[UPDATE: Ifans has informed MTV that he’s currently NOT onboard for James Bond 23.]

Casting for director Sam Mendes’ upcoming James Bond flick (the 23rd entry in the long-running franchise) has seen its fair share of rumors over the past several months. Outside of Daniel Craig being set for his third turn as the titular deadly spy, the only other confirmed cast member for the film has been Judi Dench as the authoritative M.

Three previously-rumored candidates (Naomi Harris, Javier Bardem, and Ralph Fiennes) now appear to be all but officially locked to star in the picture, which looks to have added another increasingly-busy character actor from the UK to its cast.

According to The Telegraph, Mendes has brought on Rhys Ifans (Curt Connors/The Lizard in next year’s Amazing Spider-Man) for an undisclosed role in the new James Bond venture. In the same article, Bardem is once again seemingly confirmed to play “the baddie” in the film, which will reportedly be shot primarily on location in South Africa.

That still leaves a big question mark on Fiennes’ potential role in the film, assuming that he is actually set for the project. Previous speculation based on the decorated actor’s resume pegged him as a potential villain in the new James Bond flick, which might still be the case.

Essentially, the setup in James Bond 23 could be as follows:

  1. Fiennes plays the head of Quantum, a part that calls for an older actor with the intimidation factor and gravitas to portray the cruel and conniving figure (see: why Anthony Hopkins was reportedly being eyed for the part as well).
  2. Bardem would then play a deadly Quantum agent (“the muscle”, so to speak), a cold and deadly agent who acts on behalf of his superior (Fiennes) and physically battles Craig’s Bond – hence the Oscar-winner’s previous comments about James Bond 23 “changing the whole thing, the whole dynamic,” with regards to its bad guy(s).

Obviously, that is all speculation at this point, but a James Bond flick that mixes thing up in this fashion – and pits Bond against an opponent who is both his physical and mental match (a la Batman and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) – could be a very cool change of pace for the series.

While Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale offered a grittier take on the Bond character that generally went over well with moviegoers, most people agree that Quantum of Solace went too far with its portrayal of 007 as a vengeful killing machine. By matching Craig’s Bond against a pair of bad guys (played by greats like Bardem and Fiennes, no less), James Bond 23 would seemingly have to feature a version of the famous spy who relies on both his brains and brawn in equal measure – not just the latter.

On that note: Drawing parallels between Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the three Craig-starring Bond flicks seems all the more appropriate. The first installment in each series explored the respective character’s origins (to a lesser degree in Casino Royale, admittedly); the second picture offered a darker and harsher version of both crime-fighters and their respective universes; and the third film in each series looks to raise the stakes even higher, requiring both action heroes to evolve and develop in order to face down their “ultimate” opponent(s). Just some food for thought.

James Bond 23 is set to reach theaters on November 9th, 2012. We’ll keep you posted on the status of the project, in the meantime.

Source: The Telegraph