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Meet the four candidates to play James Bond

Barbara Broccoli has ruled out Idris Elba and Emily Blunt on account of age and gender. But a few rising stars could tick all her boxes

If the suit fits: Regé-Jean Page Credit: Reuters

Alright: pay attention, 007 speculators. Here are some actors who will not – repeat, not – be playing James Bond any time soon. Idris Elba. Henry Cavill. Harry Styles. Jamie Dornan. Riz Ahmed. Luke Evans. Cillian Murphy. John Boyega. Robert Pattinson. Dev Patel. Matt Smith. Richard Madden. Daniel Kaluuya. Chiwetel Ejiofor. David Oyelowo. Tom Hardy. Tom Hiddleston. Tom Holland. Tom Burke. Tom Sturridge. Tom Courtenay. Tom Cobley. Or in other words, almost everyone whose name gets re-circulated, like so much jumbo-jet cabin air, whenever the B-word escapes Barbara Broccoli’s lips.

The guessing over who will next fill this lucrative, if treacherous, government post got back underway this week, thanks to comments made by Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, 007’s long-serving custodians. Speaking at a press event at the London offices of their production company Eon, the half-siblings, who have overseen the franchise since Goldeneye in 1995, discussed their future plans in the usual winkingly circumspect terms. With Daniel Craig’s version of the character now out of the picture for – spoiler alert – being-vaporised-by-a-missile-strike reasons, a new lead must be found – but as Broccoli noted, prospective candidates have to be in it for the long haul. 

“When we cast Bond, it’s a 10 to 12-year commitment,” she said, when one journalist suggested the now-50-year-old Elba’s moment had arrived. “So he’s probably thinking, ‘Do I really want that thing?’ Not everybody wants to do that.” (Craig’s own, slightly Covid-prolonged incumbency lasted 15 years: he was 37 when filming began on Casino Royale.)

Successful applicants will also be expected to deliver not just a performance, but an angle. What was coming, Broccoli explained, was a “reinvention” of a character who made his cinematic debut 60 years ago next month. 

“It’s an evolution,” she said. “Bond is evolving just as men are evolving. I don’t know who’s evolving at a faster pace.” With the series’ diamond anniversary fast approaching, some of us wondered whether a casting announcement was imminent. But per Broccoli, the process is still in its “early days”, and filming on the 26th entry is unlikely to begin for “at least two years”.

Clear shot: Henry Golding Credit: Landmark Media

As an MI6 operative, Bond is eligible for a gold-plated civil service pension. But audiences aren’t likely to thrill to the sight of him drawing it, which means Craig’s successor will currently be, at the oldest, in his mid-30s. He will have also likely proven himself in a vaguely Bond-like role – Craig had Layer Cake, Pierce Brosnan had five series of Remington Steele – but still be broadly available, affordable, and also amenable to building the entire second act of their career around a gig that previous holders have made clear has its ups and downs. 

As Broccoli has repeatedly confirmed, he will also be a he. (Sorry, Emily Blunt fans: it’s not going to happen.) And while he may have some sort of existing profile as hunk or thesp, it should still be containable by the tailoring, Aston Martin, and other signature accessories. At this point, Tom Hardy in a dinner jacket is just Tom Hardy in a dinner jacket, no matter what cocktail he drinks.

Together, these conditions conclusively rule out all of the supposedly ‘likely contenders’ listed above. But there are four more intriguing prospects who slip through the net. The first is London’s Regé-Jean Page: 34 years old, a CIA agent in Netflix’s The Gray Man, a heartthrob in Bridgerton, and unavoidable in a tuxedo for around six months after No Time To Die’s release, thanks to a heavy schedule of red carpet appearances. (Give that agent a raise.) The second is Henry Golding: 35, born in Malaysia and raised in Surrey, with suave comic chops (see Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas, The Gentlemen), and a degree of underworld assassin experience (see Snake Eyes, The Gentlemen). 

Young upstart: Micheal Ward has been filming with Sam Mendes Credit: Getty

Third, less commonly touted, is Micheal Ward, a highly cast-able 24, born in Ian Fleming’s beloved Jamaica and raised in London and Essex. A Bafta Rising Star award winner, Ward also has an ex-Bond director on his side: he stars opposite Olivia Colman in the new Sam Mendes film, Empire of Light. 

And fourth, there’s Thomas Doherty, 27, with franchise experience (he plays Captain Hook’s son in the Disney+ Descendants films) and impressive lothario credentials: he stars in the Gossip Girl reboot, and shared an intimate scene with Helen Mirren, if you please, in the recent mini-series Catherine the Great. Like Sean Connery, Doherty was born and raised in Edinburgh, and his face has something of Connery’s suave cruelty – even while dressed as a teenage pirate.

Any one of these four could deliver the “reinvention” Broccoli is gunning for. And while as recently as Craig’s casting, a non-white Bond would have been unthinkable, the producer has said a number of times in the last two years that race should be no barrier to the part.

But more broadly, there’s a balance to be struck here. One of the reasons Bond endures is that he can change with the times by remaining the same: as the world order boils and resettles, the idea that Britain still subtly, covertly has its hand on the tiller lands differently today than it once did. When Fleming dreamt up Bond in the early 1950s, that notion was already a comforting throwback. Evolve too far past that, and our man in Wherever He Ends Up Next could be anyone.