The months before Daniel Craig was offered the role of James Bond saw intense media speculation about who would succeed Pierce Brosnan. Little had changed since 1961 when the producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli announced that they were about to film the first James Bond film, Dr No. Before Sean Connery had been cast, there was much anticipation in the press even at this early stage in the film series.
One of the journalists who joined the speculation, and indeed cultivated much of it, was Patricia Lewis, the show-business editor with the Daily Express. In June 1961, for example, Lewis reported that Saltzman was planning to screen-test Patrick Allen, but was ‘also thinking about Michael Craig and Patrick McGoohan’. In another article, she claimed that the producers were having trouble finding their man. This was enough for her to launch a competition to find the perfect actor, and of course gain massive publicity for the Daily Express. In an article entitled, ‘In search of a he-man’, she invited ‘every tough-talking type... a crack at landing this plum role.’ Lewis added that proof of acting ability was also required. Applicants were invited to submit their acting resumées and vital statistics to a film production company in Soho Square. Six finalists were to invited to a judging panel, which Lewis boasted would comprise Harry Saltzman, Cubby Broccoli, Ian Fleming, and Ken Hughes, as well as Lewis herself.
The winner was Peter Anthony, a professional model from London. Lewis quoted Broccoli as saying that Anthony had ‘a Greg Peck quality’ that was ‘instantly arresting’. This is not difficult to see from the image that Anthony had exploited during his earlier modelling career. His career had developed with Man About Town, a 1950s/60s lifestyle magazine for men, covering sport, drink, food, cars, and clothes, especially suits. One of its photographers was Terence Donovan, a pioneer of the ‘blow-up’ school of photography, who brought a sophisticated, masculine, film-style look to the magazine. His shots were about action and story. Set in real places far removed from the artificial creation of the studio, the photographs had a narrative drive that turned fashion shoots into stills from a film. And the movie was film-noir or spy thriller. Peter Anthony was one of Donovan’s stars.
In one image from 1960, ‘Starting Over’, Anthony is behind the wheel of a sports car. He is focused on the road ahead and drives with confidence. Another photograph, from 1961, shows Peter Anthony in the foreground. He wears a sharp suit and a shoulder holster for an automatic. The man is waiting for a contact, perhaps, but so too is the man in the shadows, hidden behind Le Figaro. And the title of this intriguing scene? ‘The secrets of an agent.’ The image could be lifted from Fleming; the hero could be Bond.
Anthony took these images to Broccoli and Saltzman. Pat Lewis reported that the producers were impressed and proclaimed that he was an ‘exciting find’. Anthony looked great in a suit; sophisticated with just the right hint of menace to have the edge over his enemies and the hold on the women. But image was not everything; the part demanded an acting ability that Anthony did not have. The producers agreed that he had potential, but was too risky to try out in their first film.
What of the other five finalists? According to Pat Lewis’ article in September 1961, the finalists were Gordon Cooper, a sales rep from Warrington, Anthony Clements, another salesman, this time from Bolton, Frank Ellement, a former teacher turned actor from London, Michael Ricketts, an aerial ropeways engineer from Hadleigh in Essex, and Bob Simmons, a stuntman.
Peter Anthony’s photographs certainly exist, but curiously, Bob Simmons makes no mention of this episode in his autobiography, while Cubby Broccoli excludes Peter Anthony from his. Reading Pat Lewis’ articles, I can’t help feeling that the competition results and the involvement of the Bond producers was to a large extent journalistic invention. If so, then that is another aspect of the media interest in the search for Bond that has seen little change in over 40 years.
Update: Click here for more further information on Peter Anthony's screentests.