Just picture it: David Bowie and James Bond; even though Moonraker would obviously have been the more applicable effort from the 007 franchise to house the Starman, the crossover alone is the stuff of Bowie movie buffs’ wildest fantasies. It is much to Bowie’s credit that the crux of the appeal is not just the novelty of it, but also the almost-annoying fact that on top of everything else, the intergalactic rock star was also a pretty stellar on-screen presence.
From Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, to Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, Bowie has often stood out on his own amidst seasoned acting talent. It means that he has often been put up for roles that many believe him incapable of pulling off, only for the singer to triumph—case and point: his rousing performance of The Elephant Man.
As such, Bowie was offered a would-be career-defining role in one of Britain’s greatest institutions: James Bond. The singer was given the chance to take on the role of Bond villain Max Zorin. A View to a Kill was released in 1985, with the majority of the filming taking place in the summer of ’84, a year in which Bowie had no tour obligations, thus with the bulk of his album, Tonight, already recorded in May, Bowie decided to accept the offer. Ultimately, after a change of heart, Bowie backed out, citing with true to form wit, that he “didn’t want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall off cliffs.”
The role of Bond villain Max Zorin was also offered to Sting, as director John Glen and the casting agents were seemingly keen to hire a musician. A desire they would eventually manage to fulfil by casting Grace Jones in the role of “May Day, Zorin’s lover and chief henchwoman.” It was, in itself, an expert choice for the singer who held the role with all the menace and stark stubbornness she brought to most interviews.
The singer and the actor portraying Bond at the time, Roger Moore, shared a rather curious relationship too. A few years prior, as Bowie escaped the clutches of drugs and taxmen in Switzerland, he found himself on the outskirts of Geneva without a friend. Suddenly, Roger Moore knocked at his door and the pair shared a joke and a drink. The only issue was that day after day, Moore turned up at the same time, with the same anecdotes. It left Bowie hiding under the kitchen table, trying to avoid the Bond actor.
Christopher Walken was eventually cast as Max Zorin, sporting a particularly detectable ‘Let’s Dance’ Bowie look. Whilst Christopher Walken may put in one of the better Bond villain performances, there is nevertheless a lingering dream of what if?
The following year, in 1986, Bowie starred as the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, a role that would land him a legion of fans amongst a younger demographic and confirm himself as every bit the trained actor he was.
It is the dream crossover that never was, leaving all of us to wonder just how it would have looked to see Bowie hanging out of the side of a helicopter, blasting bullets at Roger Moore. One thing is for certain David and Grace Jones would certainly have made a fiercely striking team.