it still took Connery a week before finally accepting, thus earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest paid actor up to that time. “I was really bribed back into it,” Connery admitted. “But it served my purpose.” In 1970 Connery had joined forces with Scottish industrialist Sir Iain Stewart and racing driver Jackie Stewart [no relation] to create the Scottish International Educational Trust, a charity that funded artistic individuals and worthwhile projects in Connery’s homeland. To get the foundation moving and in sound financial order Connery donated his entire fee to it from Diamonds Are Forever.

When Lazenby later heard Connery was returning as Bond he thought, “Good! They couldn’t find anyone else. That must mean there are only two of us.”

Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and John Gavin in Psycho (1960)

ABOVE: Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and John Gavin in Psycho (1960). Gavin is the only actor ever to be signed as James Bond but never actually play the part.

In all the brouhaha about Connery’s return, one man had been forgotten; the man who had already signed a contract to play 007. Luckily, John Gavin had made a pay-or-play deal and was reportedly compensated with $50,000. It was a price worth paying, with the public delighted at Connery's return. ‘I was in theatres many times,’ says the film’s screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, ‘when in the beginning of the picture he said, my name is Bond, James Bond, audiences cheered because he was back.’

With Diamonds Are Forever a worldwide smash Saltzman & Broccoli were determined to lure Connery into doing the following movie, Live And Let Die, and arranged for Tom Mankiewicz, who was writing the new movie and had developed a good relationship with Connery, to have lunch with him. ‘They wanted me to try and get him back! So we had this lunch and I told him, “Look Sean, we’ve got crocodiles, we’ve got a boat chase, we’ve got a lot of great stuff going on in case you want to do one more.” And Sean said a really interesting thing, he said, “I even read in the papers sometimes that it’s my fucking obligation to play Bond. Well I’ve done six of them, when does the obligation run out, at ten, twelve, fourteen.” And Sean being very much an actor by then, and he wasn’t when he started, meaning he really had become a world star, I think he just couldn’t wait to go out and act and play other parts.’

United Artists were just as desperate for Connery to carry on and made a number of lucrative approaches. “Sean was offered the world if he would do another Bond film,” recalled Desmond Llewelyn. “He could have whatever he wanted. But he said no and one American tycoon said, ‘Well, you’ve got to admire the bastard!’”

Sean Connery as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

ABOVE: Sean Connery as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). As part of Connery's $1.25 million contract to return as 007, United Artists agreed to financially back two other films of his choosing in which he starred or directed. BELOW: One of those films turned out to be the gritty police drama The Offence (1972), for which Connery gave one of his best performances; the other project never materialised. Diamonds Are Forever played at the ODEON Leicester Square to sell-out audiences from December 30, 1971 and early into the New Year. The Offence opened at the ODEON in early 1973 and failed to attract an audience, often playing to a largely empty auditorium.

Sean Connery in The Offence (1972) at the ODEON Leicester Square

EON began its search for their new James Bond early in 1972, initially flirting with the idea of recruiting not from the acting fraternity but the armed forces. Ads were taken out in the ‘situations vacant’ columns of army journals, accompanied by the heading ‘Are you 007?’ before the actor’s union Equity reportedly stepped in and more conventional casting methods were adopted.

Throughout the early months of 1972 the producers shot dozens of screen tests and by June the quest had narrowed to a handful of hopefuls that included Jeremy Brett; born in Warwickshire, England in 1933, Brett was educated at Eton College and trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. His background was really the theatre, playing many classical and Shakespearean parts with the Old Vic and the National Theatre. His only film appearance of any note was as Audrey Hepburn’s luckless suitor Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the 1964 blockbuster film version of My Fair Lady.

Brett’s screen test went well and although he was never offered Bond, the actor later confessed it would have been near impossible to refuse. “It’s the sort of role you cannot afford to turn down, but I think if I had got it, it would have spoiled me.” For the whole of the 70s and into the 80s, Brett floundered badly, why else can you explain guest appearances in American series like Hart To Hart (1979) and The Love Boat (1984). But later in 1984 his career was spectacularly saved when he was chosen to play fiction’s other great crime fighter Sherlock Holmes in a series of television dramas that ran for 10 years and achieved global critical acclaim and popularity.

Jeremy Brett

Another classically trained actor on Broccoli & Saltzman’s list was Julian Glover, who’d performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company before becoming a familiar face to British television viewers appearing in numerous popular series during the 1960s and early 1970s. At the time the London born actor was appearing in a BBC espionage show called Spy Trap (1972) and believes this was the reason Broccoli & Saltzman came calling. ‘I was in my early 30s then and quite presentable looking and I was playing a sort of Bond-style character. I wore a suit and tie and things like that, and stood up straight and pointed a gun in the right direction.’

When his agent informed him that the Bond producers wanted to set up a screen test Glover’s first reaction was, ‘wow, quite simply, but then, God, I don’t stand a chance do I. But my agent was very encouraging, “You never know Julian,” he said, “you’re playing that sort of part now on television.” And so I went and did the test. Of course I was absolutely terrified. But it was such an outside chance, the idea of me playing James Bond was almost absurd, that was something that Sean Connery did.’

Anyway, it was off to Pinewood Studios and even though Glover didn’t give himself a hope in hell, he still approached the audition as professionally as possible. ‘I hyped myself up in that I learnt the lines, and I tried to do it as well as I could. I didn’t have anyone to direct me, one never does on those things, it’s just go on and do it. They roll the cameras and say do this that and the other, and move from there to there. I had a couple of times to practice the scene and then I did it. But I knew I wasn’t going to get the part because I heard that someone called Roger Moore was in line for it and having already done two episodes of The Saint (1964/1968) with him he was an absolute obvious choice. So that was the end of that and I suppose that my test is on the cutting room floor somewhere. I have to say I wouldn’t want it to be seen; the shame, the shame.’

Glover did eventually get to appear in a Bond film, not as 007 but as the main villain, the double-crossing Kristatos in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. ‘When I was playing that part there was some talk among Cubby and Barbara Broccoli about, well now that you’ve grown up and reached a certain age you might be good for Bond. And I think by that time I probably would have been rather good; more of an Ian Fleming sort. So there was talk then, but of course I couldn’t do it because I’d just played the villain, so that was completely out.’ Even so, Julian Glover remains unique in Bond history, being the only actor to have screen tested for 007, then gone on to play one of the villains.

Julian Glover as Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Julian Glover as Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only (1981). Glover was no stranger to action-adventure films having appeared in the 1967 Hammer production of Quatermass and the Pit and The Empire Strikes Back (1980). He later played opposite Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1985).