No Time to Die was one of the biggest movies of 2021, and that controversial ending has left the casting for the next Bond more open-ended than ever. After 14 years and five films under his belt, it’s fair to say that Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 has changed the series in ways deeper than the initial controversy over his hair colour.
As connoisseurs of conspiracy and espionage enthusiasts (at least on film), we Bond fans all have our picks for just who the next Bond should be. So, drum roll please, here are our top 20 picks for actors we think would absolutely kill it as the next James Bond – before setting the base to self-destruct and bundling a beautiful double agent into an improbably clean supercar.
20. Taron Egerton
Let’s start with a safe pick. Taron Egerton would hardly be a revolutionary choice for the next 007, but he’d certainly rejuvenate a franchise that’s close to turning 60. Egerton is half that age, and probably remains best known for his scene-stealing turns in the Kingsman franchise, playing a teenager from a hardscrabble background who’s drafted into becoming a spy.
Egerton has since buttressed his career with biopics like Eddie the Eagle and Rocketman, while keeping his flag planted in action hero territory with the – admittedly terrible – Robin Hood. But while some see Egerton’s Kingsman past as a strength, it could also be a weakness; since it’s a franchise that parodies Bond’s gentleman spy aesthetic, it could prove difficult for Egerton to carry the emotional weight of a big budget Bond. Still, Egerton’s cheeky chappie style could see a return to a more Roger Moore-style 007, with a decidedly more youthful feel.
19. Gwendoline Christie
In nearly six decades of Bond, six actors have played Her Majesty’s top secret agent: all of them white men. Now, with the rallying cry to have more women leading the industry’s biggest films, many have expressed a desire to have Bond change with the times. Of all the women who would make a good 007, we believe Gwendoline Christie is best placed to make history. With a reputation for playing tough characters like Brienne of Tarth in HBO’s Game of Thrones and Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, there’s no question that the 6ft 3 actor would cut an imposing figure as Bond.
Whether a Bond audience would entertain a female 007 is another thing entirely, but with calls for a big shake-up in the world’s foremost spy franchise, and No Time To Die’s hard reset of the chronology, casting a woman would be a great way to do just that.
18. Benedict Cumberbatch
He’s dreamy, his name is funny, and we’ve already seen him running about London in a thick coat as the eponymous Sherlock. So it’s no surprise that the internet’s long-term boyfriend is being touted as a potential Bond, especially with a career burnished by everything from Shakespeare (he played Hamlet in 2015) to an ongoing stint as Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Seen as quintessentially British, in no small part due to his classical training and upper-class heritage, Cumberbatch would likely portray a Bond hewing closely to Pierce Brosnan’s example: a steely, aloof figure who gets the job done.
Far be it from us, however, to claim that Cumberbatch would be any kind of continuity candidate – there’s more than enough oddness and extravagance in his film career to suggest that a Cumberbatch Bond could really throw some curveballs, and it’s a series that could do with being shaken rather than stirred.
17. Adam Driver
Perhaps, like us, you’ve reacted positively to seeing Adam Driver pop up on this list. After all, from family dramas like Marriage Story to the world’s biggest blockbusters – as unhinged fallen Jedi Kylo Ren in the Star Wars sequel trilogy – it seems there’s nothing Driver can’t do. On the other hand, there’s a major spanner in the works for Driver’s Bond ambition. Or, as he’d call it, a wrench – he’s American.
On the other hand, it might be exactly what the franchise needs. With his undisputed acting heft and a perspective on Bond free from decades of national mythology, perhaps no actor is better suited – Driver has served as a lance corporal in the US Marines, meaning he certainly knows his way around a firearm.
16. George MacKay
The youngest actor on this list, George MacKay being appointed as the next Bond would signal a generational shift for the franchise. When Daniel Craig was chosen, he made history as the first Bond actor to have been born after the series began. MacKay would blow that record out of the water, having been born right in the middle of the hiatus between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye.
Having forged a career with films as diverse as Sunshine on Leith and Captain Fantastic, 2020 saw MacKay star rise with war drama 1917. Why shouldn’t Bond be next?
15. Mark Strong (but in a wig)
The Bond series has been dominated by conversations about age. Looking at the indictments of Roger Moore’s age when he made his final Bond film, A View to a Kill, you’d think he was senile. In fact, he was 57. Idris Elba disqualified himself some years ago at the decrepit age of 43. But what better way to challenge this orthodoxy than to spurn a baby-faced successor to Daniel Craig, and actually get someone older?
And if we are considering older actors, it would make sense to get behind Mark Strong (but in a wig). In his late fifties, but looking far less like a roll of old wallpaper than Roger Moore, Strong has all the maturity and assuredness without the obvious downsides of age. But he’d need a wig.
14. Daniel Kaluuya
A successful theatre actor, Daniel Kaluuya became a household name after appearing in the cult dystopian TV series Black Mirror and even more so after a breakout performance in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Since then, Kaluuya has continued to appear in productions that have been praised for their diversity, such as Black Panther and Widows. But in some ways, Kaluuya could his biggest splash yet by becoming the first non-white actor to play Bond.
We already know that Kaluuya looks damn fine in formalwear, and that’s half the battle when it comes to 007.
13. Cillian Murphy
When you stop to think about it, Cillian Murphy has been quite quiet recently. Before you bite our heads off, we obviously have to note the success of Peaky Blinders and his sinister Thomas Shelby. In that role, Murphy has reached a level of notoriety unequalled in his career. At the same time, the actor seems far removed from the blockbuster success he enjoyed at the start of the millennium, with roles in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. All of which would mean that picking Cillian Murphy for Bond would be both refreshing and make us all think “Of course! How didn’t we see this coming?”
Well, maybe we did. Needless to say, Murphy would be in good company, with fellow Irish actor Pierce Brosnan having been selected to revitalise the role of Bond in 1995.
12. Jack Lowden
“Who’s Jack Lowden?” Well, exactly. And that’s not intended as a snub; in fact, there’s no reason that the part of James Bond shouldn’t go to an actor who’s just coming to the fore. Best known as a stage actor, Lowden won an Olivier Award in 2014 for his work in Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, and had a lead role in the landmark BBC miniseries adaptation of War & Peace. Since then, the Scottish actor has – coincidentally, like several actors on this list – starred in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots.
An actor with promise, Lowden would be positioned to make the role his own. And lest we forget, the first Scottish Bond, Sean Connery, had previously worked as a swimwear model before being picked for 007. Compared to that record, Lowden’s acting experience looks – and is – stellar.
11. Mena Massoud
What do you do when you’ve just made $1 billion at the box office, and yet you aren’t even getting any auditions? You could do a lot worse than to take the fight to your critics and be cast as the next James Bond. That’s exactly what would happen were Mena Massoud picked to play 007. The star of Aladdin, Massoud would be the first North American in the role (he hails from Canada) as well as the first actor of Egyptian descent, which would be a highly symbolic move towards making the Bond cast and crew look like the modern world, rather than the 1960s.
Even better, Massoud has the qualities of Bond in spades: he’s ticked the box for rooftop capering with his showing in Agrabah, and is certainly capable of delivering a wisecrack or two. He’s also a vegan, which would make him easily the trendiest Bond yet, and the fallout that #VeganBond would create is almost too delicious to pass up.
10. Idris Elba
You all knew it was coming. We’ve already mentioned that Idris Elba disqualified himself from playing Bond, but the desire to see TV’s Luther get a hefty promotion to MI6 burns hotter than ever. In fact, since Daniel Craig’s past Bond films have been encumbered by talk of the actor leaving the role, Elba has long been the favourite to step into those secret agent shoes (which, we assume, have lasers in).
And there’s no shortage of acting credits for Elba: as the Norse guardian Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and a cybernetically-enhanced terrorist in Hobbs & Shaw (2019), Elba has definitely shown more than enough action hero ability in the past two years alone.
9. Timothée Chalamet
Another off-the-wall pick, Timothée Chalamet definitely comes from the Robert Pattinson-as-Batman school of casting: an actor you might never have considered, but who really could work. Famed for Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, a rustic coming-of-age drama, it’s fair to say that Chalamet is better known for being fashionable and Byronic than for dispatching dozens of goons by firing missiles from an eye-wateringly expensive car. Still, those cheekbones and that determined stare speak for themselves.
After all – for better and for worse – a significant part of the James Bond character is his ability to womanise and conduct bedroom espionage. And as the Bond series attempts to pull in new audiences, Chalamet really could be the hunk of the future, just with less bicep and less of a gender binary.
8. Henry Cavill
If Netflix is to be believed, Henry Cavill’s turn as The Witcher, amid remarkable viewing figures, has cemented the Superman actor’s place on the Hollywood A-list. Plus, given his uncertain future in the DC Universe and an inconvenient icepick to the face in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Cavill could really use a new franchise. Let’s not forget that Cavill already has a great deal of experience in the spy genre, having starred in the Guy Ritchie-directed The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 2015.
For those who are swooning over The Witcher’s habit of showing Cavill topless, having the actor as 007 would be manna from heaven.
7. Noomi Rapace
Another pick from downtown, Swedish-born Noomi Rapace would bring a continental edge to Bond – in a decade that will see Britain more disconnected from Europe than at any point since the series’ inception. Rapace is best known for starring in the original, Swedish adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; with Bond edging further and further towards a Scandi-noir worldview, why not go the whole hog and cast an international trailblazer of the genre as 007?
The actor has been busy since, and much of her work has focused on thrillers and science fiction, such as Dead Man Down and Prometheus. And if you still need to be convinced, consider the fact that Rapace isn’t her real name – nor is it her ex-husband’s. On marrying, they chose the new name together. Meaning ‘bird of prey’ in French and Italian, the Rapaces chose it because it sounded cool. That’s the kind of go-getter attitude Bond needs.
6. Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff is an actor you’ve probably seen popping up everywhere, making an impact, but still never quite placeable. Not only would this quality make Groff a brilliant real-life spy, but a franchise like Bond would make sure everybody knows his name. Groff is best-known for his work in musicals, and for voicing lovable ice farmer Kristoff in Disney’s Frozen series. You might think that’s too kitschy a filmography for the likes of Bond, but there’s one role that truly puts Groff in contention: FBI Special Agent Holden Ford in David Lynch’s Mindhunter, as of 2017.
Fans of the American psychology-based crime thriller (yes, it’s complicated) were dealt some bad news when Netflix announced it was halting production on the series. While the show isn’t cancelled, technically speaking, Lynch and the cast have been given free rein to pursue other projects. Like Bond!
5. Oscar Isaac
If you thought two Star Wars alums were enough for this list (in Adam Driver and Gwendoline Christie), think again – we reckon Oscar Isaac would be another stellar pick for 007. We all know that Isaac, as X-Wing virtuoso Poe Dameron, can handle the feel-good factor of a heroic lead character, but in the past few years we’ve also seen the actor turn heads as villains and murkier figures. From supervillainy in X-Men: Apocalypse to a PTSD-suffering soldier in Annihilation, Isaac has shown the range of emotion required for Bond.
It’s generally accepted that Poe Dameron didn’t get a satisfactory send-off in Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, and Apocalypse (as a film) went down like a lead sarcophagus. So Isaac would benefit from another franchise where he’s in the pilot’s seat.
4. Michael Fassbender
There was a time in the early 2010s when you couldn’t breathe without inhaling some of Michael Fassbender’s aftershave. Whether it was X-Men: First Class or Prometheus or 12 Years a Slave, Fassbender dominated the box office and pop culture as a hunky villain you just had to love.
There’s no question that Fassbender possesses the classic good looks that many desire from the next 007, and he can be so smooth and soft spoken as to make a butterfly blush. Equally, as Macbeth and Magneto, we’ve seen a harder edge to the Irish-German actor.
3. Tessa Thompson
You might remember the furore when it was announced actor Lashana Lynch – a black woman – would be playing a replacement for 007 in No Time to Die. It was shortly confirmed this does not mean Lynch will be taking over as MI6’s top spy at the box office, but this doesn’t mean we have to miss the opportunity to cast a black woman as Bond. Tessa Thompson has had a very different career to Lashana Lynch, but they share a lynchpin: both have starred in the MCU, with Lynch playing fighter pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, and Thompson playing Valkyrie in the Thor and Avengers films.
What’s more, Thompson recently joined the Men in Black franchise. That film, Men in Black: International, was panned by critics for pretty much everything except Thompson’s performance. So her agent’s job could yet be saved by landing her the gig as 007.
2. Richard Madden
Game of Thrones dominated our screens from 2011 to 2019, and now its stars have been catapulted into the Tinseltown big leagues. While Emilia Clarke is pursuing everything from romance (Last Christmas) to space opera (Solo), Richard Madden has taken a respectable but more oblique path that puts him right in contention for Bond. Having played Robb Stark in the first three seasons of Thrones, Madden has since played the Prince in the live-action remake of Cinderella, manager John Reid in Rocketman, and a lieutenant in 1917.
And what do suave good looks, Elton John, and military experience make? Bond – with a theme song by Elton John, hopefully.
1. Luke Evans
We’ve had several English Bonds, a Scottish Bond, and an Irish Bond. In fact, the only country from the British Isles not in the bar is Wales (unless you count Timothy Dalton, born in Colwyn Bay but who nonetheless spent most of his upbringing in England) – and there’s no Hollywood actor more proudly Welsh than Luke Evans. Somehow, Evans has managed to be part of some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises without garnering the attention he deserves. From Bard the Bowman in the Hobbit trilogy, to the last two Fast & Furious films, to Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, Evans deserves his time in the limelight.
What we’re conveniently ignoring here is 2014’s Dracula Untold, in which Evans plays the titular vampire. That film was roundly criticised for its stodgy story – yet praised for Evans’ performance in the lead. Evans could be another actor currently flying under the radar who would make an excellent Bond.