Licence to Kill

Looking for the next James Bond

Movie The Guest

Movie The Guest

There are few characters as iconic (and lucrative for the studios) as James Bond. Suave, seductive, sadistic, the spy has, for generations now, been a staple of the big screen. We’ve gone from classic Connery, a Lazenby sidestep, Moore’s mixed results, Dalton’s underappreciated dash, Brosnan’s bigger-than-life bravado, right up to Craig’s craggy contemporary turn. And, yes, we’re ignoring David Niven, Woody Allen, etc. from the original Casino Royale, though that film does give us the freedom to think outside the box when it comes to picking our new protagonist.

 Craig has inhabited the character so well that despite a clear denouement at the conclusion of Spectre, the rumours are out that producers are still trying to woo him back with $150 million (a figure that Vanity Fair has called “baloney”). So who will take up the mantle? Let’s look at a couple of obvious suspects and a few that may surprise.

By Jason Gorber

British Academy Awards 2016 at The Royal Festival Hall

British Academy Awards 2016 at The Royal Festival Hall

Dan Stevens

Fans of Downton Abbey will know him as Matthew Crawley and may be surprised to see him on this list, but you only have to watch the fantastic genre film The Guest to see an entirely different side of this performer. Physically, he’s titanic in that role of are turning soldier visiting the family of a lost colleague, only to be keeping a secret from those that let him in. He pulls off the American accent well, showing his ability to blend in like any good spy should, but really it’s his turn from sweetness to psychotic malice that makes him perfect for a new, harder-edged Bond. Add on a fine turn as a bumbling boyfriend in the forthcoming Colossal or his real breakthrough as the titular creature in the live action Beauty and the Beast and we’ve got a winner in this exciting talent worthy of consideration.

Movie The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Movie The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Riz Ahmed

Not enough of you saw Nightcrawler or Four Lions, and if more of you did, this name wouldn’t come as such a surprise. Yet when Ahmed makes his mark as Bodhi Rook this season in Star Wars: Rogue One, many more will know his face. He’s also been celebrated for his turn as Naz Kahn in HBO’s The Night Of, showing off his versatility and range. As a rapper, Ahmed has the swagger to be Bond, and as a Brit of Pakistani descent he brings an entirely welcome palate to the character, given current geopolitical turmoil, making the casting choice exciting not only for its originality but for the compelling, complex directions that the narrative can take with the likes of him behind the wheel of the Aston Martin.

The Cinema Society Screening of Counselor

The Cinema Society Screening of Counselor

British Academy Awards 2016 at The Royal Festival Hall

British Academy Awards 2016 at The Royal Festival Hall

Michael Fassbender or Tom Hiddleston

These two stalwarts are both fantastic actors and very much fit the mould of what we’ve come to expect from Bond. They’re equally adept at smaller, art-house fair and big franchise films, meaning they’re unlikely to be overwhelmed by the character in a way that past performers have clearly been. Both are extraordinary and would give impact, gravitas and sly sexiness to the role, yet both are relatively uninteresting or unoriginal choices. And what’s the fun in that?

Jack O’Connell

If they’re going to go young and tough, why not look at an actor who brings more than a bit of grunge to the role. Bond was always meant to be an attack dog in a tuxedo, wearing the trappings of civilization to conceal a boiling, alcohol-fueled rage. Watch five minutes of Jack O’Connell in Starred Up and see one of the most visceral, frightening takes on prison dramas ever made. Check him out as a soldier in ’71 and you’ll find a contemplative yet effective soldier patrolling in Northern Ireland. He’s an electric performer whom you’d believe when he single-handedly takes down a retinue of baddies all by his lonesome.

Tom Hardy

If we’re going to stay tough but a little bit older, why not look to one of the most versatile, exciting and rough-and-tumble Brit actors in a generation. From his breakout in Bronson to the wonder that is Mad Max: Fury Road, he’s shown his mettle. But take a look at the likes of Locke for another side of the man, or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for one of the best espionage films ever made. He’s an actor unafraid to show himself as vulnerable on screen, and with that tough man look and suave demeanour we may have a terrific follow-up to Craig’s take on the role.

Movie Edge of Tomorrow

Movie Edge of Tomorrow

Emily Blunt

Let’s be blunt, shall we? We’ve had decades with the boys having all the fun, why not really mix it up and throw this magnetic performer into the role instead? Justas Q and M stay the same while different personnel cycle into the position (including, of course, a magnificent portrayal by Dame Judy Dench), so too could the spy designated as “James Bond” and “007” beany gender we want. Jamie Bond could easily be played by Blunt, a woman who kicked Tom Cruise’s ass in Edge of Tomorrow, who helped make Sicario a modern masterpiece and who still managed to be more bitchy than Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. A fierce actor with a brain to match, she’d be both magnetic and modern, a truly new step to showcase just how plastic and malleable this franchise could be with a bit of imagination.

© No Limit / Discovery UK 

© No Limit / Discovery UK 

Idris Elba

Many have spoken, and Idris Elba seems to be the most exciting change in Bond lore since it began. The man’s got the chops – just watch a few seasons of The Wire to see his command, or his fantastic role as a warlord in Beasts of No Nation, work for which, because of Academy rules, he was denied a well-deserved Oscar nod. His show Luther shows he can play tortured, and simply look at a slew of red carpet shots to see that the man pulls off a tuxedo better than almost anyone. He’d be the oldest cast Bond, which may be a mark against, but maybe it can be done as a multi-generational thing, throwing someone like John Boyega in for training flashbacks, letting us see how Bond became Bond.