Female James Bond was on the cards more than 60 years ago, new biography reveals

Virgin Radio

10 Apr 2024, 13:02

Credit: Universal Pictures

The new book written by Nicholas Shakespeare details Bond creator Ian Fleming’s life and holds the stunning revelation that a female actor nearly earned her licence to kill before the franchise’s most iconic male leads.

In Ian Fleming: The Complete Man, he wrote: “Since the mid-1950s, many well-known actors had been approached. [Producer] Gregory Ratoff had the arresting idea of having Bond played by a woman, Susan Hayward.” 

Hayward was a successful actor throughout the 50s, and was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her roles in the films, Smash Up, the Story of a Woman, My Foolish Heart, With a Song in My Heart, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, and I Want to Live!, eventually winning the award for I Want to Live!

However, after considering a long list of actors to portray the suave secret agent (including future Bond actor Roger Moore), they settled on Sean Connery. 

He was far from the producers’ first choice though, as Shakespeare revealed: “When Fleming first met Connery, Fleming was ‘shocked because he couldn’t speak the Queen’s English,’ according to [Robert] Fenn.”

The autobiography records that Fenn, Fleming’s film agent, recalled that: “Fleming said ‘He’s not my idea of Bond at all, I just want an elegant man, not this roughneck.'”

The producers tried 20 to 30 different actors, but the majority would not commit to a contract that involved playing the now iconic spy for more than one film. It was a commitment necessary to secure a deal with a distributor, Shakespeare detailed, eventually leading them to casting Connery.

The chances of a female Bond seem much slimmer these days with current franchise producer Barbara Broccoli stating in 2018 that the spy will always be a “male character.”

“He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male”, she went on to say. “And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”

One such character, Lashana Lynch’s Nomi, held the 007 title briefly in No Time To Die, but rumours currently tip Aaron Taylor-Johnson to play the lead in the next instalment of the franchise.