Hugh Jackman has revealed that he passed on the opportunity to replace Pierce Brosnan as 007, James Bond. Jackman is, of course, most famous for portraying irritable X-Men superhero Wolverine on the big screen since 2000, a role he walked away from with this year's critically and commercially successful Logan. The part provided Jackman with his big Hollywood breakthrough and although the X-Men movie franchise experienced ups and downs over the years, Jackman's Wolverine remained a highlight throughout.
At the dawn of the new millennium, the Bond franchise wasn't faring quite as well. While none of Brosnan's adventures as 007 are considered stone cold classics, 2002's Die Another Day was perhaps the most derided entry in the series up to that point, with Madonna's cameo, the invisible car and gratuitous use of product placement all contributing to a disappointing trip to the cinema for Bond fans. The franchise was undoubtedly in need of a fresh approach.
New blood was eventually hired in the form of Daniel Craig but it seems that Hugh Jackman came remarkably close to replacing Brosnan himself. Speaking with Variety while on promotional rounds for The Greatest Showman, Jackman claims:
“I was about to do X-Men 2 and a call came from my agent asking if I’d be interested in Bond. 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. And the response was: "Oh, you don’t get a say. You just have to sign on." I was also worried that between Bond and X-Men, I’d never have time to do different things.”
It's interesting to note that Jackman shared the widely held consensus that the Bond movies had become ridiculous by the end of the Brosnan era and, of course, his assertion that the franchise should head into more realistic territory eventually came to fruition. Nevertheless, it was a bold move to flatly turn down a role as iconic - and as lucrative - in the world of cinema as that of 007, especially considering Jackman had only appeared in one X-Men movie at that stage.
Like most missed casting opportunities however, Jackman turning down Bond was perhaps a blessing in disguise. The actor himself suggests that balancing two huge movie franchises simultaneously could have been problematic and it could be argued that had Jackman been cast as Bond, he wouldn't have been able to make his interpretation of Wolverine as popular and memorable as it eventually became. The Bond movies didn't suffer too badly either; Daniel Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan and Casino Royale was released, sparking what would become one of the most successful eras in the franchise's long history.
With that said, Jackman has taken on a wide variety of roles in his career thus far and certainly has the tools and talent to succeed as 007. Logan proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the actor is perfectly at home with "gritty" and 17 years as a member of the X-Men suggests grueling action sequences wouldn't be a problem either. But while Jackman may have turned down Bond once, he might reconsider should the opportunity arise again. After all, Bond 25 is almost certainly Daniel Craig's last and Jackman has now hung up his Adamantium claws for good.
- James Bond 25 (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2020