David Bowie turned down the part of a James Bond villain in the 80s

10 January 2021, 14:00

David Bowie and Roger Moore as James Bond
David Bowie and Roger Moore as James Bond. Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Keith Hamshere/Getty Images

The superstar could have starred in the Roger Moore epic A View To A Kill... here's why he declined the role.

With Rami Malek about to star as the baddie in the latest movie No Time To Die, the role of the James Bond villain is under scrutiny again.

And, back in the mid 1980s, none other than David Bowie was offered the part of the evil adversary in what was to be the fourteenth instalment in the franchise, A View To A Kill.

The villain in question was Max Zorin, a part that ultimately went to Christopher Walken, who squared off against veteran leading man Roger Moore when the film was released in the summer of 1985.

Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, Tanya Roberts and Roger Moore in A View To A Kill, 1985
Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, Tanya Roberts and Roger Moore in A View To A Kill, 1985. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At the time, Bowie was enjoying the huge fame and success that his album Let's Dance had brought him in 1983. He'd quickly followed up the record with another album, Tonight, which had garnered less than favourable reviews, but still sold well.

Bowie recently starred in the films Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and The Hunger, both of which had made good use of his acting talents.

When Bowie was on the promo trail for Tonight in the UK, he was interviewed by the NME's Charles Shaar Murray, who asked the star to confirm whether he'd accepted the role of Zorin. The rumour was that Sting - who had just gone solo after the dissolution of The Police - had turned it down, leading the producers to offer the part to Bowie.

"After Sting?" replied an indignant Bowie ."I rather think it was the other way about."

Roger Moore stars in A View To A Kill, 1985
Roger Moore stars in A View To A Kill, 1985. Picture: Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images

But, said Bowie, the idea was "Absolutely out of the question." He felt that the role was somewhat beneath him.

"I think for an actor it's probably an interesting thing to do," he explained, "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."

This was a shame, as the film also starred the statuesque figure of Grace Jones as Zorin's henchwoman, which would have made for an interesting pairing with the Thin White Duke. This, alongside the Duran Duran theme song, could have made the film something of an 80s spectacular.

Bowie'e next film project was to star as a mysterious advertising executive in Julien Temple's adaptation of the book Absolute Beginners, a movie that he told the NME "should do a lot for young British film-making".

David Bowie films a scene for the film Absolute Beginners directed by Julien Temple
David Bowie films a scene for the film Absolute Beginners directed by Julien Temple. Picture: Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

In fact, the movie was a commercial flop (despite Bowie's great theme song) and did very little for the British film industry. The musician's next movie hit was the much-loved fantasy Labyrinth, where, of course, he starred as Jareth The Goblin King.

Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images
Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images. Picture: Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images