It has been well over a year since Bond’s 24th mission, Spectre, landed like something of a damp squib at the cinemas. It was praised for its nostalgic throwbacks to James Bond films of old but criticised for its clunky formulaic misery. That’s not to say that it wasn’t hugely lucrative, but given the gritty success of Skyfall three years previous, Spectre seemed like a fall from grace, exacerbated by Daniel Craig’s apparent loss of interest.
News relating to Bond 25 is well overdue and rumors have started trickling through. In recent weeks, we’ve discovered that shooting negotiations are underway in Croatia, a Vietnam-War vintage helicopter has been acquired (not airworthy but perfectly capable of being blown to smithereens) and there has been a flurry of activity at bookmakers. While Spectre has been consigned to the shelf labelled ‘underwhelming’, another Bond story has been playing out right under our noses: who will play Bond next?
While Daniel Craig’s ‘will he, won’t he?’ saga continues, let’s review the hot picks who could take over a vacated Bond role.
At the last check, Irish-German Fassbender was the bookmakers’ favorite to assume double-O status, just ahead of James Norton. He likes to keep himself busy with a mixture of action blockbusters and emotional drama, balancing forays into comic book stardom as Erik Lensherr (a.k.a. Magneto) in the X-Men movies with more traditional acting gigs in films like Steve Jobs and The Light Between Oceans.
While Assassin’s Creed flatlined in 2016, he received rave reviews for his performance in indie crime drama Trespass Against Us opposite fellow Irish legend Brendan Gleeson. He’s got the piercing eyes and rugged good looks to play Bond, but would his casting be a backward step? Moody, middle-aged, haunted gentleman of the secret service has been done to death. Many, including Fassbender himself, think it’s time for a fresh take on the iconic secret agent.
You’d be forgiven for never having heard of James Norton, but his could be the fresh take that Bond so badly needs. Norton’s biggest roles have been in the highly-accomplished British TV series’ War and Peace (Lifetime), Happy Valley (Netflix) and Grantchester (PBS), in which he plays a former soldier turned Anglican priest.
Besides his obvious acting prowess, his relative lack of qualifications might just make him the best qualified of everyone on this list. It’s worth remembering that it wasn’t until he took the role of Bond that Daniel Craig became the ever-present action man that he is today. His appearances in Defiance and Layer Cake had garnered respect, but he wasn’t the huge celebrity that everyone else on this list certainly is. Could that put James Norton in a strong position?
Currently grunting his way through eight torturous episodes of Taboo (FX), Tom Hardy is a fan favorite to assume the role. He made a big splash in Mad Max: Fury Road (oddly, another grunt-fest), but has also proved his emotional and comedic range in Inception and This Means War.
Hardy seems stuck in a violent rut at present with Legend giving way to The Revenant, then the sensational Peaky Blinders (Netflix) before his somewhat clumsy passion-project Taboo. If he lands the gig, a blend of his recent streak of violence with the dry comic timing and likeable empathy of This Means War would be something I’d happily watch.
The archetypal English gent, Tom Hiddleston, has been a regular on our screens since he first appeared as Loki in Thor in 2011. Since then he has mixed gritty character drama and action movies with his outings into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When The Night Manager (AMC) hit our screens last year, starring Hiddleston in the leading role of Jonathan Pine, a huge buzz was created. Not just because it was a genuinely brilliant piece of television, but also because it had all the macho melodramatic hallmarks of a Bond movie. Was The Night Manager Tom Hiddleston’s Bond audition tape?
Do you remember the hot dwarf in The Hobbit trilogy? Aidan Turner embarked on a fateful mission through Middle Earth in 2012 and by the time his journey was over in 2014, his was a hot ticket. Turner has since returned to television where his time has been taken up by the lead role in the intriguing period drama Poldark (PBS).
However, it was in the Agatha Christie mystery And Then There Were None (Lifetime) where his 007 credentials were laid bare. The gun-toting, topless-when-not-in-a-morning-suit Philip Lombard was as close to a secret agent as Turner has come. Furthermore, he has been a solid feature on the ‘James Bond Heirs’ list since it was written, so don’t be surprised if the stars align over Aidan Turner’s name before long.
Steven Spielberg has backed Elba to play Bond, though the actor himself is less than convinced. He has said over and over again that the studio has not been in touch, although this is Bond we’re talking about; famously under wraps until absolutely necessary.
Elba may feel he’s too old for Bond but his audience thinks not. He’s been keeping very busy in largely action-packed roles including the recurring titular role in Luther (BBC), Pacific Rim and regular visits to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Heimdall, the guardian of Asgard. His would be a refreshing departure from the often criticised Bond tropes that are decades-old and due an update.
Mister Hollywood himself is a relatively new addition to the list and somewhat surprising at first glance. However, if you put La La Land to one side for a moment and consider Drive, Gangster Squad, The Nice Guys, you can see why Gosling might be in contention. He can certainly do haunted and mysterious (Drive) just as well as he can woo an audience with his crooked smile and sparkling blue eyes (La La Land) and he’s no slouch at humor (The Nice Guys). Only a fool would rule out a Canadian Bond at this stage.
Possibly the most likely to upset the favorites is Homeland (Showtime) regular Rupert Friend, who has in fact turned down the role of James Bond once already. His critically-acclaimed performance as the taciturn and mysterious Peter Quinn in Homeland rings with allusions to 007 at every turn. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he’s also got a silky smooth English accent going for him. Would he turn it down a second time?
His physique and star status put Cavill firmly in the running, but if you ask me, I’d rather see the pre-Man of Steel Cavill as Bond. Before revealing his identity as Superman in 2013, his performances had a certain energy and fire that were not evident in his rather bored Clark Kent. Then he played pouty Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a predictable gun show of a Bond audition tape if ever there was one.
A few years ago, Stevens wouldn’t even have registered on MI6’s radar. He starred in Downton Abbey (PBS) as the dapper and slightly podgy heir-to-fortune Matthew Crawley until his ‘untimely departure’ in 2012. And, thank the Lord!
Dan Stevens 2.0 put banquets and morning suits behind him and got ripped. He had something of a breakthrough in the neo-noir thriller The Guest and is currently gracing our screens in Marvel’s Legion (FX).
Yes, Gillian. It’s unlikely, but if ever a woman were to take up the mantle, surely Anderson’s deadpan diligence in the face of villainy would be a frontrunner. She certainly has the character credentials with credits including The Fall (Netflix) and X-Files (Fox). And then of course there was that tweet:
— Gillian Anderson (@GillianA) May 21, 2016
Before Bond, he was already an accomplished British actor who was pretty damn fine at moody, tortured souls with a propensity for espionage and violence. He’s played Bond four times already and is still attached to play the character in Bond 25. Despite what he said after finishing Spectre, money talks and we may yet see him pull on the tux one more time.
That concludes our comprehensive, and in places improbable, list of candidates for one of the biggest roles in pop culture. If the rumors are true that shooting is to commence imminently, we can surely expect the recent trickle of teasers to give way to torrents of news in the coming weeks. As fun as the speculation is, the chances are high that Craig will do good by his contract and graciously accept the reported $150million gig offered to him. If, however, he does hang up his tux, my money’s on James Norton.
With Sam Mendes passing on the baton after two Bond outings, rumors are now pointing at director of John Wick 2, Chad Stahelski, to helm Bond 25. Even with the titular character unconfirmed, MGM and Sony are aiming for an October 2018 release.
Who would you pick to succeed Daniel Craig as James Bond? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.