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Ian Fleming wanted Richard Burton for James Bond film role

24-Sep-2007 • Bond News

Richard Burton could have been the first James Bond – but turned down author Ian Fleming’s overtures because he thought it would be “just another movie” - reports icWales.

Fleming approached Burton when he entered talks to turn his 1953 novel Casino Royale into a film. He was looking for someone manly and virile, dark and brooding – and thought the great Welsh actor would fit the bill.

“At the time he was doing Camelot and enjoying great stardom because of it,” says Burton’s great-nephew Guy Masterson.

“My uncle told me that Ian Fleming had approached him, asking him to play Bond. But back then, in 1959, Bond was a new concept – nobody had any idea it would be as big as it became.

“My uncle told me that he thought it was going to be ‘just another movie’.”

Despite Bond’s consequent mass appeal, Burton never admitted to family or friends that he regretted the decision.

“No matter how big Bond became, he never said he regretted missing out on the role,” said Guy, whose grandmother Cissy was Burton’s aunt.

“Had Burton played Bond, I think he would have been absolutely fantastic.

“I saw Daniel Craig in Casino Royale the other day and I thought to myself: yes, that’s Richard. That’s very much how my uncle would have played the role.”

A different scenario, and cinema history might have changed beyond recognition.

For had Burton played Bond, he probably would not have taken the part of Marc Anthony in the 1963 classic Cleopatra in which he met stunning co-star Elizabeth Taylor.

And in that case, arguably the world’s most famous celebrity couple might never have been.

Playing Bond was not the only mega-role that the Welsh movie legend, who died in 1984, turned down.

“My uncle was also offered the role of Captain Georg von Trapp in The Sound of Music, to star opposite Julie Andrews,” revealed Guy, who lives in North London with his wife and two daughters, aged seven and three.

“But he said he didn’t want to do it because he didn’t want to do ‘shlock’.

“My uncle was not a man for regretting things. But he did tell me on more than one occasion that he did regret turning down the role of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

“He used to say to me, ‘And then they gave it to that second-rate actor, Christopher Plummer!’ – he was joking, of course.”

Guy is now a successful actor and theatre director in his own right.

He is currently directing The Eagle Dances, a play being staged at Cardigan’s Theatr Mwldan about North American Indians which is soon to tour Wales. He is working alongside Native American Welsh actor Clifford Joseph Spotted Pony Big Mountain.

And Guy reveals it was Burton’s guidance which led him to follow his dreams.

The two became particularly close after Guy’s father, New York Philharmonic Orchestra violinist Carl Mastroianni, died when he was just 10 years old.

“My uncle became like a second father to me,” says Guy. “At the time I had no idea that he was a famous actor and movie star. I just knew him as Richard Jenkins, my uncle, a magical, lovely man, who was famous only for driving a Rolls Royce.”

Guy recalls the moment when his uncle’s movie legend status first became apparent to him.

He was a boarder at Christ’s Hospital school in Horsham when the pupils were shown the film Where Eagles Dare.

“I couldn’t believe it. There was my Uncle Richard up on the big screen. I shouted out ‘That’s my Uncle!’ but none of the other boys believed me. They thought I was making it all up to impress them... what was I doing at that school if my uncle was a famous movie star?”

As a result he became the victim of relentless bullying, which persuaded his concerned housemaster to telephone his mother Marian back in Wales.

“He told her ‘he will insist that Richard Burton is his uncle... and that isn’t helping things’,” said Guy. ‘But Richard Burton IS Guy’s uncle’! my mother replied.”

Later this year Guy Masterson will be putting on his one-man show celebrating the life and works of Dylan Thomas at Barry Memorial Hall in South Wales.

Thanks to `Q` for the alert.

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