We're less than a week away from the worldwide release of the 24th official James Bond film, Spectre. Author Ian Fleming's greatest creation has been gracing the big screen for over 50 years now, making it the longest continually-running series in the history of film. The previous entry in what has become the third highest-grossing movie franchise ever was 2012's Skyfall, a massive hit with critics and fans alike. Expectations are high for what is believed to be the final Bond film from star Daniel Craig and returning director Sam Mendes, neither of whom are expected to return to the franchise.
Initially, Mendes was against the idea of directing a second 007 adventure, believing he'd done everything he'd wanted to do with the character in Skyfall, though it was Craig himself who helped convince Mendes to return. Interestingly enough, although it was announced that he'd signed on for two more Bond films after Skyfall, it seems Craig is now the one who will need some convincing in the very near future. His recent string of controversial comments about the character seem to confirm that the 47-year-old actor has every intention of pursuing an opt-out clause in his contract, allowing him to leave Her Majesty's Secret Service once and for all.
If Spectre does indeed end up being Craig's fourth and final take on MI6's top agent, he'll undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Bonds of all time, if not the greatest. But who will replace him? The hot rumor from this past summer has Homeland star Damian Lewis pegged as Craig's most likely successor, but we had a few ideas of our own on the matter. Here are 10 Actors We'd Like to See Become the Next James Bond.
12 Idris Elba
Kicking things off is an obvious candidate, one that fans have been calling for for roughly a decade. Before Craig was selected to star in the 2006 film Casino Royale, Elba was considered a heavy fan-favorite for the role. His name has come up in connection with 007 several times in the years since, most recently this past summer, when Bond author Anthony Horowitz said that Elba was "too street" to play the part. Poor phrasing aside, Horowitz went on to say that he thought Adrian Lester (star of the BBC series Hustle) would be a better choice for the character, but the cultural fire was already lit. Which begs the unavoidable question: is the world ready for a black Bond?
Changing an established character’s race is always a controversial move, especially one as well-known as James Bond. Purists will surely argue that no changes to the character should ever be allowed, despite how perfectly-suited Elba seems to be for the role. Ultimately, however, the decision may simply come down to timing. The absolute earliest we could expect to see the release of another Bond film would be 2017, when the Beasts of No Nation star would be turning 45, and that could only happen if pre-production on the series' 25th film were already underway. For the record, Roger Moore was also 45 when he first portrayed Bond in Live and Let Die, though his advanced age was a common fan complaint until he stopped playing the character at age 57.
Bottom line: Elba's casting may just be a bit too controversial for the creative minds behind the next film to rationalize. Despite all this, Elba still hasn't given up on the role. "If everyone wants something, they can make it happen," he told Variety back in September. If Elba ever manages to land the part, at least he'll know who to thank.
11 Richard Madden
After years of standout performances on the theater scene, Madden shot to fame when he landed the role of Robb Stark in the HBO crossover sensation, Game of Thrones. Madden’s three year arc as the aspiring King in the North came to an abrupt end in the penultimate episode of the show’s third season, when his character was murdered in the infamous Red Wedding massacre. After a brief spell out of the spotlight, Madden made his return to the mainstream earlier this year with a solid turn as Prince Charming in Disney’s Cinderella.
The 29-year-old actor has the looks and the charm to play a man with a license to kill, and happens to fit into an ideal age range, even if MGM decides to take their time adapting their next Bond film. The only obstacle to Madden's casting is his worldwide recognition as the eldest Stark child. Many fans will always look at Madden and see the Young Wolf of Westeros, which would be a major concern. If the native Scotsman can land a part or two that serves to further separate him from the role that made him famous, he should be considered a prime candidate to take up the Bond mantle.
10 Luke Evans
Evans has been a fan-favorite (and a Screen Rant favorite) for several high-profile roles over the years. His resume sports appearances in hit franchises like the Fast and Furious and The Hobbit trilogy, though it seems fair to say that he hasn’t yet landed that one role that concretely defines his career. James Bond would most certainly qualify.
2017 will see the 36-year-old take on his biggest role to date, playing the villainous Gaston in Disney's upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Like current Bond Daniel Craig, Evans would bring a serious edge to 007, allowing the character to continue down the darker road Craig has taken him in the last decade. The idea of a seamless transition between Bonds has to be an intriguing one to MGM, especially considering the warm critical and commercial reception the last few installments have received. Should the decision makers behind the franchise choose to continue with their darker-toned approach to the series, Evans would be a great choice.
9 Jack Huston
Best known for playing disfigured gangster Richard Harrow in Boardwalk Empire, Huston’s making a strong push to become the next big thing in Tinseltown. Following appearances in Kill Your Darlings, American Hustle, and The Longest Ride, the 32-year-old is set to star in two big releases in 2016: Ben-Hur and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. While neither of Huston's upcoming projects are exactly sure-fire box office draws, they demonstrate his status as one of Hollywood's most sought-after young stars. A rumored candidate for Doctor Strange, Huston recently dropped out of the upcoming remake of The Crow. This guy really is everywhere.
The London-native looks like a shoe-in to land a headlining role in a major franchise at some point, and he could be a natural fit for Bond. He'll likely find himself on the shortlist for the role, especially if the goal is to cast a relative-unknown that can fully immerse himself in the character—a skill Huston has come to be known for thanks to his outstanding work on Boardwalk Empire. Keep an eye on this one, folks.
8 David Oyelowo
If Idris Elba's casting would be controversial, you can bet that Oyelowo's would border on Batfleck levels of internet-breakage. A classically trained stage thespian, Oyelowo burst on the scene with his starring role in the critically-acclaimed 2012 drama Middle of Nowhere. The 39-year-old has since become one of the most in-demand talents in Hollywood, with standout performances in The Butler and Selma showing off his remarkable talents as an actor. Many maintain that Oyelowo's work in the latter—in which he masterfully embodied Civil Rights leader Martin Luthor King Jr.—was Oscar-worthy, though he was denied a nomination. Oyelowo is no stranger to big-budgeted affairs either, sporting smaller roles in films like Jack Reacher and Interstellar on his resume as well.
Back in August, Oyelowo was selected to provide the voice of James Bond for the audiobook version of Anthony Horowitz's new novel, Trigger Mortis. This of course has no impact on any potential live-action casting, though perhaps his voice performance will force Bond producers to take a long, hard look at the actor when it comes time to replace Craig. Whether or not the world (read: the internet) is ready for a black Bond is debatable. Whether or not Oyelowo deserves a real shot at the role is not.
7 Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens shares a few common threads with some of our other 007 candidates. Like Oyelowo, Stevens has done his share of voice work for Bond. He's narrated 34 audiobooks so far, with particularly notable work on Casino Royale, so it seems safe to say that Stevens can deliver in the vocal department. And, like his co-star Luke Evans, 2017 will bring with it the biggest role of Stevens' career, where he'll play the Beast/Prince Adam in the Beauty and the Beast movie. Things are looking up for the London native.
The ferocity that the 33-year-old brought to the 2014 crime drama, A Walk Among the Tombstones, as well as the suave nature he displayed in his three year run on Downton Abbey, has us convinced that Stevens would make for a highly compelling James Bond. If you need more concrete proof of his talent, be sure to check out his criminally-underrated performance in the 2014 thriller The Guest, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
6 Sam Heughan
If there's a name on this list that you've never heard before, it's likely this one. The 35-year-old Heughan is a relative newcomer to mainstream audiences, having just broken out last year with his starring turn in the hit Starz series, Outlander. Another classically trained British actor, Heughan's performance as the Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser has left women everywhere swooning, an effect James Bond has been known to have on the ladies from time to time. The sheer physicality of Heughan (he's 6'3, and built like a superhero) would, at the very least, bring an interesting element to the seventh big-screen incarnation of the character.
But the series that has brought Heughan fame could very well prevent him from landing this highly-coveted role. The book series on which Outlander is based consists of eight novels (so far), and the time commitments of the hit show may not allow to Heughan take on Bond. Chalk this one up to a long-shot.
Fun fact: Across the pond, Heughan starred as the Dark Knight in the touring stage show production Batman Live in 2012.
5 Jack O'Connell
The youngest actor on our list by a healthy margin, this 25-year-old is making serious waves in the film industry for his eye-opening portrayals of troubled young men. After getting his big break on the U.K. series Skins, O'Connell has gone on to deliver acclaimed performances in gritty dramas like Starred Up and the Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken. Though he's demonstrated an inclination toward smaller, independent films, O'Connell made a solid showing in the largely-forgettable sword and sandal sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, proving that he's very capable in or out of his comfort zone.
If the 25th entry in the Bond series is released within the next five years, O'Connell would likely be the youngest 007 to date (George Lazerby was three months shy of his 30th birthday when On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out). There are very few elements of the Bond character that haven't yet been explored, and while many will let out a disapproving groan at the mere mention of the words "origin story," perhaps a more youthful take on Bond could breathe new life into the long-running franchise. O’Connell's youth makes him a bit of a long-shot, though he’s definitely our pick should the studio decide to go with a younger actor for the role.
4 Jon Hamm
If there's an American actor that can pull off James Bond, it's this former Mad Men star. Hamm has made a career out of his suave on-screen demeanor, and it's this cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow persona that makes him a dark horse candidate for MI6's top agent. While it's rare to see an American take on such a decidedly British role, there's a very recent precedent for it. Many scoffed at the idea of Robert Downey Jr. portraying Sherlock Holmes in the eponymous 2009 film, but his turn as the iconic English detective was a monstrous hit with critics and fans alike. If Hamm were to display the same level of character commitment that Downey did, he could knock this one out of the park with relative ease. Hamm's already demonstrated a believable British accent in his work alongside Daniel Ratcliffe in the dark comedy series A Young Doctor's Notebook, so take that as you will.
If there's any other drawback to Hamm playing Bond, outside of his St. Louis, Missouri origins, it's his age. Already 44 years old, Hamm would likely usurp Roger Moore as the oldest first-time Bond, and his window for the role would be a brief one. But oh, how wonderful it could be.
3 Michael Fassbender
This one is a definite long-shot, but a Bond casting call simply isn't complete without Fassbender. The 38-year-old may be the most talented actor on our list, and he's also one of the busiest. He's already starring in one big-budget franchise (the X-Men series) and he recently started filming another (Assassin's Creed). And contrary to previous expectations, if recent rumors hold true, Fassbender will continue playing Magneto after his three film contract expires with X-Men: Apocalypse. In spite of his two existing franchises (and a possible third) the German-born actor has remained one of the most active thespians in Hollywood, starring in 14 films in the last half decade. With numerous other filming commitments in his immediate future, it's seems unlikely that Fassbender would even consider taking on another franchise, especially one as big as the Bond series.
Regardless of his jam-packed shooting schedule, Fassbender has shown himself capable of pulling off any and all aspects of the Bond character. Frankly, this would be a walk in the park for him.
2 Honorable Mentions
Tom Hardy - Hardy has demonstrated a certain reluctance to signing on for big-budget, multi-film franchises in the past, though he may be turning a corner with the proposed Mad Max trilogy. Still, while Hardy would definitely bring a high level of talent to the role, there's simply too many other projects that he'd be prevented from doing by committing to Bond. We just don't see this happening.
Charlie Hunnam - A fantastic option for the second blonde Bond, Hunnam is already locked in to play another iconic British character, King Arthur, for director Guy Ritchie. There's no way he could do both.
Tom Hiddleston - A fantastic talent that seemingly came out of nowhere, his star-making turn as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would likely prevent him from landing such a high-profile role.
Andrew Lincoln - It's easy to forget that Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead is played by a Brit, but that just goes to show how talented Lincoln is. Still, TWD doesn't have a definitive end date, so there's no way the 42-year-old London native could commit to Bond.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - He’s already 45, so Coster-Waldau may have aged out of the role, but his GoT commitment is the true nail in the coffin. Game of Thrones is expected to run for three more seasons, and Coster-Waldau remains a headlining figure in the ever-dangerous world of Westeros. Unless Jaime Lannister suffers an unexpected death this season or next, Coster-Waldau is a serious long-shot, though one we’d love to see.
Daniel Craig has been very clear in his desire to leave the Bond series behind him, though it's always possible that he could be convinced to return. Early reviews of Spectre indicate another strong entry in the franchise, so MGM could always just throw so much money at Craig that he couldn't say no. Still, if the actor doesn't have the passion for the project, it may be best for all parties involved to simply move on.
Who would you like to see become the next James Bond? Would you be opposed to Elba or Oyelowo taking on the iconic role? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Spectre arrives in U.S. theatres on November 6th, 2015.