The next actor picked to play James Bond has big shoes to fill. Not only because the role is so iconic, but also because Daniel Craig was so incredible in the part. He gave author Ian Fleming’s creation a modernity, a toughness, and an emotional core that no other previously cast actor had done. And, as the powers-that-be have begun to search for Craig’s successor, there are other aspects of the franchise that should be considered as well.
Specifically, what kind of stories does the franchise want to tell?
The answer to that question will help determine casting, of course, so let’s examine some of the possibilities of where the ongoing Bond narrative can now go. Does it continue along the grittier Craig path? Or does it turn Bond back into more of the gentleman spy from the original Fleming books? There are many possibilities and here are, ahem, 007 directions the franchise could take. [Editor's Note: we apologize for this pun, but it works, so ...]
1) THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
The easiest answer is to not change much of anything except pick a new Bond. Since the rough-and-tough Craig was so popular, it probably makes sense to choose a successor in that mold. It’s hard to imagine Bond ever going back to the lighter touch of Roger Moore in the 70s, but whomever is picked, the franchise will be written to that actor’s strengths. Someone like Tom Hardy seems like a natural successor, especially given his success playing tough guys like Mad Max and the Krays. However, I’m not sure he’d take the role, given that his career at this juncture doesn’t really need a boost.
2) VEER TOWARDS MORE REALISM
No Time to Die was Bond’s most grounded adventure yet with the set pieces playing more realistically than most in the past. (Not one invisible car in sight!) And Bond was more real, too: bleeding, hurting, feeling, and more. So, with the franchise so grounded, why not go even further with the conceit? Wouldn’t it make sense for Bond to battle more realistic threats in our contemporary world anyway, threats like terrorists, cyber-terrorists, various nation’s strong men, or even white nationalists? It might be startling to see how Bond deals with such a current slate of global villainy rather than those singular madmen he’s battled in so many more fantastical films.
3) MAKE BOND MORE OF A SPY
It’s always been rather ludicrous that everywhere Bond goes, he’s preceded by his name and reputation. Shouldn’t a spy be more secretive? Bond often feels more like a black op, with all his physicality and killing. Perhaps a sneakier, more shadowy Bond, like he is in the books more often than not, is a way the franchise could reinvent the character beyond the casting and villains. Have him play more in the world of tinkers and tailors. Maybe even have him stay in London for a singular adventure, a mission that must be solved in 24 hours? A streamlined, real spy Bond? How novel.
4. CHOOSE DIVERSITY
The biggest discussion around who will take over the mantel of Bond seems to be centering around whether a person of color, or even a woman, could play the role. Craig himself has chimed in, saying Bond should remain male, especially since numerous female spies have appeared on the big screen like Salt, Red Sparrow, Atomic Blonde, and this year’s The Protégé. No Time to Die had a female double-0 already in Lashana Lynch’s character, too. The real issue may be whether Bond needs to remain Caucasian. Actors like Henry Golding and Rege-Jean Page check a lot of the Bond characteristics, and they’re British, so how important is skin color? Idris Elba has often been mentioned, and he’s a great choice except that the franchise will likely want to pick someone younger than the 49-year-old to front a decade’s run. No matter, it would seem for once there is a much broader range of what the Bond character could look like.
5. FROM RUSSIA WITH HATE
When Ian Fleming wrote the original Bond novels, the world was facing the Communist threat, particularly with Russia. With all the chicanery that Putin and his ilk have been up to in the Middle East, as well as interfering with elections in the West via cyber-hacking, Russia is ripe to step back on the stage in movies as “the big bad.” Nobody did it better than Bond in past films like From Russia with Love and For Your Eyes Only, so why not see red again?
6. GO BACK TO IAN FLEMING’S BOOKS
Did you know that there are four Bond titles from Fleming that haven’t been filmed? Short stories Hildebrand Rarity, Risico, 007 in New York, and The Property of a Lady haven’t been attempted, even though some of their plot elements made it into various Bond films. For that matter, very few of the Bond films are tethered to the book’s plots even though they have used their titles. In other words, there is a whole slew of Bond stories that could finally be told on the big screen.
7. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
If the franchise wants to really shake up the formula, there are ways that Bond could lead the charge. For starters, go back to the beginning of Bond during his Cold War adventures. A period-piece Bond, starting the whole shebang over in the 1950’s? Why not? Origin stories are all the craze, so it would be right on trend. Another idea is to have the new actor cast to the specs of Bond as Fleming wrote him, much more of the gentleman spy. That take on 007 might feel like a 180-degree swing from Craig, but a sleeker, more elegant Bond could still be killer, particularly if Tom Hiddleston plays him. And if you saw Hiddleston in the AMC miniseries The Night Manager, you know that spy drama was practically his audition for Bond. And everyone’s favorite MCU villain won a Golden Globe for his night manager/spy part, too, so can another blondish Bond be that unfathomable?
Oh, and here’s one extra thought, ripe for discussion or argument. Many fans have speculated that just as 007 is a number that can be assigned to new agents, as No Time to Die proved, who’s to say that the moniker “James Bond” couldn’t be passed along, too? It would make sense given that Judi Dench’s M was the boss to both Brosnan’s and Craig’s Bond. So, if James Bond is a given name as well, assigned to various MI-6 agents, perhaps a new Bond film could have a plot where the new Bond teams up with an older one for a mission. It could make for a fun return for the graying Brosnan, no? It may seem outrageous, but it would certainly get a lot of buzz. I’d wager that audiences would be a little shaken, but certainly stirred.
*Feature Image: Six Bonds by Jeff York