Who in his right mind would turn down the chance to play James Bond, the role that has made megastars and millionaires out of half-a-dozen actors?
The answer to that is Javier Bardem. The 43-year-old Spanish heart-throb, who plays 007's deadly enemy Raoul Silva in the latest Bond epic Skyfall, has just revealed that he was once asked to play the superspy but decided that the time wasn't right for a Spanish 007.
Instead, the role went to the current Bond, Daniel Craig and Javier has absolutely no regrets.
"I didn't feel it was time to do something like that," he says. "And also I was doing something else at the time. I have passed on many things that I could easily regret but I don't regret any of them.
"But when I was offered the role of Raoul in Skyfall I knew that was right for me. It was very powerful material."
Javier nearly co-starred with the original Bond, Sean Connery - the 82-year-old was offered a cameo role in the movie but later pulled out. "That would have been an incredible experience, Javier says.
Nowadays Javier's hailed as one of the best actors of his generation with two Oscar nominations, he's married to one of the world's most beautiful women and they have an adorable two year-old son.
But even now, Javier seems bemused by his luck. "No one could call me a handsome guy," he says. "I was just in the right place at the right time. That's about the movies. Meeting Penelope was also a miracle!"
He's talking about his wife Penelope Cruz. The couple met when co-starring in Woody Allen's comedy Vicky Christina Barcelona and Woody remembers: "I didn't intend to be a matchmaker.They certainly did OK without any help from me !"
They married at a secret ceremony in the Bahamas and Javier says the relationship has got better and better "I have found my soulmate," he says.
"I truly thank who ever is up there for giving me the opportunity to be loved by such a wonderful person."
Although he was a star in Spain since his twenties he was unknown elsewhere until his massive breakthrough just ten years ago when Javier co-starred with Brad Pitt in Before Night Falls, playing the persecuted Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, who fell foul of Castro in the Cuban revolution.
"Reinaldo was a wonderful challenge," Javier remembers all those years later. It got me a Oscar nomination, but more important, it showed me how to act.
Javier admits that when he was first offered the role by director Julian Schnabel, he turned it down. "I told him I was completely wrong for the part. I am big but Arenas was small, and I don't speak English like a Cuban.
'Then I had to go to the gym for two hours a day and lose 35 lbs for the role — that part was hell. I never take care of myself unless I have to."
Javier Bardem first hit the Spanish show-business headlines in 1997 when he starred in Pedro Almodovar's Live Flesh. Another hit was playing a detective in the political thriller The Dancer Upstairs directed by John Malkovich.
"John is one of the greatest actors I've ever met," he says. "When he shows you how a scene should be done it's terrifying because you think: 'How can I follow that'?"
He seems to have managed Major studios are now vying for Javier's services and there are offers stretching over the next two years which could be worth an estimated $80 million.
"People might find this hard to believe but I'm not in acting for money and awards," he says. "I just want to make films I believe in."
Javier's hoping to make a movie with Spanish compatriot Antonio Banderas. "I respect the guy so much,"'he says. He came to the US, took a real chance and made it work.' Desperate to pigeonhole him, Javier has been described by writers as a cross between Marlon Brando and Robert Downey Jr or even Spain's middle-aged answer to Brad Pitt.
Javier admits he simply can't take any of this seriously. "Look at me I'm ugly," he says. "My nose is broken and I'm too big and clumsy. The closest I'll ever get to Brad Pitt is wearing the same type of sunglasses!" Penelope Cruz, probably have a different view on that.
(John Graham/Tony James Features)