While everyone has their favorite James Bond movie, you’ll be hard-pushed to find someone who doesn’t love Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. A decade after the credits rolled on Daniel Craig’s third outing as the martini-swilling spy, it’s time to look back on the movie that could’ve been. Because the rumors are true: Skyfall once planned to pull Sean Connery out of retirement. Yet 10 years later, that twist now looks like it might’ve ruined the franchise forever in retrospect.
In Skyfall, things culminated in a bloody showdown between 007 (Craig) and the villainous Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) at the titular Skyfall estate, Bond’s surprise childhood home. Also along for the ride were M (Judi Dench) and the estate’s jolly gamekeeper, Kincade, with the latter being a tie to James Bond’s childhood. Although Kincade was played by the legendary Albert Finney, the original plan was to cast Connery in the role, which would’ve been a multiversal mind melt considering he’s arguably the most famous actor to play Bond. But more than this, there are reports that things were going to get even stranger.
The character of Kincade was a brand-new creation for Skyfall. And despite knowing James since he was a boy, Kincade never appeared in any of the other movies or Ian Fleming source material novels/short stories. However, Kincade apparently wasn’t going to be Kincade at all in an early draft: He was intended to be a retired James Bond living at an estate intended for former 00 agents of a certain age. Ironically, Connery retired from acting following the disappointing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2004, and because of that, he refused to return for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). The Skyfall producers apparently didn’t want to be turned down, so they never even went so far as to approach Connery about the idea.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Mendes confirmed, “There was a definite discussion about [Connery playing Kincade] way, way early on. But I think that’s problematic. Because, to me, it becomes too… it would take you out of the movie. Connery is Bond, and he’s not going to come back as another character. It’s like, he’s been there. So, it was a very brief flirtation with that thought, but it was never going to happen, because I thought it would distract.” The director hasn’t confirmed or denied the whispers that instead of being Kincade, Connery could’ve reprised his role as the original James Bond, or that the Skyfall estate would be a home for retired James Bonds.
No Time to Die made ripples when it cast Lashana Lynch as a female 007, mainly because some people can’t seem to understand the designation is just a codename that can be passed down. And if Connery had been brought back as an older Bond, the Skyfall casting also would’ve confirmed a fan theory that’s been doing the rounds for years. Namely, that James Bond is just a name that’s also passed down. Apparently, the early draft wouldn’t directly have referred to Connery’s character as Bond or even a 00 agent, but it would be obvious he was the OG. Even as recently as No Time to Die, the theory of multiple James Bonds reared its head. Namely, the movie rounded off with the classic trope of “James Bond will return,” which would be pretty impossible given the way the movie ended.
Even though most Bond movies play it loose with continuity, there’s solid evidence that Connery’s Bond is the same man as Lazenby, Moore, and everyone up until Craig. Roger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) refers to his late wife Tracy, who was killed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), back when Lazenby occupied the tux. And that movie itself featured Honey Ryder’s knife and the musical score from Dr. No (1962). During a fan convention in the ‘90s, producer Michael G. Wilson called the Bond movies a “series of series” rather than one big outing, which gave them some leeway to start afresh for the Brosnan era. Even then, the maligned Die Another Day (2002) had a treasure trove of old gadgets, including the jetpack from Thunderball (1965).
On a more obvious level, GoldenEye (1995) gave a nod to the predecessor of Judi Dench’s M, who we assume would’ve been Bernard Lee’s version of Bond’s boss. The World Is Not Enough (1999) introduced John Cleese as R, who took on the mantle of Q when Desmond Llewelyn’s version retired. More recently, a post-Skyfall Mallory (Ralph Feinnes) stepped up as the “new” M following the death of Dench’s character. It’s implied that at least those people around Bond have titles that are passed on. As for the “multiple Bond” theory, if we’re to believe Craig’s James is just the latest in a long line of them, it would mean that Christoph Waltz’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld would be a successor to the one featured in classic Bond movies—which is not as simple as giving someone a title like M or Q.
If you still think James Bond is just a name gifted to womanizing agents, remember that Skyfall included gravestones with the name Bond on them. Tinfoil theorists will claim these were fakes, but come on, stop reaching for that one. Either way, Connery never appeared in Skyfall and nor did other legacy Bonds like Roger Moore. Whether playing Kincade or a cheeky nod that he was the original Bond, Mendes is right, it would’ve been distracting to have the gruff Scotsman wielding a shotgun in Skyfall’s action-packed finale. There are already those who disliked the bombastic ending at Skyfall Lodge, and with Connery stealing the scene, it could’ve ruined what is arguably Craig’s best Bond moment.