The Name's BOV, James BOV

28 Sep 2021

As 007's latest adventure premieres, and Daniel Craig takes his bow as the latest Bond, we find out which famous Bristol Old Vic-torians could've donned the dinner suit and shaken, nay, stirred up the role of the world's most famous spy.

1. Peter O'Toole

A portrait of Peter O'Toole in a suit holding a lit cigarette

Bristol Old Vic favourite Peter O'Toole not only played the most famous real British agent of all time, T. E. Lawrence, in Lawrence of Arabia, but it turns out he could have played the most famous fictional British agent too!

According to an obituary in The Times, a former MP called Derek Coombs who was Peter O'Toole's brother-in-law, attempted to secure the film rights to some of Ian Fleming's books in 1956. These included Live and Let Die, Casino Royale and Moonraker. He intended to use them to help O'Toole, who had just started his acting career, get to super stardom.

Sadly, Coombs was unsuccessful in gaining the rights so the films as he imagined them were never made. What's more, according to the same obituary, it turns out that O'Toole showed little interest in playing 007 anyway. Find out more about this story here.

2. Jeremy Irons

The deep gravelly voice, the upright demeanour, the regular appearances at Bristol Old Vic - all would've made Jeremy Irons obviously perfect for the role of Bond.

According to The Telegraph, in 1980, (Roger Moore's 007 era), producer Albert 'Cubby' Broccoli reportedly had a meeting with Irons about taking on the iconic role. Irons was starring in The French Lieutenant's Woman at the time.

Irons said: 'Cubby Broccoli came down - we had a meeting in Lyme Regis - and I wasn't actually very interested because, perhaps wrongly, I thought "it's such an iconic role, I would find it hard to get away from it"'. And that was that. Close but no cigar.

3. Daniel Day-Lewis

So, here's the ultimate chameleon on our list and another Bristol Old Vic legend - the great Daniel Day-Lewis was also in the frame to pick up that Licence to Kill.

According to the The Telegraph, kicking off a rumour-fest in 2013 the author William Boyd, when asked who he would cast as 007 for the film version of his Bond continuation novel Solo, said Daniel Day-Lewis was perfect for it. Boyd said that Bond is "tall, lean and rangy" and that "Day-Lewis actually resembles the Bond Fleming described".

Sadly for us, Boyd's novel Solo doesn't seem to be anywhere close to becoming a film, and Day-Lewis said in 2017 that he's retired, so this one's now a very long shot.

4. Mark Strong

Mark Strong, star of thrillers and war films, the voice of those Covid radio ads, and a distinctly 007-like Sebastian in The Brother's Grimsby - this Bristol Old Vic Theatre School grad surely could've made it into that dinner jacket, or at least into a role as a bond Baddie? No?

Well, apparently it was a big night out with Daniel Craig that put pay to Strong's chance to join the franchise. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, in an interview with Strong in There's Something About Movies on Sky One, he said that in the 1990s he was invited to audition, not for Bond but for a villain, opposite Pierce Brosnan:

"I learned the lines … and to celebrate I went out for a drink, and I got pissed. I overdid it and the next day I was severely hungover,” Strong said. When he arrived at the audition, “I started, then I just forgot my lines, couldn’t remember what they were and they all just kind of fell apart. I was sweating, it was a terrible experience — but I really learned from it.”

“The irony was, the guy I was out the night before getting pissed with was Daniel Craig. So I blame him!”

5. Naomie Harris, Samantha Bond & Caroline Bliss

Ok, this one is slightly different. These Bristol Old Vic-torians are actually in the movies, and we'd say, while they aren't Bond, they are every inch his match.

The real power behind the superspy, 007 would be nothing without Moneypenny. We think that these three Bristol Old Vic alumni, who trod our 18th Century boards as students, are as kick-ass as any 007.

Bond, Samantha Bond. With her portrayal of supreme organisational skill and the ability to put Brosnan's Bond in his place with the perfect quip, Samantha Bond proved Moneypenny was essential in stopping a slide back into the Cold War. Not to mention that with has the most perfect name for this franchise, Bond was seemingly born to be in 007 movies!

Samantha Bond's predecessor and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School classmate, who could forget the excellent Caroline Bliss's Moneypenny, and her penchant for Barry Manilow!

And finally, when she exploded onto the screen in Skyfall, Theatre School grad Naomie Harris's Moneypenny might as well have been 007. Not a secretary, not an assistant but a lethal agent in her own right, we're excited to see which other bad guys she defeats in No Time to Die...