Website last updated: 17-11-2017

Michael Billington (1941-2005) Obituary

By: Anders Frejdh
Published:
2005-06-12
Michael Billington James Bond
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Michael Billington (screen tested several times for the role of James Bond) after a long battle with cancer. Our thoughts are with his family.

Mike was an accomplished actor of stage and screen. After beginning his career as a dancer, he swiftly progressed to a number of acclaimed stage roles and tv. He never quite got that one "big break" but far from being resentful or bitter, he was one of the happiest, most easy going people you could ever hope to meet.

Mike was a great friend of ours and those who knew and worked with him, will miss him greatly.

In tribute, below is the opening page from the biography he was working on with Gareth Owen. Sadly only very little was completed before his death.

Our thoughts are with his young son, Michael, and his family & friends.

Chapter 1
The Name is Bond . Almost

In July 1980, the Daily News columnist Marilyn Beck wrote:

"Roger Moore-lookalike Michael Billington has become the favoured date of Barbara Broccoli, the daughter of 007 producer Cubby Broccoli. And insiders are predicting Billington's sure to inherit the role of James Bond in For Your Eyes Only this fall - unless Roger and Cubby come to terms fast.

Billington's name might not be familiar to you, but it certainly is to Moore. Because Broccoli has been conveniently keeping the unknown in the wings for years (cast him in a bit part in the 1977 The Spy Who Loved Me) and has frequently ribbed Roger that, if he got out of line, Michael would step into his 007 shoes. Moore thought Cubby was joking - until now."


It would, perhaps, be unfair to describe Michael Billington as 'unknown' at this time. Through the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson produced sci-fi series UFO he gained international recognition, as Colonel Paul Foster; not to mention further exposure in the tv mini-series of War And Peace, and the Sunday night BBC favourite The Onedin Line. However, he was certainly viewed as an outsider for the most coveted of film roles.

Michael's courtship with 007 started pre-George Lazenby when he was tested by director Peter Hunt for On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1968, and continued through to his seventh, and final, test in 1983, for Octopussy (1983).

"I was described as The Bond Waiting In The Closet" he says "and to an extent that was true. Bets were being taken. Pundits were backing me. It seemed a 'cert'. I was tested many times - in fact I think they eventually ran out of film."

How did it all come about? How did this Lancashire lad move from treading the boards in provincial rep to the casting-couch for James Bond? It is an interesting story, and for the first time, Michael Billington tells it how it happened; with contributions from friends, colleagues and adversaries.

Photo above:
Michael Billington during one of his screen tests as James Bond. © Eon Productions Ltd. All rights reserved.

All proceeds from Bondstars sale of Michael's merchandise will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Relief.

www.bondstars.com/michaelbillington/index.htm

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Managing Editor: Anders Frejdh