As much as we loved his run as 007, Daniel Craig's stint as James Bond is over. Having previously stated that he would rather harm himself than return to the tux, it didn't take long for Craig to jump back in the Aston Martin but No Time To Die – formerly known as Bond 25 – actually was Daniel Craig’s final film in the franchise.
The man confirmed it in our April 2020 cover story, shushing recurring rumours that he is set to suit up again in the future. “I’m OK [with quitting Bond for good],” he said. “I don’t think I would have been if I’d done the last film and that had been it. But this, I’m like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get on with it. I’m fine.’”
So, what's now? Barbara Broccoli confirmed Team Bond intend to spend the next two years ‘reinventing’ the character, which makes the question of “Who's next?” even more important. Producers say it's “early days” for casting the new 007, but that ”it’s a 10-12-year commitment". They've also said that they're looking for a “30-something” to play the role, but at this point, we can't take any statements as gospel. These are super spies we're dealing with here!
From the longest-standing candidate of them all, Idris Elba, who may now be out of the race, to newbies on the list like Aaron Taylor Johnson and rogue choices like freshly-minted Serious Actor Harry Styles, there are a whole host of candidates who we could soon see sipping on a freshly shaken martini. Much like predicting the winner of the Grand National, there can only be one victor – be they the star of a former primetime BBC drama, a man who's more familiar with superheroic spandex, or, erm, Elvis.
It’s worth noting that Craig was not everyone’s first choice for Bond back in 2005. Fans protested (they didn’t like that he was blond…) and he even tried to talk producer Barbara Broccoli out of the decision. “I remember saying to them early on, ‘I can’t do a Sean Connery impression. I can’t be Pierce,’” Craig told us. So, keep in mind that even the unlikeliest of picks below could be in with a shot.
Here we judge who could and should become the next James Bond.
Read more: The secret history of James Bond
Why: Draw a picture of Bond and the result would be Henry Cavill. Square-jawed, broad-shouldered, dark-haired, blue-eyed. Classically handsome, but could clearly take you in a fight. Auditioning for the role, aged 22, in 2005, Cavill reached the final two before Craig edged him out (apparently it was a virtual toss-up). Sixteen years later, matured as an actor and a man, surely he could go one better? He's got the gap in his schedule, at least. After the absolute mess of his Superman reintroduction and then axing, there's a big franchise-shaped hole in Cavill's life waiting to be filled.
What's more — in an alternate universe in which Daniel Craig wasn't (gulp) born or, hear us out, went on to be Superman instead (keep with us), Cavill could've been the star of Casino Royale. Director Martin Campbell, who also did GoldenEye in 1997, spoke about Cavill's audition back in the day in an interview with Express UK (h/t Variety).
“He looked great in the audition. His acting was tremendous,” the filmmaker said. “And look, if Daniel didn't exist, Henry would have made an excellent Bond. He looked terrific, he was in great physical shape… very handsome, very chiseled. He just looked a little young at that time back then.” Cavill would've been in his very early twenties at the time of his tryout, so yeah, a little young indeed.
Why not: Perhaps his history with franchises is his greatest disadvantage. Cavill cuts a dashing figure but nobody can be Superman, Geralt from The Witcher and James Bond. Granted, his stints in both of those properties have now ended, but they'll likely follow him for years to come. Likewise, Cavill’s stint as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E is probably too Bond: ditch Solo’s American accent and it’s the same character. Bond may have missed out on him.
Plus, ironically given what Martin Campbell has come out and said about Campbell being too young at the time of Casino Royale, he might be just a touch too old for the role now. The Bond producers are on record as looking for an actor in their thirties for the PPK-waving part, and Cavill just recently hit 40. Does that take him out of the running? Depends on how hard and fast that age range is.
Craig, notably, was younger when he started out. And then there's that quote the Broccolis keep coming back to — they want to “reinvent” who Bond is. Does Cavill feel like a reinvention? Hardly.
Already known for playing kick-ass superheroes, Bond isn't a huge leap for Taylor-Johnson.
Why: Taylor-Johnson has it all. The actor, no stranger to stunts, has proven himself as an action star in the making through roles in the Kick-Ass movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Godzilla and Tenet. On top of this, he's good – really good – at emotional range, and his breakthrough role as a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy was a testament to these skills.
Also, in Nocturnal Animals, Outlaw King and most recently Bullet Train opposite Brad Pitt, he's quietly been proving himself a Hollywood staple. Let's take a quick read of his Bond credentials: Taylor-Johnson is a Brit, checks the heartthrob box and has an established name without being too tied to any other franchise.
The Bond producers reportedly agree too. The 32-year-old has recently become a frontrunner after The Sun reported that he went for a secret screen test with producers including Barbara Broccoli at Pinewood studios, and seriously impressed them. “Aaron went for a screen test to be the next Bond in September and producers and Barbara loved him. He is now one of the front-runners," the source reportedly said.
Why not: At 32, Taylor-Johnson might be a tad too young for the weathered, cynical interpretations of Bond, but then again, Bond producer Michael G. Wilson, revealed in October that the team were gravitating towards “a thirty-something”. Aside from that, there really aren't very many downsides to Taylor-Johnson and it looks like the Bond team may feel similarly.
Having made his debut in the Marvel Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, Poulter's pivoting to where the action is.
Why: British actor Will Poulter's commercial viability is on the rise. Fresh off an Emmy nomination for US mini-series Dopesick, the 29-year-old has just nailed a role in the Marvel Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, a move that could open the door to an action role like Bond. He's bulked up and is in peak physical condition thanks to Marvel, so his Bond prep would likely be minimal. Handy that.
Poulter has starred in indie horror Midsommar, Detroit and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, but has not had a central Hollywood role yet, and would be the perfect left-field Bond choice as a result. Also at six foot three, he's certainly got the stature.
Poulter's a huge Bond fan himself too. Despite saying he's “sad to see” Daniel Craig (his favourite Bond to date) go, he's “excited to see the evolution of that character and what comes of Lashana in the Bond films”, he told GQ. His passion for the franchise is clear, and surely playing the protagonist would be a natural fit?
Why not: At 29, Poulter, with his glowing, youthful complexion, potentially is a touch too young for the character. After Craig, it would be a bit of a twist to see a Bond in his 20s, and producers have shared that it's not a direction they're keen to explore. Also, Poulter said himself he's hopeful for Bond to “continue in the same vein”.
He proved his action chops (and looked good doing it) in Guy Ritchie's The Gentlemen in 2019.
Why: It takes a special kind of person to go from zero acting roles to leading a big-budget romantic comedy based purely on your inherent desirability. Henry Golding was plucked from the world of BBC travel presenting back in 2018 to front Crazy Rich Asians, with the book's author saying “He’s a leading man three times over without the first movie even coming out yet, and it’s a testament to his talent. People just fall in love with him". Since then he's continued his upward trajectory, hitting every genre from action (The Gentlemen, Snake Eyes) to comedy (A Simple Favour) to historical drama (Persuasion). There's kind of nothing he can't do, and it also helps that he knows how to wear the hell out of a suit. His casting would also be a historic move, as the franchise has often been plagued with criticisms about its willingness to accept a diversity of the British experience. It could be the perfect way to kick off a new era of Bond.
Why not: Golding has charm coming out of the wazoo. He's literally built an entire career on it. His dimples, deep eyes you could bathe in and kind warmth would surely snare any Bond girl in a 2-mile radius, but whether or not he can embody the explosive menace and violence that 007 needs to exhibit regularly remains to be seen.
The primo softboi is entering his hardboi era with the likes of Streetcar Named Desire and the Gladiator sequel.
Why: It's been a banner few years for Paul Mescal. After erupting into our lives during the pandemic as some kind of parasocial soft boi in Normal People, he's just nabbed his first Oscar nomination for the intimate and brooding Aftersun. The film is basically two hours of Mescal saying nothing but everything at the same time, a trait inherent to any Bond racking up trauma on the daily. As well as clearly being able to internalise the complex interiority of James Bond, he's got the bod (never forget the short shorts) and action backing to boost the adrenaline as he's just been cast in Ridley Scott's long-awaited Gladiator sequel. Maybe it's time to get 007 a signature gold chain as well as drink order.
Why not: Can James Bond ever be a softboi? Mescal may be entering his hardboi era now, but there's just something inherently unthreatening about him. We might have to wait for a few of his grittier projects to see the light of day before making a judgement on whether we can give him a license to kill.
His body reveal in season 2 of The White Lotus could give Daniel Craig's blue speedos a run for their money.
Why: Will Sharpe has quietly been toiling away as one of the UK's most interesting voices. He was, of course, launched to global stardom with his role as the newly-wealthy tech nerd Ethan in the second season of The White Lotus, giving both brains and brawn with a shower shot that lives in our minds rent-free. But before that he'd racked up an interesting role in the crime drama Giri/Haji and wrote, directed and starred in the dark comedy-drama Flowers. With a comedic and soft sensibility, there's definitely a smoother edge he could bring to whatever evolution Bond gets, but we have no doubt he has the brute strength to knock someone out if he needs to.
Why not: He's not exactly threatening, is he? Now, Bond contains multitudes, he is at once violent, exacting and emotional, but Sharpe may just be leaning too heavily toward vulnerability. His character Ethan in The White Lotus also let the world know he was internally processing some pretty big betrayals, so if he's going to step into 007's suave shoes he needs to develop more of a poker face.
Why: Another star brought into the limelight thanks to The White Lotus, but Theo James has been toiling away on the periphery for a long time. He's fronted action franchises and played romantic leads, but crucially he's never been defined by any one character from his roster and that's good if you're going to sign on to the most defining role of all time. Undeniably a complete smoke show (even with the prosthetic penis), he has that classic Bondian charm and image.
Why not: Well, he just doesn't seem that keen on it. Of course, this may be classic actor humility, an ‘aww shucks’ attempt at being flattered by the conversation, but speaking to SirusXM, he said "I love some of the Sean Connery movies, but I think they need to do something else. Do you know what I mean? They need to really go with a reinvention of it in a different way and that wouldn’t be me.”
Bond has often wrestled with its very consistent and, let's face it, white history. Daniel Craig's run fleshed out the interiority of the character in new ways, but it's long been felt the next iteration should bring some much-needed diversity to the franchise.
An industrious actor making waves for HBO, Lawtey has the backing of his Industry bosses for the top job.
Why: One of the most exciting prospects to hit British screens in recent years, Lawtey has singled himself out as a performer to watch across his run on HBO's Industry, the hit show about London's banking underbelly. He's as handsome and suave as you could hope for from a future Bond, and has showcased a depth of vulnerability in the series, which certainly chimes with the Bond estate's intent to bring 007 into the modern world. Execs everywhere would salivate over his CV — it feels like a question of when, not if, he'll make the jump to a big-budget blockbuster.
Indeed, since the second season of Industry dropped to critical acclaim, there have been calls across social media for Lawtey to pick up the PPK. Critic Tim Molloy went so far as to call the pick “obvious,” echoed by Industry co-writer Konrad Kay: “He would be superb.” We don't disagree.
Why not: Age is but a number, except for when it comes to Bond. The fresh-faced star is only 25, a hurdle for the role at the best of times — the youngest Bond pick, George Lazenby, was 30 when he took the job — but Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, stewards of the 007 estate, have seemingly nixed anyone younger than the Aussie from the running.
“We've tried looking at younger people in the past,” Wilson said at a BFI event in October. “But trying to visualise it doesn't work. Remember, Bond's already a veteran. […] He isn't some kid out of high school that can bring in and start off. That's why it works for a 30-something.”
That might preclude Lawtey from the role for now, but they'd be silly not to come back to him in a decade.
Page has carved out a niche as a fan favourite in Netflix’s frocks-and-petticoats period drama Bridgerton, playing the dashing Duke Of Hastings, and is the current front runner.
Why: If Bond is the most eligible bachelor ever to appear on screen (let’s be clear: he is), then there are few better auditions than Regé-Jean Page’s turn as Simon Basset, the Duke Of Hastings, in Shonda Rhimes’ adaptation of the Bridgerton novels. He’s tall and good-looking, his skills in a velvet frock coat and cravat mean he would ace the Bond tuxedo test and he has the necessary charm and lightness of touch to deliver Bond’s one-liners.
Since Bridgerton dropped on Christmas Day 2020 and saw Page's chances with the bookies drop from 40/1 to 5/1, his odds have remained short at a commanding 3/1. Is he about to be revealed?
Page most recently appeared on our screens in Netflix's The Gray Man, portraying an evil CIA figurehead (likely to be seen in the just-announced sequel). Given the groundswell of interest around Page as Bond, The Radio Times asked directors the Russo Brothers for their thoughts on his 007 bona fides — and the American sibling duo gave four resounding thumbs up.
“He's fantastic,” Joe Russo said. “I mean, he has more charisma in his pinky than most people do in their entire body. So you know, we'd watch him do anything — I mean, we'd watch him read the phonebook!” Anthony Russo agreed. “[He's a] very savvy performer and [has] so much charm.”
Why not: Bridgerton is charming, whimsical and a gloriously Americanised view of high society in Regency England. Hastings can be tough at times, certainly, but would Page deliver the right sort of deep, brooding menace to Bond that Craig has imbued in the role? There’s an argument that he’s a little lightweight.
Jamie Campbell Bower
Well, stranger things have happened…
Why: Stranger Things 4 was absolutely massive for Netflix, becoming their most streamed English-language TV show ever. Bower was ever-present throughout the series, both as a figment of Eleven's (Millie Bobby Brown) mind exploration and, as was revealed towards the tail end of the season, the slimy big bad guy Vecna. His performance was a real treat and went down terrifically with fans online — but did you know he's a Brit? And not only that, he's 33-years-old — almost the perfect age for any new Bond?
Why not: Weeeeeell… it's just not all that exciting a prospect, is it? At least not yet. Bower did a terrific job in Stranger Things, elevating Vecna with shrewd emotional range, his big, sharp eyes giving him a deeply sinister edge. There's definite Bond villain quality here, but the big man himself? We'll need to see a little more first. The clock is ticking, Jamie…
A star-making turn as Elvis proves the American actor isn't afraid to take on big roles – or accents.
Why: It's hard to imagine a riskier role than Elvis Aaron Presley, probably the most parodied and imitated man in the world, but American actor Austin Butler does it with aplomb in Baz Lurhmann's superlative new biopic of the American singer. Could Butler's next step be the most parodied and imitated man in fiction? At 30, he's about the right age, particularly given the producer's stated intention to modernise the Bond character. He's famous without yet being over-exposed or too connected to an existing role, just like Daniel Craig was when he took the helm (and what counts again long-time bookies favourite Idris Elba). He can smoulder with the best of them, and could probably pull off the British accent.
Why not: After the grizzled physicality of the Craig years, it's hard to imagine a Bond with such old school matinee idol looks as Butler in the role. Not matter how much they make Bond a modern man, he's still going to have to karate chop the odd henchman and roll out of the way of some explosions: at the moment, it's hard to picture Broadway darling Butler doing that. Then of course there's the fact he is American, which might cause a hardcore Bond fan backlash of diplomatic incident proportions. Actually, mark that as something in his favour.
Now one of the most interesting actors in the business, Pattinson could take Bond in a unique direction.
Why: He’s come a long way since Edward Cullen. While we would never cast aspersions on his role as the glittery vampire, Robert Pattinson has developed his acting repertoire substantially since the blockbuster Twilight franchise ended, opting for a raft of challenging indie roles that have each informed his acting style. Pattinson’s next big film, The Batman, is one that could turn into a long-running series, which could hamper his chances of taking on Bond, but from the trailers, Bond’s physical nature wouldn’t be a problem for the newly-hench leading man.
He has the looks, the charm, and the dedicated approach to filmmaking that Bond's production team look for in a candidate. Superhero to superspy, anyone?
It seems as though we're not the only proponents for R-Patz swapping the Batsuit for a tux. Speaking to Esquire UK ahead of the release of Disney+'s Pistol, director Danny Boyle said Pattinson would've been one of his two picks for the next Bond, alongside I May Destroy You's Paapa Essiedu. Boyle's canned 007 flick would've covered his origin story, before taking the action to present day Russia. Pattinson on a clandestine, high-stakes mission in Moscow? Count us in.
Why not: Bond has looked towards a little more humour in recent outings, and while we have no doubt Pattinson would be up to the task, his more serious filmography might look too “Timothy Dalton” (NB we rate Licence To Kill's grittier tone) for Bond's current direction.
On top of that, The Batman is a throw of the dice for DC Comics, currently the film equivalent of Pepsi to Marvel’s Coca-Cola. It’s a much darker outing for the superhero, but if the popularity of Joker is anything to go by, people are in the mood for a bit of dark reimagining. If it’s a success, that could spell the end of Pattinson’s chances to become 007, at least for now…
The new kid on the block.
Why: Well, he's a bloody good actor for a start. Having first come to light in Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You back in 2020, Essiedu's stock has exploded over the last couple of years, picking up starring roles in the likes of Alex Garland's Men and upcoming dystopian sci-fi show The Lazarus Project. His performance in A Number at The Old Vic, opposite The Walking Dead's Lennie James, has been heralded as one of the best of the year across Theatreland.
Danny Boyle even went on record, recently, that Essiedu would be one of his two picks for the PPK. (The other? Robert Pattinson. Fine company, that.)
Why not: There are a couple of obstacles. Firstly, one should think that the Bond producers will be looking for a more established name for the next 007, especially if he's only brought in to do one or two films as has been speculated. Essiedu is also a bit too young at 31 — but they'd be silly not to check back in with him in five or six years, assuming the slot is still open.
Could Bond save his acting career?
Why: Harry Styles' acting career has had the best start. Although starting strong with a small role in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk that left us wanting more, the more he gave us in 2022's Don't Worry Darling and My Policeman didn't quite hit the mark. Still, God loves a trier and what better training than MI6? Bond needs an injection of something new, fresh and young to carry on working into the future, and never underestimate the power of Harry Styles fans putting their bums firmly in cinema seats.
Why not: As we said, his acting just isn't great yet. He also just may just be too young and too good-looking. If the next James Bond has to be rugged and dangerous, maybe Harry isn’t the man for the job. Add to that his introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Eros, and it looks like Mr Styles might be unavailable for the next ten years.
Recently an EE Rising Star nominee at the BAFTAs, the Kingsman star boasts all of the suave sophistication one might wish for from a potential Bond.
Why: A shape-shifter of a performer, Dickinson has done it all at just 25-years-old: he's led a major franchise installment in The Kingsman, and won over cinephillic hearts and minds in esoteric, artsier fare like Beach Rats, Matthias & Maxime and The Souvenir Part II. The Kingsman especially proved his spy bonafides, along with atypical emotional versatility and all of the screen presence you'd demand of Bond. His take? “Nah, I don't think so,” he told ES Magazine. Humble, too!
Why not: He's only 25, which would historically prove a touch too young to play the grizzled super spy. But if he keeps up his present momentum, it's hard not to see how he won't be at the center of the conversation in five or ten years — assuming the slot isn't filled by a long-timer.
The star of The Wire and Luther has long been a front-runner, but new reports suggest he's not actually that interested
Why: Amidst all the other names that are thrown around, Elba’s has been the one that keeps seeming to crop up, and unsurprisingly, given he is the perfect fit for the Bond criteria: tall, ridiculously attractive, magnetic. And now we have further evidence that the pendulum has finally swung fully towards Elba (much to our delight), with Barbara Broccoli, the franchise’s producer, quoted as saying Elba is “part of the conversation” for the role — the first time she has admitted as such. Elba fits the criteria as an actor – though he shouldn’t be assumed as the only non-white candidate for the role – and of course, we’re hoping Broccoli’s statement is finally enacted. Who better than one of the front-runners to become Britain’s best known Secret Service agent?
Why not: Quite simply, the moment may have passed. Elba is 49: only four years younger than Daniel Craig at the end of his tenure. His age has been the biggest factor in the argument against Idris Elba, and if this were the reason for him to miss out on playing one of the biggest roles in Hollywood (and for us to miss seeing him on our screens) we’d be less than impressed. After all, Roger Moore was only two years younger when he took up the role in 1973 (Live And Let Die), and retired from Bond aged 58. Moral of the story: there’s plenty of time.
The other setback, surprisingly, is Elba himself. On a recent podcast appearance, the actor said that playing Bond is “not a goal” for his career, but also expressed how aware he is that the whole world is expecting him to take on 007. “It’s not a question of, should I, do I, will I,” he said. "It is what the will of the nation dictates sometimes.” Sounds like the people want him as the spy more than he does.
“The Golden Torso” isn't just a pretty face (and torso).
Why: Many might primarily associate him with either a brilliant performance as The Fall’s first villain, serial killer Peter Spector, or controlling BDSM fan Christian Grey. Aspects of both characters, oddly, fit nicely with the Bond profile: the successful, confident outward personality; the persuasive talents; the quick thinking in a tight situation. Basically, we’re saying he plays a good psychopath.
However, his acting range isn’t limited to sex enthusiasts and serial killers. He’s played real-life army heroes Jan Kubiš and Pat Quinlan, along with war zone photographer (and former member of the Royal Artillery) Paul Conroy, roles that would stand him in good stead when approaching 007’s military mindset. He’s also able to handle comic scenes, such as his musical revelation in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, and displays his ever-growing depth in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast.
So, the acting is there, but Bond has to be a bit of a stud. Coincidentally, Dornan was dubbed “The Golden Torso” by the New York Times, and named by Vogue as one of the 25 biggest male models of all time. Box ticked.
Why not: One major pitfall of helming a commercially successful film franchise is that you run the risk of moviegoers linking you to a previous role. Would Dornan be able to shake off the 50 Shades association and bring the Bond audience along for the ride?
Perhaps a left-field option, but Bailey has all the skills in his locker to take on 007 and make the role his own.
Why: Set to be Bridgerton Season 2’s biggest star, Bailey has a strong acting pedigree through theatre and TV, and his role in the Netflix hit has brought his name to the attention of a wider audience. He’s the right age for a reboot and potential four or five film arc, has the looks and athleticism, and hasn’t been cast in any big franchises, so won’t suffer from any franchise association. Sounds like just the ticket for Barbara Broccoli.
His acting credits show an impressive versatility: a smarmy, comic recurring role in the BBC’s self-effacing mockumentary W1A was followed by an Olivier Award-winning turn as Jamie in the West End revival of Company. His biggest screen role to date is, of course, as Anthony Bridgerton, the head of the eponymous family’s estate. Bailey’s success in a variety of roles makes him a perfect candidate for the updated Bond, one that’s able to show the vulnerability, physicality and humour that was used to such good effect in No Time To Die.
Why not: At 33, he’s perhaps still too young to take on the mantle of the experienced, gruff Bond. However, Daniel Craig was 38 when he started, George Lazenby was 29 when he took the role, and Sir Sean Connery was a youthful 31. Bond author Ian Fleming also puts 007 at 37 in Moonraker, so it’s not too far from the realms of reality.
(Arguably) the acting talent of his generation. The man whose odds were slashed to ribbons amid unconfirmed reports of his casting that emerged in September 2020 is still among the leading pack.
Why: He’s box office, pure and simple. How many actors could pull off a one-man film (as Hardy did in Locke) and then play both leading roles in another (AKA Legend)? He plays a suave, vaguely Bondish figure in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, too.
On 20 September 2020, it was reported that Hardy had already been cast in the role after supposedly auditioning back in June, and that he was due to be unveiled as Bond in November on the release of No Time To Die. Although that didn't transpire, the news prompted bookies to slash odds, including Ladbrokes shortening theirs from a fairly distant 8/1 to 4/5 – practically a shoo-in. He's drifted since, but is a permanent fixture in the most-likely top three.
For our money, Hardy physically resembles Fleming’s Bond and would bring a dangerous edge and devastating talent. And recently he fuelled the debate by stating: “There’s a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting... that if you talk about it [Bond rumours], you’re automatically out of the race. So I can’t possibly comment on that one!”
Why not: Bond might be too mainstream for the independent-minded Hardy. He likes creative freedom, as roles in Locke, The Drop and London Road attest. His blockbuster works with Nolan were both one-off appearances, not recurring franchise roles. Plus, Hardy may have just found his ideal franchise in the inventive, critically acclaimed Mad Max. Bond may want Hardy more than Hardy wants Bond.
He's played spies, and Bond is Scottish…
Why: The star of Amazon Prime’s Outlander, Sam Heughan, is an unexpected contender in the race to play the next Bond, which is exactly why he could be in with a good chance of finishing first. Compared to the Hardys and the Hiddlestons on this list, Heughan is a familiar but relatively unknown face and is at a similar point in his career as Daniel Craig was before he landed the Bond gig. He’s the same age as Timothy Dalton was when he was cast and a year younger than Pierce Brosnan. Heughan is Scottish, but that’s obviously no barrier to success considering the most famous Bond was a certain Mr Connery, with Fleming so impressed that he even retconned Bond as Scottish. And, most importantly, James Bond doesn’t need to be played by a megawatt Hollywood star – James Bond makes them one. With a Critics’ Choice Award nomination already under his belt, Heughan has already proven he’s got the talent to take on such a huge role.
Need further convincing? Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novel series of the same name, Outlander is a period drama meets sci-fi adventure TV show set during the Jacobite risings, in which Heughan plays a charming soldier, already making him something of a Georgian James Bond. In July 2020, a Radio Times poll of 80,000 readers found that Heughan was the favourite to take on Bond’s mantle with almost twice his nearest competitor’s votes. In other words, Outlander fans are numerous, dedicated and organised. Plus, Heughan has action movie experience in Bloodshot and The Spy Who Dumped Me, films of mixed quality but ones that certainly added important roles to his CV (Heughan literally played a spy in the latter film).
Why not: While it’s true that James Bond doesn’t need to be played by a huge name, that doesn’t mean that studio execs won’t want one. Heughan doesn’t have any hugely distinguishing features to mark himself out as a candidate. He’s good-looking, but all the possibilities are. He’s been in action films, but all of them have. He wouldn’t be the first Bond of colour, nor female or American or anything else like that. The most notable thing about him is that most British people, not to mention Bond fans around the world, haven’t heard of him. After all, even Daniel Craig saw some controversy around casting a blond Bond. Would Heughan be a little too safe? There’s still a chance that Heughan could be overlooked during the casting process in favour of a more recognisable face, but only time will tell which direction they’ll decide to go in.
Can one actor play both Bond and Spider-Man? Why not?
Why: He wants it, for a start. While lots of actors play coy when it comes to openly admitting they would leap at the chance to don the tux and pick up the Walther PPK, in February Tom Holland appeared on Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast and confirmed that he was very keen on taking on Bond. “Ultimately,” said Holland, “as a young British lad who loves cinema, I’d love to be James Bond. I’m just putting that out there. I look pretty good in a suit.”
Casting Holland would be a coup for production company Eon on virtually every commercial front. He is one of the most popular and beloved idols on the planet, a personable and stylish young actor with a built-in legion of fans who already know him from playing Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Adding Bond to his resumé would mean Holland was playing a central role in two of the planet’s biggest franchises.
Why not: There are very few arguments against him, but the main sticking point has to be his youth: Holland is barely scraping his mid-twenties and still plays lots of characters who are teenagers. Bond is typically a veteran with years of experience under his belt and Holland might be better off waiting to become the next-but-one (or even two) Bond. There would be time for his fellow Toms Hardy and Hiddleston each to take up the mantle of 007 before Holland even comes close to 40. No rush.
The leading man in the BBC’s smash hit Bodyguard has the jawline and the skillset, and he’s even caught the attention of the Bond bosses.
Why: Any prospective Bond has to prove they can play seduction and espionage in equal measure, and Richard Madden has done that repeatedly: as both hopeless romantic and war hero Robb Stark, as Prince Charming in Cinderella, and in the action film Bastille Day. His role as David Budd in Jed Mercurio’s Bodyguard got tongues wagging afresh, including that of Bond head honcho Barbara Broccoli. The Daily Mail reported in 2018 that “Bond bosses are on the brink of approaching the Bodyguard star.”
Why not: It's not so much about his suitability and more about what Madden told us when he was our cover star. “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,” he told GQ. “I don’t want to curse anything by saying anything. I think that’s the curse of that. If you talk about it, you’ll curse it.” But he did admit he's a big fan of Bond, so if he's approached, it sounds like it would take a lot for him to say no.
The star of television Happy Valley, War and Peace and Grantchester.
Why: Norton’s profile rocketed in 2016 with his triple whammy performances in Happy Valley (profound psycho), War and Peace (mournful warrior) and Grantchester (Anglican priest with a robust moral compass). With an eclectic mix of characters already on his CV, as well as an education at Cambridge, we’re certain that Norton could easily slip into the role of the suave and sophisticated 007. Now, having just wrapped up Happy Valley, he might have a pretty big gap in his schedule.
Hollywood veteran Diane Keaton told Sky News that Norton would be perfect for the 007 role: "He's got everything that you need. First of all he's extremely attractive, very smart, he's well educated, and he's a fantastic actor. And he's sexy, right? I'm not wrong, I mean, women are gonna love him.” And at the young age of 36, he could definitely carry the Bond franchise for many years to come.
Why Not: Like Aidan Turner, the issue with Norton is his ability to attract a large enough audience to back him. The transition from beloved TV actor to the face of the world’s biggest action franchise could prove to be too big of an ask for young Norton. Cavill has Superman, Hiddleston has Loki and Fassbender has Magneto; Norton is still yet to prove that he’s true blockbuster material.
The Marvel villain.
Why: For starters, Tom Hiddleston’s already made a success of playing a beguiling spy. Impressing critics and drawing huge audiences as Jonathan Pine in the BBC’s The Night Manager, the drama series based on the John le Carré novel, is as close as it gets to a public job application for the role. He’s tall, charming, well dressed and has a built-in fan base thanks to his performance as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Why not: Again, for starters, he’s already made a success of playing a beguiling spy. Would he want to do that again? As his performance in High-Rise shows, he doesn’t always take obvious roles. He might look at Daniel Craig's frustrations from playing one role for a decade and think “no thanks". There's also a sense that his Bond ship might have already sailed, with conversation hitting an apex around 2016 before swiftly (pun not-intended) fizzling out. Another factor: Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has reportedly declared him “too posh” in the past.
The first brown Bond?
Why: In our September 2018 issue, we asked Ahmed if he would consider taking on the prestigious 007 role. His answer: “You know, any stretching the mould of what our traditional archetypes are appeals to me – so yes, those classic stories, be it a kind of superhero or James Bond.” We’re hoping this might potentially bring him into the running, as it should do, as he’s incredibly handsome with the acting ability to back him up. Step aside Q; Ahmed boasts a jawline sharp enough to cut Bond’s enemies on.
Why not: He would, perhaps, be the shortest Bond to have graced our screens, but hopefully we’ve moved on from thinking this is a hard-and-fast requirement, especially when we’re all viewing an enlarged 30”x70” image in the cinema. Ahmed’s past roles also may make him a more unconventional choice for the role – Four Lions, as an obvious example – but parts in Nightcrawler and critically acclaimed The Night Of give us a glimpse into his versatile acting abilities.
The golden boy of British acting looks ready for superstardom. But Bond?
Why: This would be another brave choice with the potential to pay dividends. A young, hungry British actor with franchise experience but no defining role: Nicholas Hoult has the talent to grab the franchise by the scruff of the neck. He’s a very different actor to Craig, smoother and less physical. It would refreshing to see a new interpretation of the character.
Why not: High of cheekbone, cherubic of lip – is Hoult too pretty for Bond? Can you really imagine him beating a henchman to a pulp? At 32, Hoult would be the third-youngest Bond debut by a year, and compared to the weathered Daniel Craig he might look more One Direction than 007. Assuming he doesn’t land a different franchise lead, Hoult could be the perfect eighth Bond in a decade. But perhaps not the seventh one right now.
The GQ readership pick. Say no more.
Why: Look at him. Lose the moustache, trim the hair and you have James Bond sprung from the pages of Fleming’s novels. Fast & Furious 6 proved his action credentials, while the stoically heroic Bard from The Hobbit is the James Bond of Middle Earth, only duller and a little grubbier. But it’s his titular role in Dracula Untold that really sells the prospect of Luke Evans as James Bond, 007. He’s established but hardly a megastar and, at 42, Evans could nail down the role for a decade or more. Not to mention he won our last GQ poll for the preferred next James Bond – what better endorsement can you have?
Why not: Despite his growing profile, the Evans candidacy hasn’t yet caught fire with the bookies. Strangely, a lack of television experience may prove a drawback – whereas most names on this list built up their profile on the small screen, Evans has always been a theatre or film man, his part in Netflix’s The Alienist notwithstanding. As a result, he may be more unfamiliar to a British audience than somebody with his success deserves. However, he certainly has a passionate fan base and may well be better placed than the odds indicate.
Why: He's got the looks, the suave, and he's been steadily building up his profile with wide-ranging roles speak to the depths he could bring to Bond, like his wounded soldier in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, or the nasty Baron in The Favourite. But it's his subdued performance in the Sally Rooney adaptation Conversations with Friends that holds tantalising possibilities for 007. His Nick Conway is elusive and unpredictable with a dangerous edge. That's what you want from Bond, right?
Why not: At 31, he's still on the younger side for Bond. Plus, he's yet to prove his blockbuster chops, and he seems pretty comfortable as a supporting actor in the independent arthouse scene.