THE spy that never was, James Purefoy has opened up about missing out on the role of James Bond in a decision that has "plagued" his entire acting career.

The Taunton-born actor, and star of Netflix series Altered Carbon and Sex Education, came agonisingly close, twice, to taking on the iconic 007 mantle.

Purefoy was up for the role during the handovers in the 90s and 2000s.

On both occasions, he narrowly lost out, first to Pierce Brosnan and then to Daniel Craig.

Somerset County Gazette: James Purefoy was close to becoming James Bond twiceJames Purefoy was close to becoming James Bond twice (Image: PA / Canva)

Discussing the near-misses in an interview with The Independent, Purefoy said, "There have been jobs, Bond being one of them, where you get very close to getting something and then you start pulling away because the ramifications of what would happen if you got it become a little troubling.

"The closer I got to Bond, the more I wasn’t really sure."

The successor to Purefoy’s failed attempts, Craig, experienced similar apprehensions.

He had also wrestled with the pressures of the Bond role and was initially hesitant.

Purefoy explained: "From what I gather, he turned it down two or three times because of a similar thing – being uncomfortable with being locked into a massive corporate world where you’re going to spend more time publicising the movie and wearing watches and suits and having to go to photo shoots and publicity drives… and you end up having to deal with a lot of stuff that you’d just really rather not deal with because it’s not your job."


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For Purefoy, the Bond role is one that he wishes never entered the public sphere regarding his career.

He expressed his regret stating openly: "I kind of wish it had never been found out that I’d gone up for Bond.

"It has plagued my life – the job that I didn’t get."

Purefoy's career took its own path, seeing him display a breadth of acting abilities in A Knight's Tale, alongside Heath Ledger, and Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon.

He recently appeared in No Man’s Land, portraying the enigmatic character Stanley, who operates within the world of intelligence.