Who will Play the Next James Bond?

James Bond
Photo: Collected

Thousands of British talent agencies’ phones are ringing nonstop as actors plead and beg to be considered for the James Bond job.

Daniel Craig will finally put down his holster after 15 years in the tuxedo after the release of “No Time To Die,” which opens in theaters on Friday. And the most pressing question in the movieverse is who should take his place.

For years, Idris Elba (would’ve been perfect 10 years ago), Tom Hardy (garble garble garble), and Henry Cavill have been mentioned as possible candidates (Superman, not super-spy). None of them will be cast in the role. They’re either too well-known, too old, or just not quite right.

But, as you can sense in the air, a tremendous shift is underway.

Craig’s presence in the series signaled a significant shift in tone. “Casino Royale” returned to good old grit and propulsive storytelling in 2006, ditching the wackadoodle Pierce Brosnan approach — lasers, an onslaught of CGI, Denise Richards — and returning to good old grit and propulsive storytelling.

Craig & Co., however, took the darkness a little too far as his five films progressed. Every film began to feel as though it had been shot through a chimney after a while. It felt contractually obliged whenever the actor cracked a joke. The next Bond needs to loosen up.

There are only a few guidelines to follow when selecting the new 007. One: James Bond has to be a man. If you want to make a better spy series for women, go ahead, but James Bond is a male. He has to be English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, or Australian, to begin with. Please, no American or Canadian bonds. Three: Let’s keep James under the age of 40.

Matt Smith, the first Prince Philip on “The Crown” and a former Dr. Who, is my personal favorite candidate who meets all of these characteristics. When he wants to be, Smith is debonair, intelligent, attractive, and terrifying. Like Roger Moore, he emanates intelligence, whereas Craig projected “I’m going to murder you in your sleep.” It’s easy to envision Smith, who is 38 years old, uttering “Bond, James Bond” without blinking.

Alfred Enoch, the 32-year-old star of “How To Get Away With Murder,” is another actor who has yet to be mentioned. Do you think he’s still a fetus, unprepared for the weight of a Walther PPK? You’ll be surprised to learn that Enoch, who portrayed Dean Thomas in “Harry Potter,” is the same age as Sean Connery was when he filmed “Dr. No” and two years older than George Lazenby was when he took over in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

My plea for a youthful infusion isn’t about bowing in to Hollywood’s infatuation with the latest and greatest. It’s only a question of practicalities. The closer a Bond gets to 50, the more he goes rogue or considers leaving MI6. These aren’t the most enjoyable tales in a series that should always be enjoyable. Elba, for example, is 49 years old. How long would he be willing to stay?

Richard Madden, the 35-year-old Scotsman who played Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones,” is a rough but still playful candidate. When he stars as Ikaris in Marvel’s “Eternals” next month, he’ll get a lot of new fans. He was a dish in the rom-com “Ibiza,” despite his dramatic tendencies — “1917,” “Romeo and Juliet.”

Finally, there’s Ben Barnes, who rose to prominence as Prince Caspian in the “Narnia” films before cooling off until this year, when he acted as a devious villain in Netflix’s excellent “Shadow and Bone.” Barnes has a rare and endearing glint in his eyes. You believe he’s always on the guest list, even when he isn’t, like the best Bonds.

Expect to be startled by whoever Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson chose. Fans were upset to hear that the little-known Craig was blond when the makers unveiled him in 2005. It was the hair that made the news around the world.

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