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A Female James Bond Was Considered Before Sean Connery Was Cast As 007

We still don't know which actor will step into the role of James Bond next. Aaron Taylor-Johnson has been heavily rumored to replace Daniel Craig as 007, but as of now, no official announcement has been made. Regardless of who takes on the role for the next stretch of Bond films, we know it will be a man. "Bond is male," franchise producer and co-owner Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian in 2018. "He's a male character. He was written as a male and I think he'll probably stay as a male. And that's fine. We don't have to turn male characters into women. Let's just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters."

While Broccoli seems set on keeping Bond's gender static for the foreseeable future, that wasn't always a guarantee. Before Sean Connery was even cast to kick off the 007 film franchise, there were major considerations about casting a woman in the role. IndieWire reported on an upcoming biography from author Nicholas Shakespeare entitled "Ian Fleming: The Complete Man," which chronicles the life of James Bond's creator. In the book, it's explained that many performers were considered to play 007 in "Dr. No," including Oscar-winning actress and all-around Hollywood legend Susan Hayward.

Ultimately, we got Sean Connery instead. Still, it's interesting to think about how the series might have been forever altered had Bond been played by a woman in the '60s.

The woman who could have been Bond

If you've never heard of Susan Hayward, then you're probably not much of a Hollywood historian. She began her onscreen acting career in the late 1930s but started to take off about a decade later with the 1947 film "Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman," for which she earned her first of five Academy Award nominations in the best actress category. Her other nominations came in 1950 for "My Foolish Heart," 1953 for "With a Song in My Heart," and 1956 for "I'll Cry Tomorrow." The fifth time wound being the charm for Hayward, who finally won the coveted award in 1959 for her turn in "I Want to Live!"

In that Oscar-winning performance, Hayward plays real-life convicted murderer Barbara Graham. It's the kind of gritty, complex character that defined the star's career. Hayward's incredible Academy Award run through the late '40s and '50s led right up to the release of "Dr. No" in 1962, so it makes perfect sense why she would have been considered as a female James Bond at the time.

Since then, the idea of a female James Bond has never really gained studio traction again, though Lashana Lynch's Nomi character took on the 007 agent number in "No Time to Die." Had Hayward been cast, we'd be having a very different conversation today about who could or couldn't play James Bond.

Should James Bond ever be played by a woman?

Despite today's movie industry having a lot more diversity on the screen than in previous decades, the James Bond movies have remained traditional in their stars since the Connery days. Some entries have tried to add nuance and complexity to the Bond Girl archetype, with "No Time to Die" starring compelling female characters played by Lashana Lynch, Léa Seydoux, and Ana de Armas. That trend will hopefully continue, but we won't see a woman play the main character anytime soon.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Several former Bond franchise actors have supported Barbara Broccoli's thought that the answer is better female supporting characters, not a full gender swap. "There's no need for a female Bond," Ana de Armas told The Sun in 2022. "What I would like is that the female roles in the Bond films, even though Bond will continue to be a man, are brought to life in a different way. That they're given a more substantial part and recognition. That's what I think is more interesting than flipping things."

Rosamund Pike, who plays Miranda Frost in 2002's "Die Another Day," shared a similar sentiment in a 2018 interview with Uproxx. "There's nothing really about the James Bond character as written by Ian Fleming that resembles a woman," she said. "Why not make a kick-ass female agent in her own right?"

To read more about 007, check out the untold truth of James Bond.