While fans were none too pleased when it was announced that the blonde-haired Daniel Craig was taking over the role of James Bond, there could have been a different kind of uproar had Aussie Hugh Jackman taken the role. The actor famously landed his career-making turn as Wolverine in X-Men after Dougray Scott had to back out of the part three weeks into filming due to scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible 2. Jackman did indeed break out from his turn as Wolverine, landing leads in films like Someone Like You and Kate & Leopold (directed by eventual Logan and The Wolverine helmer James Mangold) in X-Men’s wake.
But now, in an interview with Variety, Jackman reveals that after the first X-Men’s success, he was approached about potentially playing James Bond:
“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.”
X2 started filming in the summer of 2002 and Die Another Day was released in November 2002, so if Jackman’s timeline is correct, this would suggest that the Bond producers were already looking to replace Pierce Brosnan before Die Another Day came out. That much-maligned sequel marked the end of Brosnan’s contract as Bond so perhaps they were just doing their due diligence, but Brosnan has been candid about the fact that he was essentially fired, and it wasn’t announced he was leaving the role until 2004, with Craig’s wildly different reboot Casino Royale hitting theaters in 2006.
Of course Jackman’s frame of reference at the time was The World Is Not Enough and likely trailers for Die Another Day, a movie that featured a literal invisible car, so you can’t blame him for assuming his turn as Bond would be just as silly. Moreover, Jackman doesn’t say he was offered the part outright, and the producers searched for their new leading man for a good long while before settling on Craig.
It all worked out in the end as Jackman was able to avoid being pigeonholed with dramatic turns in films like The Prestige and The Fountain, and Craig went on to re-launch the Bond franchise in brilliantly grounded fashion. All’s well that ends well, eh?