Ian Fleming thought Sean Connery was too rough to play Bond

Ian Fleming would have preferred Richard Burton, James Mason or James Stewart to play the first James Bond.

Ian Fleming

The name’s Fleming, Ian Fleming. And boy did he have some problems with how his James Bond character was being adapted for the big screen. As we all know, Sean Connery was cinema’s first 007, but Fleming himself hated the idea, concerned that he didn’t have the right voice.

As revealed in Nicholas Shakespeare’s new book, Ian Fleming: The Complete Man (via IndieWire), the process to find the perfect James Bond was an arduous one. Per Fleming’s agent Robert Fenn, “We tried twenty or thirty [potential prospects]. 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.” Of course, Bond would go to Connery, who Fleming didn’t care for because “he couldn’t speak the Queen’s English…He’s not my idea of Bond at all, I just want an elegant man, not this roughneck.”

To many, that “roughneck” would go on to be the quintessential Bond. But it could have been quite different, with Shakespeare noting that Ian Fleming “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’).” Let it be known that Mason in particular would have been a terrible Bond, more than likely butchering the suaveness, action and iconic lines. And Jimmy Stewart? Just try to imagine him seducing Pussy Galore!

At one point, George Ratoff – one of the men who tried getting the Bond franchise off the ground back in the 1950s – even considered having Oscar winner Susan Hayward step into the role, a progressive move that is still being shut down even today.

We could wonder “What if?” all day but the vast majority would agree that Sean Connery is the James Bond. Really, would Ian Fleming’s world have taken off like it did had anybody else – especially the named stars – if Connery hadn’t led it off?

If Sean Connery hadn’t been cast as the first Bond, who do you think would have been the best fit? Do you like any of Ian Fleming’s picks? Give us your dream back-up pick in the comments section below!

Source: IndieWire

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with JoBlo.com periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.