English character actor Chiwetel Ejiofor has officially joined the ranks of Oscar-nominees, thanks to his performance as free man-turned slave Solomon Northup in the Best Picture Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave. Of course, Ejiofor has been racking up strong onscreen performances for more than a decade (see: Serenity, Kinky Boots, Children of Men, etc.), which has provided all the more reason to be excited about him recently being linked as a potential cast member for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII.
However, it turns out that's not the only long-running iconic blockbuster franchise that Ejiofor is currently being pursued to join. According to a new report, he's the top-choice to follow in the footsteps of Casino Royale actor Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) and Skyfall's Oscar-winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) - by playing the villain opposite Daniel Craig as Agent 007, in the upcoming 24th installment in the British espionage series (which shall be the fourth to feature Craig in the famous secret agent role).
A new article by Variety asserts that Ejiofor is the front-runner to portray the (currently, under-wraps) antagonist in the tentatively-untittled James Bond 24, though an actual deal has yet to be made. Moreover, before the actor can sign on, scheduling issues need to be worked out, as he's attached to star in Lawless director John Hillcoat's upcoming crime/drama Triple Nine, which is expected to begin filming this year for a 2015 release. (Sidenote: If Ejiofor does sign on for Bond 24 in the near future, it's safe to say he's out of the running for Star Wars: Episode VII.)
It would be easy to picture Ejiofor playing a cunning and ruthless, yet also posh and sophisticated opponent for Craig's 007, much like many a Bond villain of yore. Indeed, a general throwback approach may be the route that the next installment takes, based on what screenwriter John Logan (Skyfall) has said about utilizing traditional Bond franchise elements - not to mention, Craig expressing his desire to recapture some classic Bond irony/camp, without being kitschy.
The Bond franchise is still moving forward into the future, though, as the next film will bring back Ralph Fiennes as the new 'M', Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Ben Whishaw as 'Q' following their introduction in Skyfall. Sam Mendes will also return to direct this new film, with the search now underway to find the next "Bond girls" - Variety says the filmmakers are looking for "one Scandinavian and one British woman" - before production gets started this October, according to Fiennes.
James Bond 24 is slated to open in U.S. theaters on November 6th, 2015.