For a handsome British actor of a certain age, auditioning to play James Bond is a rite of passage. Another rite of passage: telling one of the countless tales about how he narrowly missed out on the part.
The latest actor to regale fans with an embarrassing story about pursuing the role is Matthew Rhys. In an interview with The Times of London, the Emmy-winning star of “The Americans” recalled being asked to audition for the part that eventually went to Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale.”
Rhys called the experience “very intimidating” and explained that after he read, producers in the room asked him what he would change about the character of James Bond.
“I just remember going, ‘Ah.’ I was so not anticipating that question,” Rhys said. “And then I was like, is it a trick question? Are they waiting for people to go, ‘I wouldn’t do anything. He’s perfect?’”
Rhys said that his transparently honest answer would have been: “Oh, it’s been a bit one-note for a few decades, hasn’t it? I think we can drop the misogynistic jokes.” But rather than say that, he tried to defuse the situation with jokes that nobody laughed at. “I’d give him a limp. I said, ‘Limp?’ Nothing. ‘Eye patch?’ Nothing,” he said.
The actor joked that he envisioned Daniel Craig’s answer to the question being considerably more succinct: “Gritty reboot? Job done.”
Rhys’ story could be a cautionary tale for any actors who might consider telling jokes during the upcoming casting process for the next James Bond movie. Craig parted ways with the franchise after “No Time to Die,” which put the coveted role up for grabs for the first time in two decades. Fans have already begun to link actors such as Regé-Jean Page, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Tom Hardy to the role, though producers are in no rush to find an actor. The next Bond movie is not expected to hit theaters for at least two years.