"No Time to Die" marked the end of Daniel Craig's illustrious five-film tenure as James Bond. Craig leaves the franchise in the best commercial shape it's ever been in. So, who's up next? That's the billion-dollar question before producer Barbara Broccoli, who's facing external pressure to cast the first person of color or woman as the iconic secret agent. She's on the record that a female Bond is out of the question, but will she stick to that? We probably won't find out until 2022, but in the meantime let's run through the list of hopefuls and wildly speculate as to who will be the seventh official 007.
Though he’s best known for his small-screen work on critically acclaimed shows like “The Wire” and “Luther," Elba has become a hugely popular choice among fans over the years — particularly when it appeared “Spectre” might be Daniel Craig’s last go-round as 007. When he re-upped for one more movie, that effectively knocked Elba out of the running for good, given that he’ll be 50 when the first post-Craig movie hits in 2022. It’s a bummer because Elba possesses the perfect mixture of two-fisted ruthlessness and lady-killing suavity that’s come to define Bond in the modern era.
The London-born star of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Lion” boasts quite the compelling résumé: He’s tall, dark-haired, dead sexy (according to multiple “Sexiest Man Alive” competitions), has a black belt in Taekwondo and will be 32 in ’22. Just sign him up now, right? Patel is at the right moment in his career to take on a franchise that would see him into his early 40s and boost his profile in a major way. The stars seem aligned on this one. If he’s open to the idea, the Bond producers would be foolish to look elsewhere.
Lester has the looks and the polished demeanor that a certain contingent of Bond fans prefers, and he has long been mentioned in the British tabloids as a potential favorite to become the first POC to play 007. For Americans, Lester taking the role would’ve been akin to Timothy Dalton’s hire: “Who? (Pause) OK, I’ve seen "The Day After Tomorrow," but I don’t remember him at all.” Lester’s a fine actor (he won an Olivier as Robert in a revival of “Company”), but he’ll be 53 in ’22. He’d be in his 60s at the end of his Bond tenure.
Already beloved by millions as the anarchic troublemaker Loki in the MCU, Hiddleston would be a home run in terms of mainstream recognition for the Bond franchise — and therein lies the problem. The Bond team would prefer to make stars and not glom on to them. Also a problem: He’s so deliciously superb at playing villains, wouldn’t it make more sense to cast him as a Bond baddie? The most persuasive argument in favor of Hiddleston as 007 can be found in the BBC’s quite good adaptation of John le Carré’s spy thriller “The Night Manager."
Madden’s profile is at an all-time high right now thanks to Netflix picking up the U.S. streaming rights to the BBC series “Bodyguard." He’s more popular now than he was as Robb Stark in “Game of Thrones” and is in the sweet spot age-wise at 32. One question: Would he straighten out those killer curls to achieve a more classic Bond quaff? This wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but the unruly mane perfectly complements his mercurial nature.
Norton’s star turn in the BBC series “McMafia” was heralded as a “Bond audition," and in many viewers’ minds he passed that test with a pre-approved license to kill. Now it’s up to the Bond producers, who certainly have to like his age and medium-ish profile. He’ll be stealing hearts later this year as John Brooke in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women," which could provide a springboard to U.S. stardom. So now might be the time to pounce on Norton.
Oyelowo has long evinced leading man potential in films like “Selma” (he played Martin Luther King, Jr.), “Jack Reacher” and “A Most Violent Year," and four years ago, he was one of the more intriguing Bond options out there. He can be debonair one second and a cold-blooded killer the next, which would seem to make him ideal casting. But there’s a rakish charm that’s missing here, which, combined with his age (he’ll be 45 in ’22), makes him the longest of shots at best.
As a former Batman villain (Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises”) and the star of his own blockbuster “Spider-Man” spinoff (“Venom”), Hardy is probably far too big a name to be considered for Bond. But a wide swath of fandom is a-Twitter over the thought of Hardy taking up the Walther PPK for a few films, which is good news for movie news sites eager to generate traffic: Their enthusiasm ensures he’ll always make these lists even though he is too old (44 in ’22) and too freakin’ famous for the Bond brand.
Having received the rawest of deals as Superman in the DCEU movies, who isn’t rooting for the amiable and overwhelmingly handsome Cavill to land his own franchise? He got to show off his dark side as a mustachioed villain in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout" and would still be in his 30s when he begins his Bond run. Fame-wise, he’s about where Pierce Brosnan was in 1994 when he took over the reins from Timothy Dalton. He’s just a little too much beefcake for the part. You don’t want a Bond who looks like he could knockout his adversaries in one swing.
There’s a tremendous amount of excitement over this Irish-born hunk, who’s probably best known to Americans as the dwarf Kili in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy. Turner’s 6-foot-0” in real life and has a dusky demeanor that tends more toward danger than debonair. The British tabloids have feasted on rumors of Turner’s imminent casting ever since he strode shirtless out of the sea in the BBC drama “Poldark," but veteran Bond watchers know how this game goes: The tabloids’ favorite almost never gets the gig.
It would be a kick to see this former child star of “About a Boy” grow up to become the seventh official James Bond, but, well, he’s still got some growing up to do in the ol’ visage. Even with a dusting of facial hair, he’s got those baby-face features, and that just won’t do for 007 — unless they’re going for an origin tale this time around, which…please no. He’s at the right age, and he’s a hugely talented actor, but he’s just not Bond.
Obviously, Fassbender is too big of a name to play Bond, but if the producers were willing to do a one-off redo of one of the best Ian Fleming novels they travestied the first time around (e.g. “Moonraker”), there isn’t a 007 fan alive who’d say no to this. While we’re dreaming of movies that will never happen, this would be the perfect time to let Quentin Tarantino direct his Bond movie. It would be a nifty cleansing of the palate after Craig’s iconic run (and give the producers a surfeit of time to develop a new 007 series without long-tenured screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).
We liked Styles in “Dunkirk” once we figured out which of the similar-looking British soldiers he played, but he’s still far too young and insubstantial a presence to portray a man who kills without remorse. He looks like a brat with a license to noogie. The good news for Styles fans is that he’ll probably be the perfect age when Bond is recasted in 2032.
Luke Evans is a veritable sneer-machine (he played Gaston in the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” for cryin’ out loud), but he’s "veddy" British and devastatingly handsome, which has led many to believe he’s spot-on casting for James Bond. It’s possible he’s got it in him, but those narrow, deep-set eyes scream sinister. He belongs with Cillian Murphy on a short-list of future Bond baddies.
We’ve established that Gaston’s wrong for Bond, but what about The Beast? Dan Stevens built up a substantial fan base due to his performance on “Downton Abbey” and wowed horror fans in Adam Wingard’s “The Guest." He broke hearts as the cursed co-title character in Bill Condon’s “Beauty and the Beast” and recently gutted a man from sternum to groin in Gareth Edwards’ “Apostle." The latter might be a bit too much for Bond, but the world is growing harsher by the day. Perhaps we need a 007 who’s not afraid to treat a boudoir as an abattoir.
He hit the big time as Legolas and the character whose name we’ve forgotten from the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, and he’s lobbied for the role in interviews like a child half-āssedly expounding on what he’d do if elected President of the United States. Bloom is alarmingly handsome. He’s more than established his bona fides as an action star. And yet he’s way to slight to play Bond.
As of today, the Bond producers are not open to the idea of a female Bond, citing the source material, which despite its myriad vagaries, has remained firm on the character’s gender. But 57 years of fidelity feels good enough. It’s time to shake things up. If they feel like upending tradition and casting a woman Bond post-Craig, the first offer should go out to the insouciant Natalie Dormer. She is a tad undersized at 5-foot-6, but her sexy, tough-as-nails attitude more than measures up against any former 007. She’d be extraordinary.
Who doesn’t love the idea of Daniel Craig handing over the Bond reins to his Academy Award-winning wife? Well, Rachel Weisz for one. In a 2018 interview with the Telegraph, Weisz vanquished all hope that she might consider breaking the 007 gender barrier. Her position: create a new superspy character that is expressly written for a woman. “Why not create your own story rather than jumping onto the shoulders and being compared to all those other male predecessors?” We’re not going to argue with Weisz.
Harris has already earned her badāss bona-fides as a reconfigured, all-action Moneypenny in the Daniel Craig-led Bond movies. Rather than hire outside MI6, why not promote her to 007 when Bond retires? OK, yes, we’d miss the obligatory utterance of “Bond, James Bond," but would it really kill fans to give the character a rest for a handful of movies? Just devil’s advocatin’ here. Don’t @ us.
The “Mission: Impossible” producers probably aren’t keen on the idea of letting their MI6 superspy play the MI6 superspy, but if they’re going to keep relegating Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust to the periphery like they did in “Fallout," you can’t blame a lady for setting up shop at Pinewood Studios’ 007 Stage. It would be a blast to see Ferguson cut loose and play the Martini-swilling charmer, but it sounds like writer-director Christopher McQuarrie has a remake of some sorts in mind for her.
While we’d love to see Blunt reprise her role as Sergeant Rita Vrataski, the “Angel of Verdun” from “Edge of Tomorrow," that character’s more of a no-nonsense warrior. It’s high time Blunt played an action hero who gets to have a little fun while on assignment. And who knows? Maybe Q could work up a flying umbrella/machine gun contraption for the reigning Mary Poppins. That might push a little too far into cheeky Roger Moore territory, but maybe that’s where the franchise needs to go after a string of mostly stone-faced Daniel Craig films.
Golding wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a potential Bond until this year when the former television host broke through in a major way with his dazzling performances in “Crazy Rich Asians” and “A Simple Favor." He’s the whole package, folks: stunningly handsome, impish sense of humor and seemingly built for more than a little roughhousing. His first scene with Blake Lively in “A Simple Favor” is all the audition we need to see. He’ll be 35 in ’22. He should be at or near the top of the Bond team’s list.
Pattinson has established himself as a tremendously talented actor since escaping the “Twilight” series. He’s played a damaged young man in “The Rover," a startlingly soulless billionaire in “Cosmopolis” and a hilariously desperate scumbag in “Good Time." Clearly, he’s got the looks and the charisma to pull off Bond, but he’s doing such interesting work in smaller films that it’d be a shame to burden him with another massive franchise.
If the Bond producers want to maintain the serious tone of the Craig movies and maybe lean a little more into Bond’s reptilian side, the Daniel Kaluuya who frightened the hell out of us in Steve McQueen’s “Widows” is their man. On second thought, that Kaluuya might make for a better villain somewhere down the road. Of course, Kaluuya is a wildly versatile actor who can turn on the charm and then some when required; if he wants to go the Moore route and drive cars underwater, let him have his fun.
Now that we've confirmed the Ted Lasso actor is 100% flesh and blood, let's admit that the handsome portrayer of temperamental Roy Kent might just possess the suave volatility to succeed Daniel Craig. He's a little old at forty-one to start a decade-plus run, but he's hot off an Emmy win and looks awfully swell in a suit. Goldstein could also bring back a dash of the cheeky humor that fans have missed throughout Craig's run.
Jeremy Smith is a freelance entertainment writer and the author of "George Clooney: Anatomy of an Actor". His second book, "When It Was Cool", is due out in 2021.
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