The name could have been Brolin, James Brolin – and it very nearly was.
In 1982, the American actor, known for his work in Westworld and The Amityville Horror, was cast to play James Bond in Octopussy, the 13th installment of the series that would be released the following year. Instead, he became the victim of a behind-the-scenes spin and never got to complete what he later said would have been a “great gig.”
Roger Moore, who’d played 007 in five movies up to that point, decided he wasn’t going to return, so Eon Productions boss Cubby Broccoli were moving on without him. That was until another former Bond, Sean Connery, was confirmed to be the star of a rival movie, Never Say Never Again. Suddenly, there were two Bond movies in production, both with the rights to use creator Ian Fleming’s work (Never Say Never was a remake of Thunderball) and both competing for the same audience.
Broccoli felt he needed Moore back to secure the success of his film, so the actor was wooed over a period of months. “I don’t think it gave us any leverage at all,” Moore said in a TV interview, though he soon changed his tune, revealing that rival producer Jack Schwartzman had asked him “if I wanted to do that or did I want to do this.”
“Of course it gave me a certain amount of leverage,” Moore noted. “I said to Sean, ‘Which one do you want to do?’ He didn’t want to do the one with Cubby, so I’m here. And he’s there.”
Watch Roger Talk About ‘Octopussy’ in an NBC Interview
In a 2019 interview, Brolin discussed just how close he’d come to taking on the 007 mantle.
“Roger Moore had said, ‘I’m not doing any more Bond,’” he recalled. “So, Cubby Broccoli starts interviewing people and flies me over [to the U.K.] and takes me to all the great spots, then finally decides. … We talked about having an intercontinental accent – I’m not British and a lot of people are gonna object. Anyway, I got my flat, I started working out with the stuntmen, and then I went back home to collect all my stuff, because I’m gonna be gone a year. I’m home about a week, and I get a message that Roger Moore decided to do Octopussy.”
Asked about his reaction, Brolin replied, “I’m a fatalist, in a way. I just went, ‘Okay, all right.’ But I look back and I think it could have been a great gig.”
Watch James Brolin Talk About Almost Playing James Bond
Octopussy went on to become a financial success, making $187 million, though it received mixed reviews from critics; Never Say Never Again made $160 million but netted better reviews.
Moore would go on to play Bond one more time in A View to a Kill, equaling Connery’s total of seven appearances. All that remains of how Brolin might have played the character can be seen in some screen tests that hint at how well he could have settled in.
Watch James Brolin’s James Bond Screen Tests