Richard Johnson, Who Declined Lead in First James Bond Film, Dies at 87
He starred in 'The Haunting,' 'The Pumpkin Eater' and 'Khartoum' and was married oh-so-briefly to actress Kim Novak.
Richard Johnson, the British actor who appeared in such films as The Haunting and The Pumpkin Eater but turned down an offer to play James Bond in the first 007 film, has died. He was 87.
Johnson, who was married to actress Kim Novak for a brief time in the 1960s, died after a short illness at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, London, the BBC reported.
A stage veteran and founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Johnson signed with MGM and appeared in the war drama Never So Few (1959), starring Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida and Steve McQueen.
In the frightening film The Haunting (1963), directed by Robert Wise, Johnson portrayed Dr. John Markway, a paranormal investigator who comes to an ancient mansion with two women (Claire Bloom and Julie Harris) in a bid to determine if the house is really haunted.
Johnson played the second husband of a woman (Anne Bancroft) who is dismayed to learn that her third mate (Peter Finch) is fooling around in the drama The Pumpkin Eater (1964), directed by Jack Clayton.
Johnson told Cinema Retro magazine in 2009 that he said no thanks to portraying 007 in the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962). “I was so right for the part, I would have been wrong,” he said. “Sean [Connery] was so wrong for the part, he turned out to be right for it.”
Johnson did play another fictional British spy, Bulldog Drummond, in Deadlier Than the Male (1967) and Some Girls Do (1969), and he was another secret agent in Danger Route (1967).
He starred opposite Charlton Heston in the epic Khartoum (1966), as Cassius in Julius Caesar (1970) and as Dr. Watson in the 1991 TNT movie The Crucifer of Blood.
His film resume also includes Cairo (1963), 80,000 Suspects (1963), The Rover (1967) with Anthony Quinn — one of several Italian films Johnson was in — Beyond the Door (1974) and Hennessy (1975) with Rod Steiger.
More recently, Johnson was seen in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008).
Johnson met Novak when they starred in 1965’s The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders. They married that year but separated soon afterward.