Licence to surmise: Who will be the next Bond?

Daniel Craig is only just suiting up for the release schedule of his fourth (and by no means final) James Bond outing, while the world is already debating who should fill the shoes of the iconic spy.

Craig is the sixth actor to fill the role, having signed on for five films. Craig has indicated he wants out, with the Sony leak revealing that studio co-chair Amy Pascal wants Wire actor Idris Elba actor to be the next Bond.

If Craig is to be replaced, it will hinge on the success of Spectre, which by the footage released thus far (including a chopper doing a 360 degree flip) and the whopping $300 million-plus budget, the expectation is to be good, if not better than Skyfall.

Speculation will continue regardless, so someone else might still need to strap on the Walther PPK faster than expected.

Elba’s name has been a mainstay of casting rumours for years, however, the 43 year old has indicated there has never been an official approach. The Luther veteran has put forward different views on the issue, commenting in 2011 that “I just don’t want to be the black James Bond… Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond,” alternately hinting amid more recent speculation of his casting that “If everyone wants something, they can make it happen.”

The matter came to very public light when Anthony Horowitz, author of the new Bond novel Trigger Mortis, controversially stated Elba was “too street” to play James Bond. Amid the maelstrom of racist accusations, Horowitz apologised. Former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan responded to the controversy by commenting “There’s wonderful black actors out there who could be James Bond, and there’s no reason why you cannot have a black James Bond,” adding that “Anything is possible for sure, but I think he’ll be male and he’ll be white.”

Elba is in many ways an ideal choice to play Bond. He’s more than demonstrated his ability to handle action-heavy and dramatic roles, possessing a corresponding British charm and distinct gruffness which typifies Bond. I don’t agree with Horowitz’s argument that Elba isn’t suave enough to pull it off. Regardless of Bronson’s allusion as to whether a white or black actor takes on the role, the odds of it being Elba are very low.

Why? Elba is too famous to be Bond, and he doesn’t need it. Being 007 is a burden that will see an actor type-cast for the rest of his life. The other Bonds (with the slight exception of Connery) had great difficulty breaking out of the persona, with limited success beyond their shift OHMSS. Elba is a highly successful actor who has/is taking on any number of diverse projects and just doesn’t need the publicity, nor the stigma.

Moreover, the actors who’ve played Bond weren’t famous before the role, with some having no more than a niche appeal. Brosnan and Roger Moore had popular shows (Remington Steele and The Saint respectively), but neither were A-listers like Elba. Craig was barely recognisable to anyone who hadn’t seen Layer Cake or Tomb Raider, allowing him to mould the role to his liking, rather than letting celebrity define him as Bond.

Bond has always been bigger than the actor; and this would not be the case with Elba. It’s probable that he and the studios will view the idea unfavourably by the time Elba is 46 (and presumably able to put a film in the can) and instead look to someone else.

Hugh Jackman (X-Men) and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) have both been linked to speculation, though they would come up against the same trap as Elba, both commanding headlines on multiple franchise hits. Cavill, narrowly losing the casting vote to Craig a decade ago, is unlikely to win the role now. Already well known as Superman, the closest Cavill will get to Bond any time soon is his turn in The Man From U.N.C.L.E as an Archer-esque cold war super-spy, his already slightly-parodic agent incarnation probably writing him off as a possibility.

Other actors, among them Damian Lewis (Homeland), have been subject to casting rumours; while there is another actor, yet unlinked to the role, who is ideal, well-known (in certain circles) and if you asked him would probably do it.

Michiel Huisman is instantly recognisable to Game of Thrones watchers as sellsword and all-around alpha male Daario Naharis. Known also to Treme and Orphan Black loyalists and fans of B-grade horror from his role in The Invitation (2015), the Dutch actor ticks all the Bond boxes. He’s charming, action-ready, physically imposing, brutal in hand-to-hand combat and can pull off a one-liner that would seem absurd and laughable in the hands of almost any other actor.

Now 34, Huisman will be ready to take on the role once Sony are done with Craig (who was 38 when he made Casino Royale), and Huisman’s limited notoriety could see him grow into the role nicely and make it his own.

Huisman would be the first Bond from outside the UK, Ireland and Australia. A true dark horse, his natural skills and appeal would be a model fit for the role, and a natural progression following the conclusion of Game of Thrones in 2017.

We could speculate endlessly, but regardless of whoever takes on the role next time around, Craig is doing a fine job and Spectre will be well worth the wait. If you haven’t seen what all the excitement’s about yet, check out the trailer below, cut to the original John Barry Dr No. theme.

Hope you like it.

I heard the editor writes stuff, too.

Spectre is in cinemas from 6 November 2015

On The Big Smoke