Actor Richard Johnson, a near miss to play 007, dies at 87

LONDON (AP) — Richard Johnson, a distinguished British actor who almost played James Bond, has died. He was 87.

Johnson’s family says he died Saturday in a London hospital after a short illness.

A founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Johnson had a six-decade career on stage, film and television. His big-screen roles included “Khartoum” opposite Laurence Olivier and Charlton Heston.

Johnson told Cinema Retro magazine in 2009 that he declined the lead role in the first Bond film, “Dr. No.” Sean Connery got the part instead. Johnson felt Connery was miscast but nonetheless perfect, “because it turned the thing on its head and he made it funny.”

Johnson wed four times, including a brief 1960s marriage to American star Kim Novak.

He is survived by his wife Lynne and four children.