It’s arguably the most sought after role in British cinema — the mantle of Ian Fleming’s high-rolling superspy James Bond. Six actors have already played 007 on the big screen, with Daniel Craig announcing that No Time to Die will be his final outing in the iconic tuxedo. There’s an empty seat in the front of a technologically enhanced Aston Martin, but who’s going to slide into it?
Speculation as to Craig’s replacement has been rife for years, especially given his florid remarks about just how little he wanted to play Bond again after Spectre in 2015. Idris Elba was the presumptive frontrunner for a long time, but it seems clear he’s not all that keen on taking on the role at this point. All we know from Bond producer Barbara Broccoli about the next actor to take the role is: “He can be of any colour, but he is male.”
That does, however, leave an array of compelling choices to play James Bond when the dust settles on Cary Fukunaga’s No Time to Die.
Here’s the pick of the bunch.
It’s possible you had never heard the name Regé-Jean Page before Christmas, but after Bridgerton became everyone’s festive binge-watch of choice, Page shot right up the bookies’ lists for the James Bond role. He subsequently described Bond rumours as being like something of a “merit badge” for any British actor who does something of renown.
Many actors receive a bump up the potential Bond rankings when they make an acclaimed show or movie, but Page’s rise could be coming at just the right time to earn him that tuxedo.
Daniel Craig recently revealed that, as a kid, he was far more interested in one day being Superman than James Bond. Well, if Henry Cavill is the person who replaces Craig as Bond, he’ll have managed to nab both roles. The star would certainly be a popular choice given his heroic exploits as the Man of Steel, as well as the lead in Netflix fantasy series The Witcher and as the Bond-esque Napoleon Solo in Guy Ritchie’s fun take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He auditioned for Bond last time it was rebooted, losing out to Daniel Craig, and told Yahoo in 2018 that if the 007 producers approached him this time, he’d definitely say “yes”.
Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan all auditioned for Bond ahead of their time, so we know the producers like to return to previous hopefuls. All bodes well for Cavill.
His demise at the infamous Red Wedding broke the hearts of Game of Thrones fans and his role in Jed Mercurio’s uber-successful Bodyguard made him the talk of telly. As a result, Madden has hovered near the top of bookies’ lists for the James Bond role for years and there was even a rumour that he was within a whisker of securing the job. The offer never came, as far as we know, but Madden will continue to be one of the actors who will be connected with Bond whenever he’s pictured on a red carpet wearing a tuxedo.
Last year, Grantchester and McMafia actor James Norton dismissed speculation that he might play Bond as “bizarre and quite flattering”. He denied there was any truth to the rumours, but his name certainly appears on bookies’ lists with too much frequency for it to be entirely unfounded. He’s in his early to mid-thirties, so sits in a similar age bracket to Craig when he was handed the role ahead of 2006’s Casino Royale, and has carved out an impressive career on the small screen. Perhaps something more glamorous beckons.
From his time on Skins to his recent Oscar nomination for Lion and leading role in Armando Iannucci’s heart-warming The Personal History of David Copperfield, Dev Patel has proved himself to be one of Britain’s most consistently likeable performers. He’s capable of comedy, intense drama and even action in Neill Blomkamp’s underrated Chappie and 2019’s harrowing Hotel Mumbai.
Read more: Dev Patel praises colourblind casting
Patel has all of the tools for Bond — including looking very good in a suit — and would, of course, make history as the first non-white actor to play the role.
A fellow Skins alumnus of Patel’s, Nicholas Hoult has proven himself adept at slotting into major franchise roles, whether as Beast in X-Men or as the war boy Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road. Indeed, he was set to play a villain in the upcoming Mission: Impossible films before the coronavirus pandemic threw up scheduling challenges.
Read more: Hoult auditioned for Game of Thrones
As with Patel, he’s a tad younger — at 30 — than most of the actors on this shortlist, but he has shown more than enough charisma in his career to date to make a case for his spot on the set of the next Bond adventure.
Another member of the younger contingent of potential Bonds, Aaron Taylor-Johnson comes loaded with major action experience, having played the lead role in superhero pastiche Kick-Ass and the primary human character in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla. An armful of awards nominations for his work in Nocturnal Animals and a series of recent transformative roles — including an appearance as a time-bending military man in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet — show he has serious range too.
Much like Idris Elba, it feels as if Tom Hardy has been at the top of many James Bond shortlists for at least a decade. Also in keeping with Elba, Hardy has taken on a series of roles that would seem to prepare him very well for a stint as 007, including the smooth-talking Eames in Inception and a distinctly quieter brand of field agent in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Given his recent odyssey of over-cranked characters and strange accents, it’s possible Hardy is the only person on this list for whom Bond would feel like coming back down to Earth.
Henry Golding went from being almost entirely unknown — outside of devout fans of the Beeb’s Travel Show — to being everyone’s top choice for James Bond with exceptional speed. One of the breakout stars of Crazy Rich Asians, Golding oozed the sort of charm and suave charisma that is a key part of suitability for the role of James Bond.
Golding told Yahoo Movies UK in 2019 that Bond is a “dream role” for him and Last Christmas director Paul Feig agreed that he’d be a great choice, as long as he can helm the movie. The campaign starts here.
Best known for his award-scooping role on historical drama series Outlander, Scottish actor Sam Heughan is a relatively new addition to the mix of potential James Bonds. However, he threw fuel on the fire of speculation back in March 2020 when he revealed that he actually auditioned for the role previously, when producers considered going radically younger for the reboot approach in Casino Royale. 15 years later, he could certainly be back on the shortlist.
As with many well-spoken British thesps, Tom Hiddleston has been a permanent fixture in the conversation surrounding Daniel Craig’s replacement. The accomplished stage and screen actor has amassed a sizeable fan base for his work as MCU villain/Thor frenemy Loki. He also has form in the world of espionage, having played the title role in the BBC’s 2016 adaptation of John le Carré novel The Night Manager. He even won a Golden Globe for that performance. If he can find time amid his commitments to the Loki TV series, he’d be an excellent Bond.
John Boyega has made no secret of his ambitions to play James Bond, saying in 2018 that although he was “a bit young” for the part, he’d love the chance to step into the shoes of 007 and wield the Walther PPK. He’s certainly no stranger to outlandish action, having portrayed former Stormtrooper turned Resistance fighter Finn in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy.
Boyega is a hugely charismatic figure who seems to take real joy in every role he plays. Given the strange, love-hate relationship Craig has seemed to have with the franchise, it could be a refreshing change to cast someone who will grab it with both arms.
Last year, he played a Russian singer/lothario in the Netflix movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, but former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens would make a great choice for the role of James Bond. Alongside his work in the ITV drama and his blockbuster lead turn — albeit beneath a lot of CGI — as the Beast in the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Stevens showed real darkness with his memorable performance in The Guest. His Bond could have a surprising number of sharp edges.
In Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s most famous role, he’s hardly on screen at all, despite being the title character. The Brit played the abusive husband of Elisabeth Moss’s character in The Invisible Man, who used his scientific expertise to become the titular tormentor. Jackson-Cohen also appeared in the Netflix horror series The Haunting of Hill House and will return for sequel series The Haunting of Bly Manor.
Read more: Jackson-Cohen teases Bly Manor series
His resume is not quite as loaded as some of the other potential actors who could play James Bond, but the work he has done speaks for itself. He’s a great talent on the verge of breaking out into the A-list, which puts him squarely in the ballpark for Bond casting.
After a series of supporting roles on both the big and small screens, Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù made a big impact in 2020 as Elliot Finch in Gareth Evans’ Sky drama Gangs of London and as a refugee battling spirits within a haunted home in His House.
In the Sky show, he’s a low-level employee of a gangland family who is concealing a secret role as an undercover cop. So Dirisu has experience of playing someone hiding a handful of secrets in a life-or-death environment. You can’t get much more James Bond than that.
Tom Hopper — not to be confused with Cats director Mr Hooper — is another name who consistently crops up in bookies’ lists of potential James Bond leading men. He played Dickon Tarly — brother of Samwell — in Game of Thrones and also portrayed Billy Bones in Black Sails.
In terms of movies, Hopper has recently played supporting roles in the Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty and the sci-fi sequel Terminator: Dark Fate. Another suave, charismatic star, Hopper has so far not had a signature leading role on the big screen. Bond could be his chance.
No Time To Die arrives in cinemas on 30 September