The 15 Actors Who Might Be The Next James Bond

·23-min read
Photo credit: MGM/Eon
Photo credit: MGM/Eon

Who's going to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond when he swaps his Walther PPK for a P45? Who knows. With No Time To Die still not in cinemas, you might as well get the Ouija board out to ask the spirit of Cubby Broccoli what he reckons. To kill time, though, we've got some guesses of differing degrees of wildness.

We're not likely to find out who it is too soon. While discussing the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, producer Barbara Broccoli – Cubby's daughter, and the woman who holds the future of the James Bond franchise in her palms – even went so far as to explicitly rule out anyone being casted as the new Bond until "the dust has settled" on the Daniel Craig era.

"I always say: you can only be in love with one person at a time," she said in an interview with Total Film. "Once [No Time to Die]'s come out, then some time will pass, and then we’ll have to get on to the business of the future. But for now, we just cannot think about anything beyond Daniel." Seems fairly cut and dried to us, then.

Now that the film's release date has been pushed back yet again – it will hopefully hit cinemas on 29 September 2021, and slightly later in the US – the casting process has presumably been kicked down the road, too. That's bad news for the older guys on this list, who might have aged out of the role before the final film even arrives.

But what makes a Bond? Broccoli says he's now a more mutable figure than he used to be. "It will have to be reimagined, in the way each actor has reimagined the role," she said. "That’s what is so exciting and fun about this franchise; the character evolves. Eventually, when we have to think about it, we’ll find the right person."

So yes: that means James Bond can be non-white. He can be non-British, Broccoli confirmed. But he can't – for now, at least – be a woman. "We should create roles for women, not just turn a man into a woman," Broccoli said, echoing sentiments she expressed in early 2020.

Along with these pointers, there are a few Bond casting orthodoxies to point the way. Traditionally, it’s been a role which elevates actors to the A-list rather than being an A-list vehicle. Look at where past Bonds were in their careers when they got the gig: Sean Connery was an undistinguished jobbing actor best known for fighting leprechauns in Disney’s begorrah-and-blimey Irish tale Darby O’Gill and the Little People; George Lazenby was a car salesman turned chocolate advert mascot who bumped into Broccoli at the barbers; Pierce Brosnan had a perm.

You'll need a history of hefty, critically respected film parts these days too. Then there’s the general sense of Bond-ishness: Connery "moved like a panther," as Cubby's wife Dana Broccoli put it, and that sense of muscular virility has been an essential part of each Bond actor on screen.

Perhaps most importantly, you also need to be in tune with the era in which the new Bond exists. When Pierce Brosnan was, unceremoniously, jettisoned from the role, it was partly because the high camp of Die Another Day, with its CGI surfers and ice palaces, didn't jibe with the world of post-9/11 espionage that the Jason Bourne films set up, and which Daniel Craig has since made his own.

Quite what the next incarnation of Bond will embody depends who plays him. These are the frontrunners. And no, Idris Elba isn't among them.

Lashana Lynch

Photo credit: Esquire UK / Getty
Photo credit: Esquire UK / Getty

Let's start, in time-honoured spy film fashion, with a red herring: Lashana Lynch is the next 007. This has been confirmed. In fact, she takes over the role from Daniel Craig in the new Bond film, No Time to Die. So, job done. We can all go home.

Ah, but, wait a minute – she's not the next James Bond. In fact, as Barbara Broccoli has made very clear, James Bond will never be female. What's happened here is a bit of confusion between a job title, and a character.

The upcoming, much-delayed 25th Bond movie opens with everyone's favourite spy enjoying his retirement, which has opened up his double-O slot at MI6. Lashana Lynch's agent, Nomi, gets the gig, which does make her the new 007, but doesn't make her the new James Bond. That's a bit of a shame, as her filmography to date has shown her to an actor of sparkling wit with a knack for an action sequence (not unlike a modern Sean Connery) and we'd love to see just how upset her casting as Bond would make the people who think a fictional character can only ever be a white British man.

On the plus side, it does open up the possibility of a Nomi spin-off, perhaps penned by No Time to Die scriptwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, which would jibe with Broccoli's preference to create new female characters rather than recast old males ones.

Regé-Jean Page

Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Marsland - Getty Images

At the beginning of April it was announced that British actor Regé-Jean Page would not be returning to Bridgerton, and social media did not react well to the news. In his role as the Duke of Hastings, Page inspired lustful Instagram pages and countless fawning articles, helping the period drama to become Netflix’s most successful series ever. It’s now being reported that he left over “creative differences” with showrunner Shonda Rhimes (which she has denied), but at the time, everybody’s mind turned to one thing: Bond.

Odds were cut and the idea quickly gathered momentum, to the point that Page had to comment on the speculation that he's on the shortlist. In an interview with The Mirror, he said: "Ah, the B word. I think if you are British and do anything of note, that other people take notice of, then people will start talking about that.

"That's fairly normal and I'm flattered to be in the category of Brits that people have noticed. The concept of having plans in this moment in history is mildly hilarious. I've given up making them."

A measured, non-committal response that will only fuel rumours. Unlike some actors on this list who eagerly throw their hat into the ring at any opportunity, Regé-Jean Page understands that a true 007 candidate can’t appear to be too desperate for the role. At 31, he’s young enough to star in a Yung Bond reboot, as the franchise pivots away from Craig’s grizzled, creaky-knee’d veteran (surely Broccoli and co’s plan?). He’s also, in case you hadn’t noticed, stupidly handsome.

Having said that: does he really have the requisite experience to take on such an iconic character? Bridgerton was his first major TV role, and he hasn’t fronted a big budget film yet (although he was in Mortal Engines, and will lead in the 2023 Dungeons & Dragons reboot (?!!)) A brave and risky choice for Bond that could, much like Tom Holland, introduce the character to a whole new generation.

Tom Holland

Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez
Photo credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez

Twitter fandoms, often referred to as ‘stans’ (after the Eminem song), are a truly terrifying modern phenomenon. Nowadays, celebrities have whole armies at their disposal, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to land their favourite star a coveted role. These actors and singers may not even understand the power they possess – that they could conquer entire countries with a single tweet if they wanted to – but the stans do. In fact, these A-list loyalists know that they have the numbers, the time and the dedication to achieve whatever they want. Just ask Donald Trump.

Which brings us to Tom Holland, a man with one of the largest and most vocal fanbases on social media. The 24-year-old Spiderman actor’s name hasn’t been mentioned in the Bond debate very much, if at all, but we predict that will change very soon. Think about it: we’re probably a good few years off the casting decision, and it’s reasonable to assume that Broccoli and co will go with a younger actor when the time comes. He’s handsome, he’s British, and he has leading man experience. What’s more, he’s about to take on the role of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted film adaptation, playing a grizzled, wise-cracking hero who knows his way around a gun. The prospect of introducing Bond to a younger, Marvel-obsessed audience will be a tempting one, and the stans will put their full weight behind a casting campaign.

Except, maybe they won’t. Thinking about it, perhaps they wouldn’t want Yung Tom getting involved in the Bond franchise – an incredibly time-consuming role that could keep him from continuing as Spider Man or starring in any of the seven million spin-offs and reboots that Marvel has planned for the next few years. Guess we'll have to wait and see, but one thing’s for sure: Tom Holland as Bond would be a victory for Short Kings everywhere.

Cillian Murphy

Photo credit: John Phillips
Photo credit: John Phillips

In mid-January, it was revealed that season six of the BBC’s Peaky Blinders will be its last. Creator Steve Knight has decided to eschew a seventh season in favour of a movie, which could possibly fast-track Tommy Shelby to the build-up and/or battlefields of World War II (although his burgeoning political career could well save him from such a fate). But once all that’s over and done with, Cillian Murphy will be free to take on another time-consuming leading man role – and ideally one with less demanding grooming demands. The baker boy hat will weigh him down no longer.

Somewhat inevitably, Bond rumours have begun to swirl around the Irish actor again. He’s long been in the conversation and has addressed rumours in the past with the same non-committal good humour that most in-demand actors do. He’s proven that he can play a gun-toting hard man with the requisite pathos, and his critically-acclaimed work over the past two decades on indie and blockbuster films alike undoubtedly bolsters his cause. It goes without saying that he looks the part in a suit and, standing at around 5 foot 7, his casting would also represent a victory for short kings everywhere. What's not to like?

Well, he wouldn’t represent the kind of radical departure that some fans and critics are crying out for, and at 44 he may not fit the bill anyway (based on past filming schedules, he’d be at least 46 by the time filming started). Daniel Craig was six years younger when he took on the job in 2006, and we have a hunch that Barbara Broccoli will ultimately want to bring a younger Bond to screens, if only to differentiate the next instalment from the ones that directly came before it (Craig is finishing the franchise at the age of 52, and much of No Time to Die is reportedly centred around the impact of Bond’s increasing years).


Tom Hardy

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

In early 2020 it was announced, by overexcited newspapers and one very unreliable blog, that Tom Hardy had OFFICIALLY been named the next James Bond. IT'S OFFICIAL. It's done. Locked in. Sorted. Twitter was absolutely certain of it.

Except he hasn't. As we now know, it was just a tweet. There was a flurry of betting on the back of that tweet, though, and Hardy's odds in the race to be the next Bond immediately shortened from 8/1 to 4/5 to displace recent favourites Sam Heughan and James Norton from the front of the running. Even now the dust has settled, he remains the favourite.

Coral’s David Stevens told Metro: "The betting on who will play James Bond is always popular with our punters, with James Norton and Sam Heughan the two most recent favourites, but Tom Hardy has always been close to the head of the betting, and indeed was as short as 6-4 favourite last year, so if he has indeed landed the coveted role, the bookies will have been left shaken if not stirred."

That crowbarred reference doesn't make any sense David. It's easy to see why the Hardy angle persists though. If you’ve got Pierce Brosnan’s backing – the former Bond said he fancied Hardy to "put a bit of wiggle into" Bond last year – you’re halfway there, and Hardy has the brooding look, the magnetism and the maverick streak in spades. That said, Hardy might be a bit too obvious at this stage. As the kind of A-lister who makes other A-listers look like boring nerds, he doesn't need the role to elevate him any further, so Bond might be an odd fit for Hardy. He might also be a bit wary of chucking himself into another big franchise so soon after Venom too, and Bond isn’t the kind of role you can just wander off from to do other things. It is, as Craig once observed, "a big machine". He's still the obvious choice, but Bond producers have seldom gone for the obvious 007.

Robert Pattinson

Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jamie McCarthy - Getty Images

Robert Pattinson's career has unfurled in three distinct stages: the tween heartthrob who broke a million hearts as a vampire with a tedious amount of self-control; the indie movie oddball who, at the behest of auteurs like Claire Denis and Robert Eggers, just kept masturbating on-screen; and now the star of blockbusters like Tenet and The Batman, in which he deftly brings that leftfield sensibility to pure popcorn cinema.

Phase three Pattinson would make for a very interesting 007 indeed. We're not saying that the foppish spy he plays in Tenet is definitely a James Bond audition tape. But we will point out he pulls off a double-breasted suit even better than Roger Moore.

Adding more intrigue, Christopher Nolan – who directed Tenet – is already being linked with Bond 26. The man who defined the sad superhero movie with The Dark Knight could take Bond in an even more tortured direction, which would suit Pattinson perfectly, and Nolan's got form when it comes to working with actors on multiple projects. Presuming he doesn't convince the studio to give the gig to Michael Caine, there's probably a reason that bookies have slashed odds on the ex-Twilight star being drafted by MI6.

James Norton

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

The spate of BBC thrillers in the last few years has raised a certain echelon of British leading man toward the top of the Bond reckoning. Norton’s turn in McMafia shoved him to the head of the pack for a couple of months, and he’s certainly got the 'wearing of a suit' and 'waving of a gun' aspects of the role down. Then again, he’s a bit light on film experience and might have been right to dismiss Bond rumours as "very flattering, very humbling speculation". He seems to be the Clive Owen de nos jours.

But then again, is he? A small part in Greta Gerwig's Oscar-bothering Little Women and a much bigger part in the marquee BBC drama The Trial Of Christine Keeler suggest he's still got the wind behind him as far as those in 'the biz' are concerned.

"It's crazy. It's not real. It's speculative," Norton told the Sunday Times recently. "There is no truth behind it. Unless journalists know something more than I do.”

They might well do. But how does it feel to be even considered in that world? What about beyond that? James? Jimmy?

"It's bizarre and quite flattering to be even considered in that world, but beyond that? Pure speculation."

Come come Mr Norton, you derive just as much pleasure from killing time with pure speculation as we do.

"It's really hard, as whatever I say can become a story," he went on. Very astute. Come on, stop stalling. Give us an answer. "I don't know how to answer."

Aha! The mask slips. He wants it. Norton is a go. Suspend the betting right this instant. #AnnounceNorton. James Norton Welcome To James Bond | Insane Skills | Goals | Assists HD.

Sam Heughan

Photo credit: Taylor Hill - Getty Images
Photo credit: Taylor Hill - Getty Images

A relatively recent entrant into the Bond race, you'll most likely recognise Heughan from Outlander and possibly from a role in Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon's comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me as a very Bond-y secret agent. At 40 he's just about the right age, if perhaps half a decade too late for producers to build another 15-year tenure around.

Perhaps as importantly, he's got the Connery factor. Heughan's from Balmaclellan in the Dumfries and Galloway, and he reckons it's time to cast Bond north of Hadrian's Wall again. "I think any actor who says they wouldn’t would be lying, and I think it’s time we have a Scottish Bond again," he told STV News in May last year when asked about playing 007. Then, in January this year, he told Good Morning Britain: "It's not a no."

Friends: that's a yes.

We talked to him in March, off the back of his new film (and 007 audition?) SAS: Red Notice, and it was Heughan who brought up the Bond rumours. “I think any actor would never say they're not interested. Of course, you'd be interested. I mean, it is all rumours, and sometimes you think, should I, should we even talk about it? Because you don't want to jinx it” he said. “I'm sure the people, whoever runs [Bond] – you know, Barbara Broccoli and Eon and all that – they must be sick of it; people sort of throwing their hat into the ring. But yeah, he's a great character, and would be certainly be a fascinating character study and place to kick off. But I think in SAS we have our own authentic note based on real life scenarios, we have our authentic character, so I'd love to explore this one more.”

He went on to delve into the kind of psychology it takes to be a MI5 agent/bloke who runs around shooting baddies. “Somebody asked me earlier, ‘Is James Bond a psychopath?’ There are a lot of high functioning, 'good' psychopaths, as we call them, in the military, but also lawyers, doctors, surgeons – people that have to be in these high stress situations that need to be logical, and not allow their emotions to take them over. It might be a learned behaviour, or it might be something they've been born with, but in a stressful situation they can turn down their empathy, they can turn up their logical thinking, or whatever it is. If they need to be charming, like maybe James Bond, you know, he could be more charming. It's very much about them being able to just manipulate their emotions and turn them on and turn them off.”

Jack Lowden

Photo credit: Roberto Ricciuti - Getty Images
Photo credit: Roberto Ricciuti - Getty Images

Another new runner, and another one from Scotland, the Borders-raised Lowden is only 30 and in the prime slot for a grooming into the next 007. The problem is, he doesn't really want it. Actually, that's not quite the truth. He just never wants Craig to stop being Bond.

"I’m a massive Daniel Craig fan and I don’t think he should ever stop doing it," Lowden has said to GP. "Bond dealing with age is a brilliant idea and I think we should go the whole way until Daniel’s 85."

Fair enough – Lowden was 15 when Craig was cast, and he probably feels like a small part of his childhood will snap off and wither away when Craig leaves. Lowden, though, might be a dark horse successor.

He's got form in both heavyweight dramas (Denial, '71) and big action-y British films (Dunkirk) and think-y period pieces (Mary Queen of Scots, War & Peace). He knows his way around a suit too. His Bond could well head take his tailoring in a very different direction to Craig's musclebound power-suits. We've been banging the drum for Lowden's suits for a while now, actually. Dismiss him at your peril.

Richard Madden

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

If suddenly staring very hard at something out of frame like a spaniel who's just caught scent of some fox poo two fields away is a key performance indicator for a Bond hopeful, then Bodyguard gave Madden ample opportunity to flaunt his suitability and pick up a Golden Globe while he was at it. The tough but conflicted but fragile but dutiful thing is solid Bond training, and Madden's silence on the subject feels more like a 'something is about to happen' kind of silence than a 'nothing is about to happen' void. Then again though, there’s a lack of big screen heft beyond the underwhelming and possibly cursed CIA drama Bastille Day, which ended up being pulled from French cinemas after it opened following the terrorist attacks on Nice’s Bastille Day celebrations. As Craig's Bond has done the Bond-goes-Bourne thing so long that Bourne-style gritty clobbering has become the norm for most action films, and certainly most spy films, Madden’s blank terseness might represent a step back to 2005 rather than a step forward.

Riz Ahmed

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Everyone likes Riz. He's a brilliant actor, obviously, as you know from Nightcrawler, Four Lions and The Night Of, and on top of that he's very much One Of The Good Guys. Had Ahmed been in the running in 2005, he might have been considered just a bit too interesting and outspoken for the part, but whether it's on Twitter or via his music with Swet Shop Boys or as Riz MC, he's always been an intelligent and considered voice in conversations about representation in TV and film and as such would be exactly the right guy to play the first Bond of colour. If anyone could show that Bond can move with the times and, if necessary, sit down the kind of baby-men who'd freak out at the idea of a Muslim Bond with a combo of grace and righteous force, he can.

Daniel Kaluuya

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

For some reason, nobody's really talking about Kaluuya as an outside shout for Bond at the minute, but all the ingredients are there. Between Sicario, Black Panther, Widows and Get Out, he's got both critical clout and action chops, as well as being exactly the kind of famous-but-not-mega-mega-famous actor who generally gets the gig. When the idea of being Bond was put to him by the Hollywood Reporter he dodged it admirably: "What are the odds on that? I need to know the odds first, 'cause I need a new kitchen." For the record, Daniel, your odds are sliding between 6-1 and 20-1, but we'd price him a lot shorter than that.

Michael Fassbender

Photo credit: John Phillips
Photo credit: John Phillips

Michael Fassbender is a bona fide movie star, with a long list of award-winning performances to his name, but the Irish-German actor’s most recent films have paled in comparison to his previous work. Both X-Men: Dark Phoenix and The Snowman were torn apart by critics (the latter is considered by some to be one of the worst movies ever), and while his upcoming collaboration with Taika Waititi is probably a good bet, the 44-year-old actor deserves to star in a blockbuster project that asks more of his talents. Are you… thinking what we’re thinking?

It’s long been suggested that Fassbender would be the perfect Bond. He basically proved it in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds with his performance as British army officer Lieutenant Archibald "Archie" Hicox, a crisp, cool-headed, impeccably Brylcreemed secret agent in the Timothy Dalton mould. But then there are glimpses of a potential 007 in many of his other roles; as an actor he is intense and understatedly charismatic. He is also famously handsome. He’s practically made for the tuxedo.

There’s only one problem with that: he doesn’t want it. Or at least he didn’t, back in 2016, when he pushed back against the idea of taking over the role from Daniel Craig. He talked about how Barbara Broccoli and co should possibly go in a different direction, perhaps a younger Bond in training. Considering that Daniel Craig is about the retire from the role at the age of 53, it seems likely that the team behind Bond will follow his advice. All that being said, maybe Fassbender has changed his mind over the past five years? At 44 he’s far from too old for the role, and perhaps Broccoli isn’t too keen on ripping up a playbook that has worked pretty well over the past few films? Despite Fassbender’s denials, he’s still way up there in the odds.

Henry Cavill

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Cavill’s name has been bouncing around Bond for more than a decade: he was Casino Royale director Martin Campbell’s pick to succeed Pierce Brosnan, but he lost out to Daniel Craig as he was considered too young at 23. He's old enough now, but last year's witless contribution to the discussion about how #MeToo has changed dating might bar him. On top of that, prospective Bonds are meant to have a winking, chase-me-chase-me coyness when anyone asks them about being Bond. Cavill hasn’t got that memo. "I would love the opportunity and if they were to ask, I would say yes," he said breathlessly in 2018, sounding more like a slightly anxious Duke of Edinburgh candidate who really needs this Oxfam stock assistant gig than a devil-may-care superspy.

Aidan Turner

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Another BBC-approved hunk, his stint on Poldark has landed him a fair few shoots in tuxedos and he’s got the requisite smoulder down. There’s precedent for an Irish Bond in Brosnan, and of the mooted Irishmen in the running – Cillian Murphy and Michael Fassbender being the others – Turner’s the one with the best shot. Given that nobody really remembers that he was in the Hobbit films, it feels like the right point in his career for him to announce himself on film too. That said, talk around him has cooled since Madden's emergence.

John Boyega

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Boyega did a Google Assistant ad which toyed with the idea of him playing Bond - he's in a tux, does the classic pre-credits Bond crouch-and-gun-point pose, and likes what he sees so much he calls his agent - and managed to come across as both a laugh and a real contender to take Bond and make him funny, dashing and buoyant. He did admit in March last year that he was still a bit too young for it, but there's usually a short hiatus after each Bond launches his DB5, Thelma & Louise-style, off the cliff. Boyega could easily be in his mid-thirties before the decision is made, putting him squarely in the frame.

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