Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role so Natasha Richardson would become his wife

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Liam Neeson was revealed he came within a hair’s breadth of becoming James Bond – but gave it up for love.

The
actor admitted that he was ‘heavily courted’ for the iconic role as 007
when producers were hunting for somebody to replace Roger Moore.

But
Neeson was told by his then-girlfriend Natasha Richardson that she
wouldn’t marry him if he played the spy, and he duly turned the part
down.

Bond or love: Neeson said that his wife Natasha Richardson, pictured with him in 2008, gave him an ultimatum

Bond or love: Neeson said that his wife Natasha Richardson, pictured with him in 2008, gave him an ultimatum

Role: Neeson in his latest film Non-Stop
Successor: Daniel Craig as Bond in Skyfall

‘Courted': Liam Neeson, left, has revealed that he came close to
playing James Bond in the 1990s, but gave up the role so he could marry. Right, Daniel Craig as 007 in Skyfall

Neeson went on to marry Richardson, and the two lived together until she died in a tragic skiing accident in 2009.

‘I was heavily courted, let’s put it that way, and I’m sure some other actors were too, he told the Hull Daily Mail .

‘It was about 18 or 19 years ago and my wife-to-be said, “If you play James Bond we’re not getting married!” And I had to take that on board, because I did want to marry her.

The actor also opened up about his grief following her death, when Richardson hit her head while skiing without a helmet. He said: ‘You just get this profound feeling of instability ... the Earth isn’t stable anymore.’

Piers
Brosnan was eventually given the role, and played the spy in films
including GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies before handing over to
current Bond Daniel Craig.

Bond rival: Ralph Fiennes also said he was in talks over playing Bond
Current: Daniel Craig has played Bond three times, and is set to continue

(Black) Tie: Last week Ralph Fiennes, left, said he was also in talks
over playing Bond around 20 years ago – though said incumbent Craig
(right) is far better than he would have been

Last week Ralph Fiennes also revealed that he had been in talks over the Bond role. But the actor, who will play the head of MI6 in the next Bond film, confessed he would have been ‘terrible’ as the leading man.

Neeson has been flying high recently after his latest hit Non-Stop was the biggest earner at the U.S. box office last week.

The
action star’s airliner thriller Non-Stop arrived in first place at the
weekend box office, effectively ending the Warner Bros. animated film’s three-week blockade at the top spot.

Non-Stop
ascended in its first weekend with $30 million domestically and $20
million internationally, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

The Universal film stars Neeson as a federal air marshal on a doomed flight.

‘I
think the fact that audiences were ready for a suspense thriller has a
lot to do with the film’s success, and obviously Liam is an absolute box
office draw,’ said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal.

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