Why Hugh Jackman passed on playing James Bond

The "X-Men" star explains turning down the iconic role.

December 06, 2017, 12:01 PM

— -- Before Daniel Craig took over the mantle of the iconic James Bond from Pierce Brosnan, another A-list actor had a shot and passed on the role.

PHOTO: Daniel Craig appears in a scene from "Spectre."
Daniel Craig appears in a scene from "Spectre."
Jonathan Olley/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

Following the success of 2000's "X-Men," Hugh Jackman was a star on the rise. He starred in "Swordfish" in 2001 opposite Oscar winner Halle Berry and then was set to appear in the "X-Men" sequel a couple years later.

“I was about to do ‘X-Men 2,’ and a call came from my agent asking if I’d be interested in Bond,” Jackman told Variety for this week's cover story.

But Jackman didn't even consider the role, he says.

"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," he said. "And the response was: ‘Oh, you don’t get a say. You just have to sign on.'"

The Oscar nominee said he felt similar sentiments to actors and actresses who were offered big franchise roles like Bond before -- that he didn't want to be stuck just doing that one thing.

"I was also worried that between Bond and ‘X-Men,’ I’d never have time to do different things," he told Variety. “I always tried to do different things. 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.”

Jackman did keep his options open. In 2006, he starred opposite Christian Bale in "The Prestige" and then, a few years later, earned an Oscar nod for "Les Misérables."

He's certainly not the only actor to have passed on a big franchise. Josh Hartnett said he not only turned down the role of Batman in the early 2000's that would eventually go to Bale, but Superman and Spider-Man as well.

PHOTO: Josh Hartnett speaks at an event on Nov. 2, 2017, in Hollywood, Calif.
Josh Hartnett speaks at an event on Nov. 2, 2017, in Hollywood, Calif.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

"I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me, and I didn't want that," Hartnett told Details magazine in 2014. "I didn't want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger."

Al Pacino also famously passed on "Star Wars," he said in 2014, adding that he didn't understand the script when it came to him. At the time, he said he was "offered everything" after his famous turn in "The Godfather."

And the list of "What if's" and rumors goes on.

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