Four well-spoken white Brits, one charming black Londoner and an Irishman prone to taking his shirt off are the favourites to don Daniel Craig’s tuxedo
If Spectre does end up being Daniel Craig’s James Bond swansong, director Sam Mendes certainly did his best to give the most popular 007 since Sean Connery a suitable sendoff. From Bond’s first genuine romance since Vesper Lynd in 2006’s Casino Royale, to that nostalgic look back at the British actor’s greatest bad guy smash hits in the endgame, and even in Bond’s drive off into the sunset at the wheel of his classic Aston Martin DB5, it all felt like a fitting farewell to the Craig era.
Then there were the 48-year-old actor’s comments, made towards the end of Spectre’s filming and since partially retracted, that he would rather “slash my wrists” than reprise the role for a fifth time. Factor in candidates such as Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston shamelessly touting themselves for the role, and no wonder the bookies are making a killing taking bets on who will be the next Bond – even if Craig remains contracted for one more movie and could yet return.
So which of the top six potential next 007s, according to current odds, would make the best recruits for Her Majesty’s secret service? And which deserve to be filed away alongside Burt Reynolds, Dick Van Dyke and Christopher Lambert in the file of bargain bin Bonds that never quite were?
CV: Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant
Bookmakers’ odds: Evens
Currently the runaway bookmaker’s favourite, and it’s obvious why. Mad Max: Fury Road was one of last year’s biggest genre hits at the global box office, and also came home with six Oscars. It would be a major coup if Bond production company Eon could persuade the British actor to sign up, and there’s little doubt he could make the role sing. Of all the current favourites to be the next Bond, Hardy perhaps has the greatest range: he’s played grimy American rogues (The Revenant), working-class Brit bruisers (Legend, Bronson) and everything in between. And he certainly has the charisma to pick up 007’s Walther PPK and minimally mixed Martini. The only question might be whether the Inception star, who’s really a character actor with the looks of a leading man, wants to risk typecasting himself as Bond. And yet Craig has already shown that argument might just belong to another era.
License to thrill: 8/10
CV: The Wire, Luther, Beasts of No Nation
Bookmakers’ odds: 4/1
Elba doesn’t need the diversity vote to place him right at the top of this list. First black Bond or not, he’s the outstanding candidate for the role, and it’s clear that he wants it. The one thing the spy saga has lacked since Roger Moore’s early, toned and cruel turns in the gun barrel spotlight is a 007 with the ladykilling charms to make audiences believe that he really could have members of the opposite sex twisted round his trigger finger within moments of meeting them. And that, if you think about it, should be the No 1 requirement for any actor hoping to pick up his licence to kill. The only factor that might count against Elba is his age: he would be at least 45 by the time the next Bond movie hit cinemas, leaving only two or three episodes before the Luther star reached his 50s.
License to thrill: 9/10
CV: Homeland, Wolf Hall
Bookmakers’ odds: 5/1
Lewis also has charm in spades and would make a great successor to Daniel Craig if Eon plans to continue in a similar vein to Spectre. But he might just be too safe a choice to get producers genuinely hot under the collar, and he’s another candidate with time against him. Still, Lewis has an advantage over his predecessor, who was largely unknown outside the UK when he took the role: the British actor’s starring role in the first three seasons of Homeland – along with his current blockbusting turn in Showtime’s Billions – means he’s perfectly recognisable to US audiences, even if he doesn’t exactly have movie star cachet. Neither did any of his predecessors, lest we forget.
License to thrill: 6/10
CV: Poldark, The Hobbit, Being Human
Bookmakers’ odds: 6/1
Turner, intriguingly, is just the kind of surprise outside bet that Eon has plumped for in the past. The Irishman is taller than Craig, and offers even more shirt-off moments per episode than the current 007 in his starring role in hit Brit period drama Poldark. Once described memorably as “as implausibly good-looking as a model from a Blue Stratos ad”, Turner was even sexy in The Hobbit, a tough task indeed when one considers that the closest previous thing to sexy in big screen Tolkien fantasy was the odd bromantic interlude for Lord of the Rings’ Sam and Frodo amid the murk and grime of Mordor. And he’s young enough to play 007 in a half-dozen or more Bond movies over the next decade and a half.
License to thrill: 8/10
CV: Man of Steel, The Tudors, The Man from UNCLE
Bookmakers’ odds: 7/1
Cavill would be another high flyer if not for one thing: he’s signed on to play Superman in several Justice League movies for Warner Bros over the next half-decade, and would presumably struggle to fit Bond into that schedule. The British actor was decent enough in the middling spy remake The Man from UNCLE, but you wonder if the failure of Guy Ritchie’s film to drive all before it at the box office might also affect his chances.
License to thrill: 6/10
CV: Thor, The Avengers, The Night Manager
Bookmakers’ odds: 9/1
Not since Robert De Niro’s deranged autograph hunter Rupert Pupkin kidnapped Jerry Lewis’s late-night talkshow host in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy has an actor made quite such a blatant tout for work as Hiddleston’s “come and get me” plea to Bond producers in an interview with this weekend’s Sunday Times. But given the Thor actor plays a well-spoken British spy with a propensity for extreme violence in current BBC hit The Night Manager, and indeed manages to do said job particularly well, can we really blame him for offering up his services?
There’s no doubt Hiddleston could pull it off: his new TV role shows off a surprising physicality, and the former Eton schoolboy has always been a hit with a certain kind of Norse deity-fancying filmgoer. He’s the right age, and we’ve already had a pretty good look at how he’d essay the role in those rather wonderful Jaguar adverts.
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