With the sun finally set on Daniel Craig’s franchise-altering tenure as James Bond, fans of the storied spy franchise are clamoring to know who will be the next performer to step into 007’s stylish shoes. But the answer is far from obvious, and it’s an awfully crowded field of candidates. (After all, if you’re a British heartthrob with a certain degree of notoriety, chances are you’re in the running for the role.) But where you fall in the taxonomy of Bond wannabes is bigger than just fan chatter—in fact, it’s the subject of an entire cottage industry of gamblers and betting houses, who have been gaming the odds on who will succeed Craig ever since he announced his departure.
Now, with No Time to Die long behind us and the question increasingly more pressing, fans are looking to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the longtime custodians of the Bond franchise, for answers about the character’s new direction. Unfortunately, answers may be a long time coming. Last year, when asked if they’ve decided who might replace Daniel Craig, Broccoli replied, “Oh, God no. We’re not thinking about it at all. We want Daniel to have his time of celebration. Next year we’ll start thinking about the future.”
Well, if we’re to believe a new report from Express UK, that day has come. In entertainment reporter Ross King’s appearance on Lorraine, he said, “The Bond producers are looking for a younger Bond. Someone probably in their 30s. At the end of the day, they want someone who will be Bond for the next three movies. For the franchise, they want someone who will carry it through the same way Daniel Craig did it.”
There you have it, Bond fans: older than Tom Holland, but younger than Idris Elba. Until we hear more, we’ll just have to hope and dream and bet. Read on for a full breakdown of the performers most likely to suit up next, and what they’ve said about taking on the iconic role.
After his breakout performance in Netflix’s Bridgerton last winter, British heartthrob Page rose to meteoric fame, which meant that Bond rumors inevitably came knocking. But if Page is your preferred horse in this race, don’t get your hopes up; he insists that anything you’ve heard is just part of the Bond rumor mill.
“I think there might be an element of cultural translation to be done here,” Page said on The Tonight Show last winter. “If you’re a Brit, and you do something of any kind of renown that people regard well, then people start saying the ‘B’ word. It’s like a merit badge. You get the ‘B’ word merit badge. I’m very, very glad to have the badge. I’m glad to be in such wonderful company of people who have the badge. But it’s a badge.”
In June, asked again how he feels about the rumors, Page joked, “Yeah, it gets clicks.” He continued, “It’s got nothing to do with me—nothing to do with anything that has happened in any rooms or any meetings. It’s literally just a thing for people to talk about. So it’s flattering, but it’s just a game.”
Elba has been the frequent name mentioned in the Bond race since 2014, when the Sony email hack revealed an email from Sony chairman Amy Pascal, saying, “Idris should be the next Bond.” When Elba tweeted, “My name’s Elba, Idris Elba” in 2018, the rumor mill went wild, forcing Elba to later explain himself. “I took the piss a little,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, “but I was also reminding people that I never got referred to as James Bond. So, I was like, hello, my name is Elba. Idris Elba. It was a joke. I swear to God.”
After decades of white actors inhabiting the role of Bond, Broccoli and Wilson have long been pressured to cast an actor of color. In 2019, Elba opened up to Vanity Fair about the concerns he’d have, if cast as the first Black Bond:
You just get disheartened when you get people from a generational point of view going, ‘It can’t be.’ And it really turns out to be the color of my skin. And then if I get it and it didn’t work, or it did work, would it be because of the color of my skin? That’s a difficult position to put myself into when I don’t need to. James Bond is a hugely coveted, iconic, beloved character that takes audiences on this massive escapism journey. Of course, if someone said to me ‘Do you want to play James Bond?,’ I’d be like, Yeah! That’s fascinating to me. But it’s not something I’ve expressed, like, ‘yeah, I wanna be the black James Bond.’
After the premiere of No Time To Die, Elba confirmed, “No, I’m not going to be James Bond.” Asked if he’d consider taking on the role down the road, he said, “Who wouldn’t? How amazing would it be to have a Black James Bond? It’s a sign of the times when we can stop talking about Black, white, and color.”
In April 2018, Hardy sent the Internet into a tizzy when he Instagrammed a screenshot of a news story saying that he had been selected as Craig’s replacement. “In my tux and on the runway Gtg,” the caption read. Turns out it was all an April Fool’s joke, but the rumors have never stopped swirling around Hardy, who remains a favorite of betting houses and fans alike. Hardy has always stayed mum on the matter, but even Pierce Brosnan, a former Bond himself, has high hopes. “I think Tom Hardy could be a good Bond,” Brosnan said. “I’d be happy to see him do it. You need an actor who can put a bit of wiggle into it—that’s what makes Bond.”
Game of Thrones alum Madden has long been a popular fan casting for the role of Bond. Madden would be the rare performer who’s actually a lifelong Bond fan (he’s seen all the movies and read all the Ian Fleming novels as a young teen), but like Page, he’s quick to discredit the Industrial Bond Complex. “The papers make up a story on a Sunday so they can discredit that story on the Monday so they can sell papers on both days,” Madden told British GQ. “Everyone just loves the rumor mill on that topic. I’m just the current one. There’ll be a different one next week.”
Lynch has already made history as the first woman and first person of color to inherit the 007 mantle, however temporarily. In No Time to Die, Lynch’s Nomi inherits Bond’s MI6 designation when he goes into exile. When the news broke, toxic fans hurled racist and misogynist abuse at Lynch, complaining that a Black woman couldn’t be 007. Lynch, for her part, didn’t let the vitriol get her down. “It doesn’t dishearten me,” Lynch said. “It makes me feel quite sad for some people because their opinions, they’re not even from a mean place—they’re actually from a sad place. It’s not about me. People are reacting to an idea, which has nothing to do with my life.”
Broccoli has dismissed the possibility of a female Bond, but hope springs eternal for the fans betting on Lynch. What’s to say Broccoli and Wilson couldn’t be moved to change their minds, with enough pressure from fans?
When Netflix’s Peaky Blinders became a smash hit, with Murphy heading up the gritty series about 1920s gangsters in the U.K., the Bond rumor mill inevitably began to swirl around Murphy. “Everybody is getting excited about the new series of Peaky Blinders and it seems as though [gamblers] are no different,” Harry Aitkenhead, who works at the online-betting site Coral, told the Daily Mirror in 2019. “We’ve been inundated with bets lately on Murphy landing the role as the next James Bond, and he’s certainly a leading candidate now.”
“It seems to be a way of generating business for bookies,” Murphy told GQ in October 2019. “So someone who happens to be in a TV show and wears a tux occasionally in a TV show… But having said all of that, it’s incredibly flattering to be in that conversation.”
Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.
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