Liam Neeson has such an impressive resume of iconic action roles to his name that it’s pretty surprising he’s never been 007. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, however, the actor revealed exactly why he never played James Bond: Because Natasha Richardson told him she’d refuse to marry him if he did.
Before the role eventually went to Pierce Brosnan, Neeson was the frontrunner to play Bond in 1995’s GoldenEye; at the time, he was a relatively new star thanks to Schindler’s List, and he was preparing to tie the knot with Richardson (who tragically died in 2009). GoldenEye was also the first Bond film to be produced by Barbara Broccoli, following her father Albert R. Broccoli, and she knew exactly who she wanted as her leading man.
“I was not offered James Bond,” Neeson politely corrected Rolling Stone’s Marlow Stern. “Barbara had called me a couple of times to ask if I was interested, and I said, ‘Yes, I would be interested.’ And then my lovely wife, god rest her soul, said to me while we were shooting Nell down in the Carolinas, ‘Liam, I want to tell you something: If you play James Bond, we’re not getting married.’ So I would tease her by going behind her back, making my fingers as though I’m holding a gun, and then [hums the James Bond theme]. I loved doing that shit!”
It’s a real testament to Neeson’s love for Richardson that he turned down playing the world’s most famous MI6 agent. He didn’t reveal exactly why she gave him the “James Bond ultimatum,” but he has some ideas: “Come on, there’s all those gorgeous girls in various countries getting into bed and getting out of bed,” he went on. “I’m sure a lot of her decision-making was based on that!”
Neeson does portray an iconic detective in his most recent job, Neil Jordan’s new noir crime thriller Marlowe, in theaters now. Catch up on some of the actor’s best roles over the years with our ranking of his action films.