Quick, what words come to mind when you hear the name “James Bond”? Sauve? Lethal? British? Those are all qualities enjoyed by Sam Heughan, which is why the Outlander star has been among the most popular fan casts for James Bond since Pierce Bronsan was removed from the role after 2002’s Die Another Day. And yet, one key quality kept Heughan from getting his license to kill.
According to his new memoir Waypoints (via Entertainment Weekly), Heughan explained that he’s just too nice to be 007. The Scottish actor got his shot during pre-production on Casino Royale when he was called in to audition for the casting director. “Afterwards, I was invited to head up to the next floor, where producer Barbara Broccoli was waiting for me, like M, sitting in a leather chair across a large table,” Heughan wrote. After chatting a bit with Broccoli and director Martin Campbell, Heughan left feeling confident. “It was all just so cool and crowned by the fact that Barbara was charming and delightful,” he recalled. “When I left, I half wondered whether I was about to be tested with a car chase home.”
Of course, the role ended up going to Daniel Craig, who played a more conflicted and wounded Bond for five movies, ending his run with 2021’s No Time to Die. Heughan admitted that Craig “made Bond his own,” but came away from the experience with an important lesson. “The feedback I received boiled down to the fact that I wasn’t edgy enough by nature,” he recalled. “I’m always keen to take on criticism so I can improve as an actor, but the suggestion seemed to be that I lacked this quality in my real character.”
Had he landed the role, Heughan would have been the second Scot to play 007, following in the footsteps of the most famous Bond, Sean Connery. But as the notes given to Heughan suggest, producers wanted a different direction for Casino Royale and the movies that followed. The rebooted series told a complete story, following Bond’s first kill as an agent and his betrayal by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), revealing his cool demeanor to be a cover for his wounded heart.
Furthermore, it’s hard to argue that things haven’t worked out for Heughan. Not only did he get a chance to exercise his Bond muscles in the comedy The Spy Who Left Me, but he has starred as another handsome literary hero, Jamie Fraser on the series Outlander, which recently completed its sixth season.
Heughan landed his iconic role thanks in part to his failed 007 audition. “Following that experience, I learned to appear naturally on that level when required,” he wrote in Waypoints. “Even though I was essentially acting outside of the actual audition, it became just one more thing I was prepared to do in order to land a part.”
While Brocolli and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson find themselves once again on the hunt for a new Bond, the 42-year-old Heughan is probably a bit too old for the part. But the actor’s experience may be a crucial bit of advice for the next suave, lethal, Brit hoping to land the role.