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The Number Of Bond Candidates Martin Campbell Tested For Casino Royale Before Choosing Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright hang out at the bar in Casino Royale.

When Martin Campbell re-enlisted into the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale, he came aboard at just the right time. Signing on as the film’s director in February 2005, Campbell would be part of the eventual apparatus that would cast Daniel Craig as the sixth actor to play James Bond in the official franchise. While the rumor mill was spinning out of control, with as many names as possible in contention, Martin Campbell only ever screen tested eight people for the position.

This piece of information was provided during our conversation while Mr. Campbell was promoting his work on The Protégé. However, when looking back on the film and TV director’s resume, something interesting came up. As it turns out, Martin Campbell had directed a previous candidate for the role of James Bond back in the ‘80s, as his work on the miniseries Reilly, Ace of Spies saw him teamed with future Jurassic Park star Sam Neill. When I asked Campbell if he had any particular feelings about his former collaborator missing out on the 007 mantle, this was his response:

To be absolutely honest, I didn’t even know he’d tested. I had no clue. And don’t forget, when you do test for Bond, on Casino [Royale] I tested eight people. And don’t ask me who they were, I’m not going to tell you.

On the one hand, Martin Campbell swearing himself to secrecy about who he tested for Casino Royale’s lead is a bummer. However, looking back at news reports, we can say that there’s at least half of those names that could be confirmed, if not heavily implied. Starting with the obvious, we know that Daniel Craig screen tested, and despite Campbell having reservations about his casting, he landed the role.

That being said, three other names came up in contemporary reporting from Variety (via The BBC), which came at the end of Casino Royale’s big screen tests. Alongside Craig’s eventually winning bid, Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill, ER’s Goran Visnjic and Avatar’s Sam Worthington all emerged as the supposed finalists in the James Bond olympics. And that’s not counting the other names that were heavily rumored, like Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor.

But when it came to Sam Neill’s screen test for The Living Daylights, Martin Campbell wouldn’t see the results until years down the line. Strangely enough, the Goldeneye director probably saw that footage the same way the general public did. Which, as you’ll see below, is quite a rarity:

I think I did see...I saw his test. And I’m not sure I didn’t see it on YouTube. I saw it somewhere. … You don’t often see the tests. They keep those under lock and key.

If you were hoping that maybe, somewhere on the internet, you’d be able to find Henry Cavill or Goran Visnjic’s auditions for Casino Royale, I’m afraid that’s not the case. Unless the EON Productions team decides they want to release that footage as a DVD extra, much like they eventually did with Sam Neill, that footage is probably going to be locked in the company’s vault. As we head into No Time To Die’s promotional window, all we know at this time is that the results spoke for themselves. Daniel Craig reinvented James Bond for a modern era, Martin Campbell was there to help him do it and the world of 007 will never be the same again.

No Time To Die caps off the Daniel Craig era of James Bond on either September 30 or October 8, depending on whether you’re a UK or US moviegoer. And don’t forget to checkout Martin Campbell’s The Protégé, as it’s currently in theaters. Though if you’re nostalgic for all things Craig and want a little more of a taste from what No Time To Die has to offer, you’re in luck. Check out the documentary Being James Bond: The Daniel Craig Story, which is currently available as a free rental on Apple TV+, and you can see some behind the scenes footage of this historic occasion being made.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.