Liam Neeson Reveals How Late Wife Insisted He Turn Down 007 Role

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson has revealed how his late wife would not let him audition for the role of James Bond in the 1990’s.

The Ballymena man has told Rolling Stone how he had been approached by the venerable Bond producer Barbara Broccoli about taking over from Welshman Timothy Dalton.

Natasha Richardson issued an ultimatum that it was her or ‘007’. In 1994, the couple were engaged and working together on the film Nell.

Schindler’s List had come out and Barbara had called me a couple of times to ask if I was interested and I said, yes, I would be interested’” Neeson said.

“And then my lovely wife, God rest her soul, said to me while we were shooting Nell, ‘Liam, I want to tell you something: if you play James Bond, we’re not getting married’.

She gave me a James Bond ultimatum. And she meant it! Come on, there’s all those gorgeous girls in various countries getting into bed and getting out of bed. I’m sure a lot of her decision-making was based on that.”

The role eventually went to another Irish man in Pierce Brosnan. That same year, Neeson and Richardson got married.

45-year-old Richardson died in 2009 after a skiing accident in Canada described by Neeson as a “freak accident”.

Richardson’s family had helped him to look after the couple’s children in the aftermath. “Natasha’s mother, Vanessa [Redgrave], and her sister [Joely Richardson], kind of moved in, and I had a wonderful assistant, Joanna… People just came to help, you know? In a big way. And I’ll never, ever forget that.”

Afterwards, he said: “I remember calling my agent and I said, ‘I don’t care what it is. I’ll take anything. I have to work. I have to pay bills. I have to keep the family together’. Luckily, work did come in.”

Neeson is by no means the first actor to turn down Bond. The Hellraiser from the Welsh valley’s Richard Burton was reportedly the first choice of Ian Fleming.

Burton’s great-nephew said years later that the actor did not believe that a film would be very good, or pay him enough.