Many an actor would be thrilled to be considered for the role of James Bond, and even more would accept the part the moment it was offered. Though, as the history of the 007 franchise has shown us from time to time, there are reasons why people like Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan have had to say no the first time around. The Ice Road’s Liam Neeson is apparently a part of that club himself, as he was once in the running around the time Goldeneye was casting, but admitted he would have said no for one sweet reason: his late wife wouldn’t have married him if he had accepted.
During an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the conversation turned to whether or not Liam Neeson was ever in the official running to become James Bond. The actor confirmed that he was indeed approached, but ultimately would have passed if he was given the offer. His story about how Natasha Richardson inspired him to reject the possibility came down to an adorable ultimatum:
They approached me. I believe I got a couple of calls from Barbara Broccoli, who’s now the main producer of the Bond films. This was after I had done Schindler’s List, which was 26 years ago, but I wasn’t offered it. I know they were looking at various actors, and I apparently was among them. However, my dear, departed wife did say to me … ‘Darling, if you’re offered James Bond and you’re going to play it, you’re not going to marry me.’
While others have turned down the chance to slip on the finest tactical gear to save the world, it’s usually a case of the timing not lining up. But with Liam Neeson’s preemptive rejection of the James Bond mantle, it was purely out of love. As he and Natasha Richardson were working on the film Nell around the time he was swimming in the circles of 007 casting, their love story was at a crucial juncture. Ultimately, history saw Neeson and Richardson marry, and Pierce Brosnan grabbing the lead in Goldeneye after passing it up once before.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Liam Neeson would see his name connected to James Bond history. Allegedly he was offered the role yet again when Thunderball writer Kevin McClory had plans to remake the film yet again, with the project Warhead 2000. It never got off the ground, and supposedly Neeson rejected the part yet again, staying true to the strongest bond in his life: his marriage vows.
It’s not known why Natasha Richardson would have wanted Liam Neeson to stay away from the lead in Goldeneye. Eventually though, Neeson would have his day as an action star, with Star Wars opening the door and Taken kicking off the current phase of his career that we see him enjoying today. He may not have gotten to be James Bond, and the possibility is still one the world will probably ponder over, but the results that eventually landed can’t be argued with.
You can catch Liam Neeson in his latest film, Netflix’s The Ice Road, as it’s currently available for streaming. And if you want to see what else is in store for subscribers in the month of July, you can take a look at the full lineup of titles coming online in July. Last, but not least, if you want to watch the version of Goldeneye that exists in this universe, you can catch that for free with ads on Tubi.