Can you hear it? That’s the sound of thousands of British talent agents’ phones ringing nonstop as actors scratch and beg to be seen for the role of James Bond.
After 15 years in the tux, Daniel Craig will finally hang up his holster after “No Time To Die,” which hits theaters Friday. And the biggest question in the movieverse is what brave soul should replace him.
A few usual suspects have been brought up for years: Idris Elba (would’ve been perfect 10 years ago), Tom Hardy (garble garble garble) and Henry Cavill (Superman, not super-spy). None of them will get the part. They’re too famous, too old or not quite right.
But — you can feel it in the air — a major change is afoot.
Craig himself marked a seismic shift for the series’ tone. In 2006, “Casino Royale” ditched the wackadoodle Pierce Brosnan style — lasers, an onslaught of CGI, Denise Richards — and returned to good old grit and propulsive storytelling.
But as his five films went on and on, Craig and Co. took the darkness a shade too far. After a while, every movie felt as if shot through a smokestack. Whenever the actor cracked a joke, it felt contractually obligated. The next Bond has gotta lighten up.
There are just a few ground rules for choosing the new 007. One: Bond must be a guy. Make a new, better spy series for women if you want, but James Bond is a dude. Two: He’s gotta be English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or Australian. No American or Canadian Bonds, please. Three: Let’s keep James 40 or younger.
My personal favorite candidate that satisfies all these criteria is Matt Smith, who audiences know as the first Prince Philip on “The Crown” and a former Dr. Who. Smith is debonair, clever, sexy and frightening when he wants to be. He also exudes intellect, like Roger Moore, whereas Craig projected “I am going to murder you in your sleep.” It’s easy to imagine 38-year old Smith saying “Bond, James Bond,” without batting an eye.
Another actor nobody’s suggested yet is Alfred Enoch, the 32-year-old star of “How To Get Away With Murder.” Think he’s but a fetus and not ready for the weight of the Walther PPK? Well, you’ll be shocked to find out that Enoch, also of “Harry Potter” fame (he played Dean Thomas), is the same age as Sean Connery when he filmed “Dr. No” and two years older than George Lazenby when he took the reins in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
My appeal for an injection of youth is not about caving into Hollywood’s obsession with the hot new thing. It’s simply a matter of practicality. The closer a Bond is to 50, the more the character goes rogue or mulls retiring from MI6. These are not fun plots in a series that should always be fun. Elba, for instance, is 49. How long would he really stick around?
A rugged, but still playful, candidate is Richard Madden, the 35-year-old Scotsman who played Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones.” He’ll be known by many more fans next month when he takes on the part of Ikaris in Marvel’s “Eternals.” Though he tends to lean dramatic — “1917,” “Romeo and Juliet” — he was a dish in the rom-com “Ibiza.”
Lastly is Ben Barnes, an actor whose career heated up when he played Prince Caspian in the “Narnia” films and then cooled till this year, when he starred as a mischievous villain in Netflix’s terrific “Shadow and Bone.” Barnes has a certain amiable twinkle that’s hard to come by. Like the best Bonds, you believe he’s always on the guest list, even when he’s not.
Whoever Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson choose, expect to be surprised. Remember when the producers announced the little-known Craig in 2005, fans were outraged to learn he was blond. It was the hair heard around the world.