The James Bond movies have been around for more than fifty years. By sheer virtue of the massive number of films they’ve made featuring the smooth-talking, quick-thinking gentleman spy, the franchise’s total box office figures are huge enough to rival that of Star Wars, Marvel, and Harry Potter.
And the number’s about to get a little bigger as Daniel Craig has been confirmed to return for his fifth movie in the 007 tux. Over the half-century that Bond has been around, more has changed in the movies than just the actor playing him.
The one thing that’s never changed is the character. He’s always suave, cool, well-dressed, getting himself into trouble and looking good doing it. Here are 15 actors who could take on the role after Craig hangs up the tux.
15. Colin Firth
Colin Firth’s name started getting bandied around for the role of James Bond somewhere between the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service and the ensuing popularity of his character, Harry Hart, and Daniel Craig’s comments about wanting to slash his wrists rather than play Bond again.
Unfortunately, Firth himself has said that, for him, “the James Bond ship has sailed.” He worries that “there might be an age limit on Bond, and even if I were to start now, you’d have to be good for the next few.” So, sadly, he’s given up on any hopes of being 007.
He added, “I think Kingsman was as close as I’m going to get.” Thankfully, we did get to see him as Harry Hart in Kingsman, and that may have been even better than James Bond.
14. Alicia Vikander
Don’t dismiss the idea of a female James Bond too quickly. We could call her Jane Bond. There’s a theory among fans of the movies that there’s no actual James Bond. It’s simply a codename assigned by MI6 to the secret agent who goes by the number 007.
It makes sense. This would explain why he’s been six different guys over half a century, and a bunch of different periods in time. So, what if one time, 007 happened to be a woman?
Bond producer Barbara Broccoli told GQ, “It’s like Hamlet, who has been played by a variety of different people, including women. So, presumably, Bond could be.”
And why Alicia Vikander, you ask? Because she’s not only a brilliant performer — as shown by her Oscar-winning performance in The Danish Girl — but she’s also a physical action-adventure kind of actor, starring in the upcoming movie version of the Tomb Raider video games.
Plus, Vikander is a vocal feminist with outspoken views about the gender inequality in film and how women can carry blockbusters. Bond would be the perfect platform for her to prove that.
13. Damian Lewis
There was an uproar when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond because audiences didn’t want the character to have blond hair. So imagine the response if Bond went ginger? If you move past that though, Damian Lewis is a pretty viable option.
His schedule’s relatively freed up, aside from half of each year when he shoots seasons of Showtime’s Billions, where he plays a younger, sexier, less “presidential” Donald Trump.
And Lewis has ample experience with the subject matter of international espionage and double-crossing villains — remember Homeland? That show never required him to take down a megalomaniac in a lavish casino on a remote island or drink a shaken martini, but those are skills he’d pick up along the way.
12. Henry Cavill
Henry Cavill has played a Special Forces captain fighting in the 2003 invasion of Iraq; Superman in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; a slick gentleman spy in the movie adaptation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; and an undisclosed role in the upcoming sixth Mission: Impossible movie.
What does all of that add up to? Why, James Bond, of course! There would probably be scheduling conflicts with his appearances as Superman in the DC Extended Universe, but maybe the producers of each franchise would be able to come to mutual agreement and find a way to share the man.
Apparently, Cavill auditioned to play Bond back in 2005 and found himself second to Daniel Craig on the shortlist, so this could be his second shot.
11. Jason Statham
We got to see Jason Statham play a James Bond-esque gentleman spy in the movie Spy alongside Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law. But don’t take that as his audition to play Bond, because he wasn’t playing Rick Ford like he would play 007. He played Ford for laughs, with all the falling over and other slapstick funnies.
Statham’s Bond would be more like Frank Martin from The Transporter movies or Deckard Shaw from The Fast and the Furious movies: a badass proficient in various martial arts. Wouldn’t that be a great twist on the James Bond character?
We’ve had the gritty movie but we’ve never had the gritty actor. Statham said to The Guardian, “Could I do it? Abso-f*cking-lutely.” And then he added, “Would I do it? Abso-f*cking-lutely.”
10. Fionn Whitehead
His turn in Christopher Nolan’s World War II masterpiece Dunkirk may have made him look like a wuss, but that’s because that was the role. He was playing a frightened young soldier wrapped up in a global conflict. He was supposed to be playing it like a wuss. And he nailed it. That’s not how he would play James Bond.
Being cast in the role might encourage him to bulk up a little bit and change up his image. And he might seem a tad young, but bear in mind, there’s not going to be another Bond for a good few years. Daniel Craig is locked in for one more movie that’ll take a couple of years to make. Plus the producers want the blond Bond back for another one after that.
Fionn Whitehead is a young, likeable actor who’s starred in a successful movie before. That’s really all we need.
9. David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo is a brilliant and fierce actor. He brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to the screen in Selma, so James Bond should be a walk in the park. It would also secure Oyelowo as a top-billing movie star name, since he’s not quite there yet.
It’s sad that playing a fictitious spy who has lots of sex and kills people for a living would cement him as a movie star, but playing the civil rights hero wouldn’t. But hey, that’s Hollywood for you. He’s currently shooting an action movie called Gringo, where he stars as a businessman who gets into a spot of bother down in Mexico.
Following that up with Bond could be the perfect career move.
8. Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens isn’t quite on fire, but he’s burning brightly at the moment. He’s relatively young and very handsome. He’s good at playing characters who have demons. And that’s what we’re looking for in a Bond — a guy with some edge.
Stevens’ turn in Downton Abbey showed us that he was right in his element in suave clothes at fancy soirees. And his dark performance in The Guest showcased his grit, gun-wielding prowess and devilish charm.
We also saw a soft and sensitive side in his performance as The Beast in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, which grossed well over $1 billion. Dan Stevens could be our guy.
7. Taron Egerton
Taron Egerton is a bright young actor with a promising future in film. It probably won’t include an appearance as James Bond though. But he would be so good for the role.
He starred as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin in Kingsman: The Secret Service and its fast-approaching sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Eggsy’s character arc in the first movie was a chav turned Bond. Except he’s even cooler!
Yet, Egerton has his plate full at the moment with upcoming movies. He’s starring in a new big budget Robin Hood movie alongside Jamie Foxx as Little John, Ben Mendelsohn (Director Krennic from Rogue One) as the Sheriff of Nottingham, Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey) as Will Scarlet, and (for Christ knows what reason) Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck.
He’s also got Billionaire Boys Club and something called Pigeon Impossible coming up, so he probably wouldn’t be interested in putting the new stuff aside to basically play the same character in a less funny version of Kingsman. Oh, well.
6. Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy seems like a no brainer. Enough men want to be him and enough women want to be with him to make him the perfect choice to be James Bond. When Daniel Craig was expected to call it quits, it was reported that Hardy was the producers’ top choice to replace him.
He reportedly had even signed a deal right before Craig changed his mind. Everyone’s favorite director and huge Bond fan Christopher Nolan has endorsed Hardy for the role saying, “he’d be amazing. He really would.”
Hardy himself teased, “there’s a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting…that if you talk about it, you’re automatically out of the race. So, I can’t possibly comment on that one!”
5. Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender has all the qualities we need in a James Bond. He’s devilishly handsome, with some bicurious fans nicknaming him “Michael FAST-bender.” He’s got a way with the ladies, dating Alicia Vikander in real life. And he’s also a terrific actor.
Assassin’s Creed and X-Men proved he’s a capable movie star in big blockbusters. And indie hits like Shame and Hunger, as well as otherwise great, artistic movies like Inglourious Basterds, proved he’s more than capable as a serious actor.
In fact, in Basterds, his character had a very Sean Connery-like charisma and presence — and he was a spy. Fassbender himself has shrewdly said that he’s “flattered that people are sort of making that link.” Excellent!
4. Charlie Hunnam
Charlie Hunnam is a handsome and charismatic British actor, which would make him an ideal James Bond. What makes him particularly special is his edge. There’s a real intensity to the guy — check out his portrayal of badass biker Jax in the FX drama Sons of Anarchy.
Okay, he proved somewhat unsuccessful as a movie star this year with that King Arthur movie, but don’t forget Pacific Rim did well enough at the box office for a sequel to be commissioned. Bond would succeed with anyone in the role. James Bond sells itself — it’s not about star power, because the character himself is the star.
All that matters is finding a talented actor who’s fit for the role, and Hunnam is just that. He’s sexy, charming, charismatic, and able to handle himself. We’ve seen him hold a gun and sweet talk a woman with gusto in Sons of Anarchy, so what else do you need? Sign him up!
3. Daisy Ridley
Moviegoers were delightfully surprised by the fierceness of newcomer Daisy Ridley when she played Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And she could do for Bond what she did for Star Wars: inject it with a splash of feminism.
We’ve covered how there could be a female Bond, just like there’s been a female Doctor Who (well, there will be soon) and some female Hamlets — the frame of reference used by 007 producer Barbara Broccoli.
Ridley probably wouldn’t have time to lead yet another franchise — or promote.
2. Idris Elba
Idris Elba has just disappointed a lot of people with his dreadfully scant adaptation of Stephen King’s ludicrously vast and epic saga, The Dark Tower. The 95-minute movie coasted over just about everything that made the books truly special and great.
But don’t blame Idris Elba for that. He didn’t direct the movie or write the script, and he did his best with his performance. He’s probably everyone’s top choice to play James Bond at the moment. It’s not even necessarily because he’s black and it would be PC to have a black Bond — it’s better than that.
People want Idris Elba to play James Bond because he’s a fantastic actor — who just so happens to be black. It’s a much better and much more PC, if we’re going to use that word, reason to want him in the role. Still, Elba probably won’t be playing Bond anytime soon: he keeps dismissing the prospect, saying he’s “too old” for the role.
1. Tom Hiddleston
Tom Hiddleston would be the perfect choice to play James Bond. He’s tall, thin, handsome, charming, talented, and oh-so-cool. If he can win over audiences as the jerky bad guy in the Thor movies, then he’ll sure be able to win them over as the charming gentleman spy.
He basically already played Bond in the AMC miniseries The Night Manager, as a hotel manager who gets embroiled in an espionage plot involving Hugh Laurie’s charismatic billionaire. The character Hiddleston played, Jonathan Pine, was a veiled John le Carré version of James Bond, and he pulled it off brilliantly.
The Guardian’s review said of the actor’s performance, “as the embodiment of the show’s atmosphere of paralyzed establishment glamor, Hiddleston is the business. When the noble beast beneath that accommodating English exterior begins to make itself known, I do find the righteous revenge he’s intent on wreaking…compelling.”
If 007 producers could just send him an offer, shoot some adrenaline into the Bond franchise, we’ll all have a merry Christmas.