Rupert Friend has theorised that he now has the “scars and bruises” to play James Bond after saying no to the role aged 22.
Following Daniel Craig’s departure from the film series in 2021’s No Time To Die, rumours have been constantly swirling about which actor will next play 007.
In a new interview, Pride & Prejudice star Friend, 41, admitted that he was asked to screen test for the role when he was 22, but turned it down.
At the time, the actor was fresh out of drama school and had just appeared in Pride & Prejudice, The Libertine and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.
“I was told, ‘We’d love to talk to you about playing James Bond, but rebooting the series. We want to do him basically straight out of college,’” Friend told Variety, recalling a meeting with producer Barbara Broccoli and casting director Debbie McWilliams.
“Basically they said, ‘You’ll do a screen test, and if it goes well, you’re signed up for three pictures which you won’t read and you won’t know who the director is. You’re basically handcuffed to it,’” he said.
“I suddenly was like, ‘I just feel at this point in my life and career, I’m too young, I don’t have the experience, I don’t have the acting chops and I don’t have any of the hard knocks – emotionally, psychologically, physically – that a great Bond should have.’”
Friend “politely declined” the role, which he said “was probably a bit of an eyebrow raise for them”.
However, he said that he was “grateful” that he said no to the role, lest he “sink the franchise, or at least be the worst Bond that ever lived”.
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“But very, very recently, last week, it started to come back into my consciousness that, let’s put it this way, maybe I’ve got the scars and the bruises now,” he said.
“From having literally been around the block or in the school of hard knocks, but also having navigated film sets and directors and difficult situations. You sort of realise you’re at a point where you can take things on that perhaps you couldn’t before.”
In a recent interview, casting director McWilliams said that younger actors don’t have the “mental capacity” to play Bond, leading to her casting a then-38-year-old Craig in Casino Royale.