A Female James Bond on the Big Screen Was Considered as Early as the 1950s

Oscar-winning “Valley of the Dolls” actress Susan Hayward was originally imagined in the role, according to

"No Time to Die"

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Before Lashana Lynch briefly donned the 007 title in “No Time to Die,” the film adaptation of “Dr. No,” a woman was in talks to lead the franchise 50 years prior.

In Nicholas Shakespeare’s upcoming biography of Bond author Ian Fleming, titled “Ian Fleming: The Complete Man,” it’s revealed that original “Casino Royale” producer Gregory Ratoff had imagined a woman in the titular lead role. In fact, Oscar-winning actress Susan Hayward was in Ratoff’s mind to take the part.

Prior to “Casino Royale,” the two Bond films had floundered with “Thunderball” and “Casino Royale” receiving poor reviews, hence the proposed gender-swap.

Shakespeare writes in the biography, “Since the mid-1950s, many well-known actors had been approached. Gregory Ratoff had the arresting idea of having Bond played by a woman, Susan Hayward.

Ian had entertained several possibilities, from Richard Burton (‘I think that Richard Burton would be by far the best James Bond’), to James Stewart (‘I wouldn’t at all mind him as Bond if he can slightly anglicise his accent’), to James Mason (‘We might have to settle for him’).”

Hayward had appeared in “My Foolish Heart,” and “Smash Up, the Story of a Woman,” in which she played an alcoholic nightclub singer, a role she echoed in “I’ll Cry Tomorrow.”

Hayward later played death row inmate Barbara Graham in “I Want to Live!” and won an Oscar. She also infamously starred in “Valley of the Dolls.”

Eventually, after consiering Peter Finch, Cary Grant, Dirk Bogarde, Trevor Howard, Rex Harrison, Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave, Patrick McGoohan, Roger Moore (who did end up playing Bond), and Richard Johnson, Sean Connery was cast.

“We tried twenty or thirty. No major actor would play the part for more than one picture, and we couldn’t set up a deal with a distributor without commitment from a main actor,” Fleming’s film agent Robert Fenn said.

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However, when Fleming first met Connery, Fleming was “shocked because he couldn’t speak the Queen’s English,” according to Fenn. “Fleming said, ‘He’s not my idea of Bond at all, I just want an elegant man, not this roughneck,’” Fenn recalled.

Meanwhile, Bond producer Michael G. Wilson said looking back, “Sean Connery was the right guy in the movie for the right time. If it hadn’t been Sean, who knows? Would it have captured the attention of the whole world?”

Co-producer Barbara Broccoli agreed, adding of Connery, “It was the sheer self-confidence he exuded. He walked like the most arrogant son-of-a-gun, you’ve ever seen – as if he owned every bit of Jermyn Street from Regent Street to St James. ‘That’s our Bond,’ I said.”

Broccoli previously said in 2018 that Bond will always be “a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.”

She continued, “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.”

Former Bond actress Rosamund Pike challenged the franchise to “take one of the Bond Girls and give her her own story” instead of gender-swapping the lead. Fellow Bond star Ana de Armas said that “here shouldn’t be any need to steal someone else’s character” with a woman in the role.

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