Why David Bowie turned down A View To A Kill villain role opposite Roger Moore's James Bond
27 July 2023, 11:21
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David Bowie is still recognised as one of the greatest talents in the history of rock music.
A pioneer of various music genres and how they relate to the visual image, Bowie continually reinvented his persona and left an indelible mark on popular music.
Even as he was dying, he wrote his final 2016 album Blackstar as a form of epitaph, breaking the fourth wall and leaving fans awe-inspired till the very end of his life.
But away from music, his natural charisma and ability to engage meant he made a considerable impression as an actor too.
Though his first film, The Man Who Fell To Earth, didn't require an awful lot of acting per se due to his drug-addled, alien-like form, it was a magnetic performance nonetheless which proved he had chops.
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Bowie later appeared in films throughout his career, notably Tony Scott's The Hunger, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and most famously Labyrinth.
The chameleonic singer's stock couldn't have been higher during the early 1980s when his album Let's Dance made him a global superstar.
So much so, that he was earmarked to play villain Max Zorin in 1985's James Bond outing A View To A Kill, but eventually turned it down.
A View To A Kill - inspired by Ian Fleming's short story From A View To A Kill - would turn out to be Roger Moore's final outing as James Bond, and the sixth time in twelve years that he'd play 007.
So they wanted a recognisable star to perform opposite the veteran actor, one that could add some much-needed gravitas to the role as much as menace.
The character of Max Zorin wanted to wipe out the competition for his Silicon Valley company by causing a behemoth earthquake, triggering a flood and destroying the livelihoods of millions, utilising the techno-fear of the era.
Bowie was originally signed on to play the role, even being announced for the film when the publicity cycle started a year before the film's release.
That year, however, he walked away despite the role specifically being written for him, with Christopher Walken being cast as Zorin instead.
In 1984, Bowie told NME: "Yes, I was offered that. I think for an actor it’s probably an interesting thing to do."
"But I think that for somebody from rock it’s more of a clown performance. And I didn’t want to spend five months watching my double fall off mountains."
Avant-pop star and iconic model Grace Jones famously appeared in A View To A Kill opposite Roger Moore, and revealed who was initially asked to join the cast in her 2015 autobiography, I'll Never Write My Memoirs.
After being cast for the role of May Day, she scared the living daylights out of Moore at first, who reportedly asked Jones: "Please stop looking at me like that, with such venom."
The turbulence casting process didn't end there however, with a roster of other notable names slipping through the film producer's fingers.
Priscilla Presley was cast to play the film's Bond girl Stacey Sutton, though Elvis' ex-wife had to pull out due to filming commitments on the television show Dallas, with the role going to Tanya Roberts instead.
A View To A Kill's script also saw the return of Barbara Bach's character Major Anya Amasova, who first appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Ringo Starr's wife also turned down the opportunity, so the role was completely rewritten for Fiona Fullerton to play the character Pola Ivanova.
Despite the numerous ups and downs with assembling the cast, the film was still a box office hit, elevated from the success of Octopussy two years earlier.
Though many fans feel it's one of the worst entries in the history of James Bond, and could've been much different had David Bowie stayed on board.