Richard Johnson Dies: Veteran British Actor Who Said He Turned Down Original 007 Role

Richard Johnson, an English actor whose career spanned more than 60 years and who claimed to have turned the James Bond role in Dr. No, has died in London. He was 87. His family said Johnson died June 6 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea after an unspecified brief illness.

Johnson spent the the 1950s working mostly in television and theater, having joined John Gielgud company at 16. In the early ‘60s he co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company, eventually playing such roles onstage as Romeo, Pericles and Antony.

He joined MGM as a contract player and landing a role in 1959’s Never So Few with Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lawford and Steve McQueen. He would go on to work in such star-laden films as The Pumpkin Eater with Anne Bancroft and Peter Finch; Khartoum with Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier; and Julius Caesar with Heston, Jason Robards, Diana Rigg and John Gielgud. He played British agent Bulldog Drummond in the late-‘60s films Deadlier Than The Male and Some Girls Do.

Johnson would split his time between the big and small screens in the ensuing decades, focusing on TV work since the late ’80s, though he appeared in the 2001 Angelina Joile vidgame adaptation Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He also co-starred in the 2005 Michael Sheen-Hugh Bonneville BBC series The Robinsons and later did an arc on the Beeb’s MI-5.

He is survived by his wife, Lynne, and four children.

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