Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson in 2008

Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson in 2008

Liam Neeson refused to play James Bond because he wanted Natasha Richardson to marry him.

The 61-year-old actor claims he was "heavily courted" for the iconic 007 role 19 years ago, but he turned down the opportunity because his then-girlfriend said she wouldn't tie the knot if he played the spy.

He told the Hull Daily Mail newspaper: "I was heavily courted, let's put it that way, and I'm sure some other actors were too.

"It was about 18 or 19 years ago and my wife-to-be said, 'If you play James Bond we're not getting married!' And I had to take that on board, because I did want to marry her."

The couple became husband and wife in 1994 and went on to have sons Micheál, 18, and Daniel, 17, before Natasha tragically died following a skiing accident in Montreal, Canada, in March 2009.

The 'Non-Stop' star recalled the first time he set eyes on Natasha after they met on the set of 1981's 'Excalibur', and compared their chemistry to iconic dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

He said previously: "She was a radiant beauty. Yeah, cascading hair. I remember. There was -- that was very, very attractive.

"I'd never had that kind of an explosive chemistry situation with an actor, or actress.

"She and I were like Astaire and Rogers. We had just this wonderful kind of dance, free dance on stage every night, you know?"

Meanwhile, Liam has been in an on/off relationship with PR executive Freya St. Johnston since 2010.