Who will actually be the next James Bond? An in-depth analysis
Who's going to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond when he swaps his Walther PPK for a P45? Who knows. This far ahead of Bond 25's 2020 release you might as well get the Ouija board out to ask the spirit of Cubby Broccoli what he reckons.
Nonetheless, there are a few orthodoxies to point the way. Traditionally, it’s been a role which elevates actors to the A-list rather than being an A-list vehicle. Look at where past Bonds were in their careers when they got the gig: Sean Connery was an undistinguished jobbing actor best known for fighting leprechauns in Disney’s begorrah-and-blimey Irish tale Darby O’Gill and the Little People; George Lazenby was a car salesman turned chocolate advert mascot who bumped into Broccoli at the barbers; Pierce Brosnan had a perm.
You'll need a history of hefty, critically respected film parts these days too. Daniel Craig had Layer Cake, Munich and a role as Ted Hughes in Sylvia on his showreel before Bond, and the next will need a similarly solid CV as well as having convinced when jumping out of helicopters and the like. Then there’s the general sense of Bond-ishness: Connery "moved like a panther", as Cubby's wife Dana Broccoli put it, and that sense of muscular virility has been an essential part each Bond actor on screen. These are the 12 frontrunners:
1. Tom Hardy
If you’ve got Pierce Brosnan’s backing – the former Bond said he fancied Hardy to "put a bit of wiggle into" Bond last year – you’re halfway there, and Hardy has the brooding look, the magnetism and the maverick streak in spades. That said, Hardy might be a bit too obvious at this stage. As the kind of A-lister who makes other A-listers look like boring nerds, he doesn't need the role to elevate him any further, so Bond might be an odd fit for Hardy. He might also be a bit wary of chucking himself into another big franchise so soon after Venom too, and Bond isn’t the kind of role you can just wander off from to do other things. It is, as Craig once observed, "a big machine". He's still the obvious choice, but Bond producers have seldom gone for the obvious 007.
2. Idris Elba
There was a moment last summer which summed up where Idris is at with the Bond thing. Good Morning Britain’s Divya Kohli collared him at the premier of Yardie, his directorial debut, presented him with a martini glass and asked if he took it shaken or stirred. Idris looked like he wished it were bleach he could chug back. He's the first to have fun with the idea - see his selfie with Daniel Craig at the Golden Globes - but after the Sony hack in 2014 showed he was in the running, he became so hemmed in by Bond chat that whatever he does now, people always ask about Bond. That’s not to say he doesn’t have everything a great Bond needs but he’s probably sick of the whole thing, and who could blame him? He’s also getting a little old at 46, the same age as Roger Moore was when his era started. By the time Rog got out he looked like he desperately needed an Ovaltine and an early night, so producers are unlikely to go for an older Bond again.
3. James Norton
The spate of BBC thrillers in the last 18 months has raised a certain echelon of British leading man toward the top of the Bond reckoning. Norton’s turn in McMafia shoved him to the head of the pack for a couple of months, and he’s certainly got the 'wearing of a suit' and 'waving of a gun' aspects of the role down. Then again, he’s a bit light on film experience and might have been right to dismiss Bond rumours as "very flattering, very humbling speculation". Likely to be the Clive Owen de nos jours.
4. Richard Madden
If suddenly staring very hard at something out of frame like a spaniel who's just caught scent of some fox poo two fields away is a key performance indicator for a Bond hopeful, then Bodyguard gave Madden ample opportunity to flaunt his suitability and pick up a Golden Globe while he was at it. The tough but conflicted but fragile but dutiful thing is solid Bond training, and Madden's silence on the subject feels more like a 'something is about to happen' kind of silence than a 'nothing is about to happen' void. Then again though, there’s a lack of big screen heft beyond the underwhelming and possibly cursed CIA drama Bastille Day, which ended up being pulled from French cinemas after it opened following the terrorist attacks on Nice’s Bastille Day celebrations. As Craig's Bond has done the Bond-goes-Bourne thing so long that Bourne-style gritty clobbering has become the norm for most action films, and certainly most spy films, Madden’s blank terseness might represent a step back to 2005 rather than a step forward.
5. Riz Ahmed
Everyone likes Riz. He's a brilliant actor, obviously, as you know from Nightcrawler, Four Lions and The Night Of, and on top of that he's very much One Of The Good Guys. Had Ahmed been in the running in 2005, he might have been considered just a bit too interesting and outspoken for the part, but whether it's on Twitter or via his music with Swet Shop Boys or as Riz MC, he's always been an intelligent and considered voice in conversations about representation in TV and film and as such would be exactly the right guy to play the first Bond of colour. If anyone could show that Bond can move with the times and, if necessary, sit down the kind of baby-men who'd freak out at the idea of a Muslim Bond with a combo of grace and righteous force, he can.
6. Tom Hiddleston
Much like Madden and Norton, a big budget Beeb production bounced Hiddleston toward the top of the bookies’ lists. Like all Le Carré adaptations, The Night Manager gave Hiddleston a lot of room to practice his brooding in hotel rooms. He might have the time now the Avengers saga is being rounded off too. Then again, even ignoring the odd vibe that lingers from the whole Taylor Swift thing – though really, no Bond should really be wearing a t-shirt with his girlfriend’s initials on, unless ‘I <3 TS’ really proclaimed Hiddleston’s love for Tremendous Spying or The Sesh – Hiddleston’s just a bit too big for the role now. Plus, last we heard he hadn’t been approached: "No one has talked to me about it," he told Graham Norton in May last year.
7. Daniel Kaluuya
For some reason, nobody's really talking about Kaluuya as an outside shout for Bond at the minute, but all the ingredients are there. Between Sicario, Black Panther, Widows and Get Out, he's got both critical clout and action chops, as well as being exactly the kind of famous-but-not-mega-mega-famous actor who generally gets the gig. When the idea of being Bond was put to him by the Hollywood Reporter he dodged it admirably: "What are the odds on that? I need to know the odds first, 'cause I need a new kitchen." For the record, Daniel, your odds are sliding between 6-1 and 20-1, but we'd price him a lot shorter than that.
8. Henry Cavill
Cavill’s name has been bouncing around Bond for more than a decade: he was Casino Royale director Martin Campbell’s pick to succeed Pierce Brosnan, but he lost out to Daniel Craig as he was considered too young at 23. Now he’s the perfect age at 35, last year's witless contribution to the discussion about how #MeToo has changed dating might bar him. On top of that, prospective Bonds are meant to have a winking, chase-me-chase-me coyness when anyone asks them about being Bond. Cavill hasn’t got that memo. "I would love the opportunity and if they were to ask, I would say yes," he said breathlessly in July, sounding more like a slightly anxious Duke of Edinburgh candidate who really needs this Oxfam stock assistant gig than a devil-may-care superspy.
9. Aidan Turner
Another BBC-approved hunk, his stint on Poldark has landed him a fair few shoots in tuxedos over the last four or five years and he’s got the requisite smoulder down. There’s precedent for an Irish Bond in Brosnan, and of the mooted Irishmen in the running – Cillian Murphy and Michael Fassbender being the others – Turner’s the one with the best shot. Given that nobody really remembers that he was in the Hobbit films, it feels like the right point in his career for him to announce himself on film too. That said, talk around him has cooled since Madden's emergence.
10. Damian Lewis
The betting on Lewis has drifted a little since Homeland made him a frontrunner, and at 47 he's unlikely to carry the franchise for the decade or so that's come to be expected of a Bond actor. That said, there are still a few things which make him uniquely placed to get the gig: he's read an audiobook of Diamonds Are Forever; he worked with Barbara Broccoli on The Silent Storm in 2014 and she's known to be a fan of his; and, most notably, Lewis was christened as "the next James Bond" by willowy Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana in 2017 when the two met at the cricket.
11. John Boyega
Boyega did a Google Assistant ad last year which toyed with the idea of him playing Bond - he's in a tux, does the classic pre-credits Bond crouch-and-gun-point pose, and likes what he sees so much he calls his agent - and managed to come across as both a laugh and a real contender to take Bond and make him funny, dashing and buoyant. He did admit in March last year that he was still a bit too young for it, but there's usually a short hiatus after each Bond launches his DB5, Thelma & Louise-style, off the cliff. Boyega could easily be 32 or 33 before the decision is made, putting him squarely in the frame.