Liam Neeson turned down the role of James Bond to marry actress Natasha Richardson.
Liam Neeson could have been James Bond. According to an interview with the Times of London, he was offered the role of the world-famous superspy after Timothy Dalton finished the 1989 film License to Kill. All the glamor, guns, and girls would have been his — but actress Natasha Richardson said she wouldn’t marry him if he took the role, so he turned it down.
The offer came right on the tail of Liam Neeson completing Steven Spielberg’s famous historical drama Schindler’s List, making him a hot commodity in Hollywood at the time. He expressed interest in the role, but Richardson worried about the franchise’s tendency to have James Bond bed multiple beautiful foreign women in every movie. Since Neeson wanted to marry Richardson more than he wanted to play James Bond, he turned the role down, and it went to Pierce Brosnan.
Liam Neeson’s marriage, from what it seems, was a happy one, lasting 15 years before Richardson tragically died in a skiing accident at Mont Tremblant in Quebec. Richardson, who was most famous for her roles in The Parent Trap and Maid in Manhattan, had two children with Neeson before her death.
While turning down the role of James Bond might seem like a poor career move for most actors, Liam Neeson has managed to remain a major force in Hollywood despite turning down one of its most iconic roles. From playing the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn to the ninja leader Ras al-Ghul to the Christlike lion Aslan, Neeson has managed to land no shortage of iconic roles throughout his career.
Of course, Liam Neeson even managed to land his own action franchise that has brought him more than his fair share of fame and fortune. The Taken franchise started in 2008 with the original Taken film, starring Neeson as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills, who must use his retinue of skills to rescue his daughter, who was abducted by a sex trafficking ring. The film was an unqualified success, making $226 million on a $25 million budget.
The franchise had two other films, with Liam Neeson returning to his role in each — and each sequel making upwards of $300 million. A shortlived TV series, starring Clive Standen as a young Bryan Mills as he becomes a CIA superspy. Unlike the films, the series was poorly received and was canceled after its second season.
While there are no more Taken films on the horizon, Liam Neeson still regularly gets action-centric roles, such as 2022’s Blacklight or this year’s Retribution. However, the 70-year-old actor complains that he’s getting old, making the high-octane roles harder and harder to perform. Thankfully, however, he doesn’t do his own stunts, and with the money being as good as it is, it’s hard for him to turn the roles down.
While Liam Neeson never was James Bond, his career continues to flourish. He’s set to appear in seven upcoming movies, including a reboot of the classic Naked Gun franchise, an Irish-centric western called In the Land of Saints and Sinners, and a gangster flick called Thug.