Moviegoers are preparing to be shaken (and stirred) once again, as Daniel Craig stares down the barrel of a gun and prepares for No Time to Die. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s much-delayed spy thriller has the honor of being Craig’s swansong and the 25th Bond movie.
It’s unclear where we go now, but with everyone from Idris Elba to No Time to Die‘s Lashana Lynch and Bridgerton‘s Regé-Jean Page poised to pick up the keys to the Aston, it’s clear a new era is just over the horizon.
Despite this movie milestone, things could have been very different. From female franchise spin-offs to a much bloodier Casino Royale and George Lazenby’s return, to the many missteps of Timothy Dalton, it’s time to look at the Bond movies that never were.
George Lazenby in Diamonds are Forever
Suave Scotsman Sean Connery has the honor of kick-starting the Bond series and having icons like Dr No and Goldfinger on his holster. Less can be said for Connery’s later outings, with Diamonds Are Forever being held up as a camp classic.
Elsewhere, George Lazenby’s turn in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is now considered a jewel in the crown for many reasons. Lazenby was being touted for a second movie, and this early Diamonds was pitched as a direct sequel that would pick up following the tragic death of wife Tracy (brilliantly played by the late Diana Rigg).
In a 2017 documentary, Lazenby claims his agent told him to turn down the offer of six more movies, and with the wheels in motion, Connery landed a then record-breaking $1.25 million to return.
Bond heading out on a brutal mission of vengeance sounds very Vesper/Craig era, but back then, Eon reverted to the tried and tested formula of squeezing Connery into a tux.
The Property of a Lady
Poor Timothy Dalton had a tough run as Bond, with no less than three lost movies during his tenure. Even though Licence to Kill was his last, Dalton was originally rumored for a third movie. The Property of a Lady was even announced at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.
The sketchy plot included an attack on a Scottish nuclear facility and Bond’s mentor being exposed as a traitor. Better yet, the legendary Anthony Hopkins was signed on to play the villainous Denholm Crisp.
Ultimately, Dalton’s contract expired and Bond went on an extended leave of absence. If you think a lot of these themes sound familiar, swap Scotland for Russia and Hopkins for Sean Bean, and you’ve pretty much got 1995’s beloved GoldenEye.
There were once whispers that Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin would get her own spin-off following Tomorrow Never Dies, but with the industry not ready for a female-first Bond blockbuster, the idea was put on ice for a few years.
Much like No Time to Die seems to be setting up Lynch’s Nomi for a spin-off, a similar idea to the Wai Lin idea moved forward for Halle Berry’s Jinx. Instead, the end of the Brosnan era with Die Another Day was a far cry from the highs of GoldenEye.
Berry was big news, and before Craig was stepping out of the ocean in his little shorts, THAT orange bikini was giving audiences some serious Ursula Andress vibes to win round critics.
The concept of the ass-kicking NSA agent breaking free from Bond’s bed is easy to imagine. Alas, we guess Madonna’s Die Another Day cameo sealed the fate for both Berry and Brosnan.
The legacy of Thunderball in the Bondverse is an odd one. In the late ’50s, Fleming worked with Kevin McClory to develop 007’s first feature film. When that fell apart, Fleming was accused of using those ideas for 1965’s Thunderball.
After things were settled outside of court, McClory retained some rights but was unable to make a rival picture for a decade. In 1975, he’d planned a “proper” adaptation known as Warhead. It was going to include classic Thunderball elements like SPECTRE, alongside more unique themes like sharks strapped with nuclear explosives.
Even when McClory’s movie stumbled, Warhead refused to die. Instead, the idea evolved into the absurdly OTT Never Say Never Again, which somehow managed to lure back Connery (again).
Quentin Tarantino’s Casino Royale
Kevin WinterGetty Images
In terms of out-there Bond outings almost too strange to picture, what about a black and white movie starring Pierce Brosnan and directed by Quentin Tarantino?
Long before Martin Campbell was reclaiming the Casino Royale name from the spoof starring David Niven, Tarantino had his own grand plans to wrangle the rights from the Broccolis. Brosnan was reportedly Tarantino’s favorite Bond, and even though his story would feature a younger Bond, he still wanted to lock him in for the title role.
Ironically, the panning of Die Another Day actually led to Tarantino’s Casino Royale becoming a real possibility. We can only imagine Uma Thurman would have played Moneypenny and there would have been a lot of foot shots.
Sunset Boulevard / Getty Images
Dalton’s most exciting movie that never happened was only known as Bond 15 and was going to give James Bond an origin story.
Long-time Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum wrote a treatment that sounds like it would have been an amalgamation of every Bond movie that’s come since.
Things were going to play out with the original 007 mentoring James, a trip to Bond’s ancestral home as a subtle Skyfall prelude, and then the final moments leading into his assignment to meet a certain Dr Julius No.
Another canned idea featured a story called Reunion in Death, which would have taken place almost entirely in Japan and been a sequel to You Only Live Twice. Unfortunately, you could do a whole feature of Dalton movies that never came to be.
Danny Boyle’s Bond 25
Tim P Whitby for BFIGetty Images
As the years went on – and the dust settled on a disappointing Spectre – Bond 25 went through the wringer in terms of its lead and director. Before Fukunaga was attached to Craig’s swansong, Danny Boyle was due to cue the gun-barrel sequence.
With Boyle’s talents traversing genres with everything from Sunshine to 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire, a Bond movie would have been another feather in his cap. Doing what many had tried (and failed to do) in the past, Boyle had supposedly grand ambitions to kill off Bond.
There would presumably be a franchise reboot further down the line, but just like David Fincher saw Ellen Ripley bow out in Alien 3, Boyle planned to put Bond down with a Walter PPK.
Remembering that Sam Mendes had the cojones to kill M, Boyle’s canned outing could have finally confirmed that popular theory that James Bond is just a name. Sadly, we’ll never know what could have been.
No Time to Die is out in UK cinemas on September 30 and in US cinemas on October 8.
Tom ChapmanTom Chapman is a freelance writer specialising in movies and TV.
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