Grace Jones is one of the most striking women to have ever entered the public consciousness. Her look screams superstar, and Jones brings a captivating element to everything she does. Whether this is on screen or on stage at the O2 Arena, Jones warrants your full attention.
When musicians make the often ill-fated switch to movies, it usually ends up being nothing short of a disaster — sorry, James Hetfield and Vanilla Ice. Acting is made to look easy by the professionals but made to look like rocket science when executed painfully poorly. Jones, though, who had made appearances in the movies before she’d ever released music, was just as comfortable on set as she was on stage.
Soon enough, everybody wanted a piece of Grace Jones. In the mid-1980s, she was simultaneously one of the most adored pop stars on the planet, as well as an A-list actress of which every director wanted to cast. Before Jones starred in Zula and A View To a Kill, however, she had been approached by Ridley Scott for a leading role in the now-iconic 1982 sci-fi picture Blade Runner, which she remarkably snubbed.
At the time, she was in a relationship with Jean-Paul Gaude. Her loyalties to the director prevented Jones from taking a role that would have ascended her career to the mountain top of Hollywood. Despite the slip-up, Jones holds no regrets. “Jean-Paul wanted me only to work with him,” she explained in her 2015 memoirs, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. “Especially if I was going to do a film. He wanted me to do a film only with him, before anyone else. I knew he would be adamant that it was a bad move to appear in Blade Runner. I immediately said no, before I had even read the script and before I had even asked him. When he heard about the film, he said what I thought he would say — it would be too commercial, and I would become too Hollywood. I would be a sellout.
“I still had the script, though, and the night after I had passed on the part, I was flying to Paris. I decided to read it on the plane. I absolutely loved it. It was set in a universe I visited a lot in my work and play. As soon as I landed I decided I would call them back and reverse my decision. I was too late. Overnight they had cast someone else.”
She continued: “I should have made that decision myself, rather than being caught up in Jean-Paul’s rivalry with Ridley Scott in the world of commercials… If I had seen the film Ridley had made a couple of years before, The Duellists, which was fabulous, I wouldn’t have thought for a moment about accepting. I said no without reading the script, which was very stupid of me,” Jones admitted.
However, this wasn’t the only A-list role that her relationship with Gaude prevented her from accepting. “The James Bond producers had really wanted me to be in a Bond movie, because in the 1980s, with the franchise threatened by changing times, they were chasing fashion and looking to reach a wider audience by involving more pop and rock,” she explained.
“They had wanted me to be in Octopussy, in the title role, played by Maud Adams, but there was some anxiety about having a black woman as a villain. A Bond movie is, for all the appearance of sex and violence, a fundamentally very conservative franchise,” Jones added.
While for most actors, the chance to play a leading role in a Bond movie is a once in a lifetime opportunity that they would climb over hot coals to gain an audition, Jones was the rare exception. Hollywood needed Jones rather than her needing the glamour of the industry, and, in truth, missing out on these opportunities is not a source of regret. When her relationship with Gaude ended, the phone was still ringing, and she finally caved in to the Broccoli family’s demands by appearing in A View To A Kill.