Hugh Jackman Reveals Why He Turned Down James Bond—And Later Regretted It
He was being considered as Pierce Brosnan's replacement.
While actor Hugh Jackman has become synonymous with the mutant superhero Wolverine, the early aughts found him up for another legendary role. In a 2018 interview with Howard Stern, the Greatest Showman star revealed that he had joined a list of actors that includes Cary Grant and Liam Neeson by walking away from the chance to play iconic secret agent James Bond. Read on for details on why he turned down 007 and what made him come to regret the decision.
The Bond producers approached Jackman shortly after the release of X-Men.
As Jackman tells it, he wasn't exactly offered the role of James Bond outright—but there were quiet discussions going on between the Bond producers and his agent to gauge his interest shortly after his first turn as Wolverine in 2000. "It's a bit like the Secret Service," he joked to Stern. "They don't want to offer it and you say no."
Jackman was just one of multiple actors rumored to be in the running to replace Pierce Brosnan as 007, including future big-screen superheroes Christian Bale and Henry Cavill. The role would of course end up going to Daniel Craig, who played Bond in five films beginning with 2006's Casino Royale—but things could have been very different if Jackman hadn't gotten cold feet.
Jackman was nervous about joining another franchise.
In a 2017 interview with Variety, Jackman had said he was concerned with the scripts in the Bond franchise, which by the early '00s had come to include questionable elements including an invisible car and a villain who changes his race via DNA manipulations (both present in Brosnan's last Bond film, 2002's Die Another Day). "I just felt at the time that the scripts had become so unbelievable and crazy, and I felt like they needed to become grittier and real," the actor said.
Jackman also worried about being typecast in the hero role. "I always tried to do different things," he said. "But there was a time between X-Men 3 and the first Wolverine movie when I could see the roles getting smaller. People wanted me to play that kind of hero part exclusively. It felt a little bit claustrophobic."
He asked Russell Crowe for advice.
Jackman told Stern he rang his good friend (and fellow Aussie actor) Russell Crowe to ask what he should do. His future Les Misérables co-star cautioned him to think ahead before saying yes. "He goes, 'Make sure you know what direction it's going in because if you say yes to that and it works, you're going to have X-Men/Bond, X-Men/Bond… You want to make sure you're doing something you really love,'" Jackman remembered.
Guided by a sense that the franchise needed to go "a little more Sean Connery, a little tougher," in his words, Jackman walked away from the opportunity. The producers apparently came to agree with him, as Craig's turn in Casino Royale would ultimately prove. Critics praised the film as a faithful reinvention of the cinematic Bond as something far closer to the character from the novels.
He came to regret the decision, however.
Upon seeing Craig's performance in the film, Jackman said he experienced some regret. "I go to see Casino Royale, I was like…'Oops,'" he told Stern. Passing on that film wasn't his biggest regret, however.
"The worst feeling was Chicago," he admitted, revealing that he had likewise turned down the role of Billy Flynn in the film version of the Broadway musical, believing himself too young to play the seasoned criminal attorney. Flynn's dancing shoes were eventually filled by Richard Gere.
However, Jackman soon had more chances to flex his musical chops, spending his time outside the X-Men franchise in stage and screen musicals including The Boy From Oz, The Music Man, The Greatest Showman, and Les Misérables. And though he will always be indelibly linked to Wolverine, having portrayed the character in some 10 films (including the forthcoming Deadpool 3), it's safe to say he also avoided being typecast as an action hero, having shown more than just his vocal range in films including The Fountain, The Prestige, Australia, and Prisoners.
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