Getting a chance to audition for the lead role in James Bond films is something most actors are willing to kill for. This is not always the case, especially when it comes to the story of “Jurassic World: Dominion” star Sam Neal, one of several major actors who almost was Agent 007. admits that he did it only out of “extreme reluctance.” Not only does Neil have his own story of how it all happened, but his reasons behind these feelings are quite understandable.
Talking to Sam Neal during the press conference about the latest part of Jurassic World was a joy and an honor in itself. However, this was the moment when my two fandoms met at the crossroads, as I am also a James Bond fan. So I asked how Neil got to the audition in general and how he feels shooting the standard scene “From Russia with Love”, which is used to test almost all modern candidates for 007 agents.
I couldn’t imagine the real answer that Sam Neal himself told CinemaBlend. In the pace and tone of his trademark storyteller, here’s how the actor described his James Bond audition experience.
I did it with extreme reluctance. I think that was the last thing I allowed my then agent to bully me. Because I told her, “Look, I don’t want to be James Bond.” And I especially don’t want to be the James Bond that everyone says, “Look, James Bond is standing in the corner of the restaurant.” He’s the one I don’t like.” So I come to Pinewood, I do this audition, it was all humiliating, and luckily I didn’t hear anything more about them.
Remembering some of the roles Neil has played over the years, from the kind but firm Dr. Alan Grant to the slowly maddening Dr. Weir in Event Horizon, it’s hard to imagine him being bullied. However, this seems to be the case when it comes to his “Live Daylight” screen test, which apparently occurred after Pierce Brosnan’s unfortunate close conversation with the fact that he was chosen for this role shortly before production began. To be fair, none of us wants to be that James Bond, so this silence is absolutely justified.
A bit of history shows why Sam Neal was considered for the role of Agent 007 in “Living Daylight”. The search for a new Bond after the 1985 film “A View to Murder”, which ended the era of Roger Moore James Bond, showed that the New Zealand talent is quite suitable for this role. Having the spy miniseries “Reilly: Ace of Spies” under his belt certainly increased Neil’s chances of winning. The director of this project was coincidentally “Golden Eye” and Martin Campbell from Casino Royale.
So what did Sam Neal’s James Bond screen test look like? Fortunately, this is one of those rare cases where you can see for yourself what could have been:
The source of Sam Neal’s screen tests was the 2000 documentary “In the Light of Daylight”, an additional DVD lost in time and in uncertainty with the contract. So naturally you can find it on the internet until a proper home video release is secured again. This special material also includes remarks by the producer of the series about James Bond, Michael J. Wilson, who recalled the following feelings about Neil’s potential casting:
We were all impressed with Sam Neal and really wanted to use him. He was very successful in the role of “Reilly: A first-class spy”. Like many things in life, it was a close race.
Naturally, the vote for the decision came from none other than Wilson’s stepfather and James Bond’s previous overlord, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. He was a fan of Timothy Dalton because of the role, and after Pierce Brosnan vetoed the potential juggling of Remington Steele and James Bond in “Living Daylights,” the field was opened. Sam Neal was the first actor to audition for the role, but he didn’t pass. Which, in the actor’s own opinion, presented below, was a blessing in his eyes:
Whereas Pierce [Brosnan], my friend, really, really wanted to be James Bond; and I’m so glad he got the gig. … Pierce really wanted to perform, and he was really good at it. He was amazing. I didn’t want a concert, and I would have been at least a little good. So all’s well that ends well.
In the history of cinema, everything seems to have fallen into place. Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan got the role of 007 for the second time, and Sam Neal got the role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, not to wait long. This may be another “what if” scenario that is tempting to imagine, but since the person himself was not enthusiastic about such a prospect, little was lost.