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Though Sean Connery is solidly cemented in cinematic history as the original 007, it's become a well-known bit of Bond lore that some legendary actors were initially considered for the part, including Cary Grant, David Niven, and Richard Burton. However, not so well-known are the talented actors that current Bond Daniel Craig beat out to become the fresh new face of the aging franchise.
In a casting process that lasted nearly two years, Craig beat out over 200 would-be Bonds before officially stepping into 007's no-longer-white dinner jacket for "Casino Royale" (2006). Part of the reason behind the lengthy casting process was that producer Barbara Broccoli and Bond's new distributor, Sony, couldn't agree on the right actor to help lead the franchise in a grittier, post 9/11 direction.
At Sony's behest, an extensive net was thrown across the British Commonwealth and beyond. Orlando Bloom, Clive Owen, Colin Farrell, Karl Urban, and Gerard Butler were discussed. Rumors also circled around Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Jude Law. But none of these men were ever considered serious enough to merit a screen test. Besides Craig, only four potential candidates made it that far.
Before making a household name for himself in "Avatar" (2009) and "Clash of the Titans" (2010), Australian Sam Worthington was offered to screen test to play Bond in "Casino Royale". Ultimately, he lost the role, but Worthington does credit the experience as a vital prelude to landing the part of Jake Sully in "Avatar" (2009). "I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I thought the least I'll get out of this is to act a few scenes with James Cameron, and that's a hell of an opportunity. I learned that from going for the James Bond audition," said Worthington.
Another relatively unknown 007 screen tester who's gone on to heroic heights is Henry Cavill. According to the ultimate Bond fan site, CommanderBond.net, "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell considered Cavil right up until the very end, when the director opted for Craig instead, feeling that at 22, Cavil would be too young to play the superspy. In another sour casting note, Cavill was "Twilight" creator Stephenie Meyer's first choice to play Edward Cullen, the part for which Robert Pattinson continues to make mad bank. Everything seems to have worked out okay though, as Cavill's set to play Superman in this summer's probable blockbuster, "Man of Steel".
After impressing Campbell in a screen test for "The Legend of Zorro" (2005), Croatian Goran Visnjic was invited to screen test for 007, even though English isn't his native tongue. Visnjic, who was best known for playing Dr. Luka Kovac on "ER," obviously didn't land the role, but he has worked steadily in film and TV ever since, including an upcoming part in Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" (2013), which also stars "Skyfall" baddie Javier Bardem.
Finally, another Aussie, Alex O'Loughlin screen tested for Campbell in full wardrobe. Since then, he's gone onto some choice TV roles, as Detective Kevin Hiatt on "The Shield" and as Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-0".
Ultimately, both Broccoli and Sony agreed that their Bond should be reborn in the same dark vein as Jason Bourne, the part Matt Damon had successfully commandeered in "The Bourne Identity" (2002) and "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004). After nearly 200 candidates and five screen tests, the two sides finally came together and agreed on Craig, the thoroughbred Broccoli had been backing since before Sony came on board. Considering how savvy Barbara Broccoli is, in her mind, it was probably never really a competition at all.
It's also interesting to note that while Daniel Craig was in contract talks to renew as his royal Bondness, London native Idris Alba ("Thor," "Prometheus") had spoken to Broccoli about becoming the first black Bond. Of course that discussion was made moot when Craig signed on for three more Bond flicks, starting with "Skyfall," which opens this Friday, November 9th.