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Everything We Know About The Next 007

The James Bond franchise is the most enduring saga in English-language film. Based on the many novels by author Ian Fleming, the first movie depicting the daring adventures of British spy James Bond, Agent 007 hit cinemas on both sides of the pond in 1962. That film, Dr. No, launched a cultural phenomenon that hasn't let up, more than five decades and two dozen films later.

Bond has bedded dozens of statuesque women, drunk countless shaken-not-stirred martinis, and foiled numerous villainous plots on behalf of Her Majesty, but only six guys have officially played the role on the big screen: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. No Time to Die, set for release in 2020, will likely be Craig's last outing, sending Hollywood and the English film industry abuzz with rumors about who might be the next performer to wear the iconic tuxedo. 

The series has a history of rumors coming true... eventually. When Sean Connery first stepped out, both Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. George Lazenby ended up starring in that 1969 entry, with Moore stepping into the tux for 1973's Live and Let Die and Dalton finally becoming Bond almost 20 years after first being considered, in 1987's The Living Daylights. And Pierce Brosnan screentested for that very same movie, but wouldn't end up in the role until GoldenEye in 1995.

With all that in mind, here's a look at the actors rumored to be queuing up for a spin in 007's Aston Martin.

Elba. Idris Elba.

The idea of the charismatic, handsome award winner Idris Elba stepping into the role of James Bond entered the public consciousness in 2010. After a poll asking readers to vote on possibilities, The Guardian suggested Elba (among others), citing his fantastic performance on The Wire as proof. That launched almost a decade of hopes and rumors that Elba would take over for Daniel Craig... and almost a decade of Elba denying interest. His main issue: He doesn't want to deal with the tricky racial politics of it all. 

"Of course it would be a huge compliment to be asked," Elba told The Daily Mail in 2010. "But I wouldn't be interested if it was simply a case of them deciding it was time for a black James Bond." A year later, he reiterated his feelings to The Mirror: "If I didn't do it well, what would people say? 'It's because he's black.' And that would be a tragedy." By 2019, Elba still felt the same way, but he at least seemed to entertain the idea of playing Bond... a little. "James Bond is a hugely coveted, iconic, beloved character, that takes audiences on this massive escapism journey," he told Vanity Fair. "Of course, if someone said to me 'Do you want to play James Bond?,' I'd be like, Yeah! That's fascinating to me. But it's not something I've expressed, like, Yeah, I wanna be the black James Bond."

From Bodyguard to Bond

Over the past year, Richard Madden showed audiences that he has what to takes to play James Bond — specifically, the ability to fill out a nice suit and maintain an icy stare. He starred on the BBC/Netflix series Bodyguard as David Budd, a Scottish war veteran who finds work protecting a member of Parliament. He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama, just a few months before the release of Rocketman. In the Elton John biopic, Madden portrayed John Reid, the seemingly cold and calculating manager and sometime-lover of the titular rocket man. But Madden will probably always be best known for his work on Game of Thrones as the late Robb Stark. 

Does all that mean Madden can play Bond? Probably, although he remains deferential in the press. He called the notion that he's up for the role "a lovely, flattering rumor" at a Bodyguard event in April 2019. "And at the end, that's all it is: a lovely, flattering rumor." At a Rocketman junket a month later, he called any consideration "very flattering."

The right Superman for the role

Back in the 2000s, Henry Cavill seemed to always make the short lists of actors to headline franchises... and never got the part. Twilight author Stephenie Meyer thought him the "perfect Edward" for the film adaptations of her hugely successful vampire novels, but by the time shooting began he was too old for the role. He lost out to Robert Pattinson, who also edged out Cavill for the part of Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter films. He was even in consideration to play James Bond once before, but Daniel Craig got the gig for 2006's Casino Royale and beyond. Now, more than a decade later, the TV and movie industry throws franchises at the guy. He's the big-screen Superman, he and his mustache have joined the Mission: Impossible team, he's starring in Netflix's based-on-a-popular-novel-and-game-series The Witcher, and he might just play James Bond, too, at long last.

In 2018, the gossip site Crazy Days and Nights ran a blind item about how "the producers of this long running franchise" wished to cast a "foreign born former superhero" as "their next replacement." Soon after, the site admitted that the blind item was about finding the next James Bond, and that the "foreign born former superhero" was the British Cavill, rumored at the time to be leaving the DC Cinematic Universe (and which he'd probably have to do to free up time in his schedule to portray 007).

The Strange case of Benedict Cumberbatch

If anything, Benedict Cumberbatch might be overqualified to play James Bond. Widely regarded as one of the best actors working today, he trained classically in the British theatrical tradition and earned an Academy Award nomination for his work in The Imitation Game. He's also already a big part of two franchises — as Sherlock Holmes in TV's Sherlock and Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The actor's name recognition and large fanbase — particularly the hardcore ones who call themselves "Cumberb*****s" — would fill movie theaters, but Cumberbatch doesn't seem to think he's going to be the next 007. 

"I don't think they'd consider me for Bond, to be honest. I can wear a suit, yeah, I can do that, and I can fight." Cumberbatch told The Guardian. "It would be fun though, wouldn't it?" So while he dismisses any notion he's up for that part, he also hasn't exactly taken himself out of the running.

Cillian Murphy might get cast... 28 days later

Cillian Murphy looks like a leading man, but he tends to gravitate toward more interesting character work in dark projects. For example, he played Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow, throughout Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and one of the last humans left after a zombie apocalypse in 28 Days Later... Since 2013, he's starred as gang leader Tommy Shelby on Peaky Blinders, the BBC's brutally violent post-World War I-set crime drama. 

While Tommy Shelby is about as far away from James Bond as possible, the show's critical and commercial success has generated speculation that Murphy could portray 007. According to The Guardian, he's one of the most likely candidates to succeed Daniel Craig. According to Murphy, however, it's all a load of nonsense. "There's a whole other industry which is completely separate from the film side of things, and that's the bookies," Murphy told The Guardian, referring to the independent "oddsmakers" who can generate casting rumors. "The second thing I'd say is that I think it should be a woman, which rules me out."

Poldark is here to fight

Irish star Aidan Turner is best known for two high-profile roles. He portrayed Kili, nephew of dwarf leader Thorin in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, and since in 2015 he's starred on the PBS import Poldark as Ross Poldark, a man putting his life back together in Cornwall after fighting for the crown in the American Revolution. Is he ready to once again serve queen and country, and trade in his redcoat and musket for a tuxedo and high-caliber handgun? 

He might play Bond, but he doesn't want to say much about it while Daniel Craig still has the role. "There's someone else playing the role at the moment," he told The Daily Mail (via the Evening Standard) in May 2018, "but when it's free I'll have a look at it." That wording almost makes it sound like Bond producers have offered him a shot at 007, and that he just hasn't found the right time to consider the idea yet. If he does take the role, he'd be the third non-British subject to portray the ultimate British spy; Pierce Brosnan is Irish, and George Lazenby is Australian.

Sam Heughan as Blond. James Blond.

Like some kind of sexually-charged PBS miniseries, Starz's hit Outlander is based on a series of romantic novels sent against the backdrop of the anti-English Jacobite risings in Scotland in the 18th century. A 20th century woman named Claire travels back in time to the era and strikes up a profound and steamy affair with a freedom-fighting Highland warrior named Jamie Frasier, portrayed by dashing Scottish actor Sam Heughan. But the actor's next big role might find him playing a guy fighting for the crown instead of against it. 

According to a source who spoke to The Daily Mail in March 2019, Heughan may have the inside edge on landing the role of James Bond. Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli reportedly commissioned an audition from Heughan. And it's apparently not the first time he was asked to come in for a virtual tuxedo fitting. The source revealed that some time after Pierce Brosnan left the James Bond franchise after the release of Die Another Day in 2002, Heughan was considered as a successor, but he was ultimately ruled too young, as he was only in his early twenties at the time.

The new 007 may have already been chosen

While Daniel Craig will headline the movie known as "Bond 25" during production, his successor may already have been chosen... and already shot some scenes. Actress Lashana Lynch — a veteran of British television who's probably best known to American audiences for her role as Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvelcostars in No Time to Die as a character named Nomi. But according to an insider working on the movie who spoke with The Daily Mail, it gets a bit more complicated. 

The film reportedly begins with Bond (Craig) retired and living in Jamaica, but called out of retirement to help MI6 fight a particularly nasty villain. At one point, M (Ralph Fiennes) says "Come in 007," and Lynch's character walks in. To recap: Bond is Bond, but his famous agent number, 007, has been reassigned to a new super-agent. And, if that's true, it would make movie history, as Lynch would be the first woman and person of color to take on that role. Would she then headline the 007 movies that followed? Time will tell.

They've got a Friend in him

Rupert Friend would be an unorthodox choice to portray the commanding and debonair James Bond. It's not that Friend is ugly or uncharismatic — it's that he's largely worked as a character actor, rather than a leading man like his purported 007 competition. His deep commitment to a role, along with a willingness to alter his appearance, make Friend a bit hard to recognize — he rocked a bald head to play Agent 47 in the video game adaptation Hitman: Agent 47, and disappeared under 19th century facial hair and finery for The Young Victoria. Friend is likely best known for his appearances on 50 episodes of Showtime's Emmy-winning terrorism drama Homeland. Friend got in on the accolades, earning an Emmy nomination of his own in 2013 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Friend portrayed Peter Quinn, a CIA operative who's really a black ops guy with dark intentions. 

Masking his appearance? Portraying a guy who can falsify his identity in even the most secure of channels? That sounds like valuable pre-007 experience, which he didn't have back in 2003, when he was offered a James Bond screen test. Friend passed on that. "I just thought, 'I'm too young for this,'" Friend told The Sunday Times (via Radio Times). "I love Bond films. I don't want to be the guy who messes it up because he hasn't got miles on the clock."

The lowdown on Lowden

Bookmakers in the U.K. don't set odds and take bets on just sporting events — they also do good business trying to call major movie casting decisions. In July 2019, Express reported that three different such operations all simultaneously changed their odds to heavily favor Jack Lowden becoming the next on-screen 007. At that point, he trailed only Richard Madden, as far as the bookmakers were concerned. 

This is a bit surprising, as out of all the stated frontrunners to replace Daniel Craig — which include the man who played Doctor Strange, the man behind Superman, and the universally beloved Idris Elba — Lowden is the least known to mainstream audiences (or at least to Americans). While he's worked in a ton of British films and television series, he's most familiar to non-British filmgoers as wrestler Zak Zodiac in the WWE movie Fighting with My Family, and as fighter pilot Collins in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. And maybe, soon, for his portrayal of James Bond. 

It's time for a female Bond, to be Blunt

There are two iconic, long-running roles of the British screen traditionally portrayed by only men: James Bond and the Doctor from Doctor Who. After 55 years and 11 guys, Doctor Who broke the gender barrier in 2018 when Jodie Whittaker became the first female Doctor. It's not just British pop culture, either — in 2019, Marvel Studios announced that Natalie Portman will play Thor in an upcoming movie. That means it's the James Bond franchise's move, as some culture writers think a female 007 is long overdue. 

If a woman as Bond isn't an "if" but rather a "when," which well-known actresses have a chance at making history? An actress who recently stepped into a beloved role made famous by another could get the call, and that's Mary Poppins Returns star Emily Blunt. "I was in Los Angeles and Rob Marshall called me and I knew there was something quite big coming down the pipe. It was such a charged voicemail that he left," Blunt said on the talk show This Morning, regarding a message from her Into the Woods director. She said it felt so ominous that Marshall was "asking me to be James Bond or Mary Poppins." It was the latter of course. Nevertheless, Blunt has led all women in bookmakers' odds of who will be the next Bond.

Gillian Anderson as Jane Bond

If selected by producers, either Lashana Lynch or Emily Blunt would likely be the first woman to play 007 — both Brits. Bond is a definitive English character, and nobody outside of the commonwealth of current or former English territories has ever played the queen-serving Uber-spy. It would be an even more audacious move for filmmakers to select not just a female performer, but a female performer from the United States. 

While she spent part of her youth in England — and many of her recent roles have been British characters on British television (The Crown, Sex Education, The Fall) — Gillian Anderson is American-born. In 2016, when it looked like Daniel Craig's days as 007 may have been numbered, Anderson tweeted out a fan-made mockup of a movie poster featuring herself as the iconic spy. "It's Bond. Jane Bond," Anderson wrote. That sparked a minor furor, as countless film fans daydreamed about the possibility of Dana Scully from The X-Files getting a promotion of sorts.