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Who will be the next James Bond? We take a look at the top candidates from Paul Mescal to Paapa Essiedu

Who will be the next James Bond? We take a look at the top candidates from Paul Mescal to Paapa Essiedu

Speculation about who is going to be the next James Bond reemerges every time any young actor makes an impression in a role that requires wearing a suit.

When Daniel Craig’s long-awaited Bond swansong landed in 2021, one of the first things we thought about was who will eventually succeed poor old Craig, who was beginning to look a bit weary by the end.

Now, the great rumour mill has begun to turn again, after Andrew Scott, speaking to Variety in Los Angeles on Saturday, said that Paul Mescal would “probably be a great James Bond”.

Scott, who has just starred alongside Mescal in romance-fantasy All of Us Strangers, added with a smile: “I want to see him in Gladiator first.”

So could Mescal actually be in the running? Unfortunately, at 27 years old, he might just be a bit young. Back in January, producer Michael G Wilson spoke about the next Bond at London’s British Film Institute, saying the actor will be “a thirty-something”.

Wilson said: “We’ve tried looking at younger people in the past. But trying to visualise it doesn’t work. Remember, Bond’s already a veteran. He’s had some experience.

“He’s a person who has been through the wars, so to speak. He’s probably been in the SAS or something. He isn’t some kid out of high school that you can bring in and start off. That’s why it works for a thirty-something.”

Wilson’s comments certainly narrow down the field of potential actors a little, but with so many more potential Bonds already on the longlist, here we take a look at some of the contenders…

Still in the running

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (aged 33)

 (Getty Images for Campari)
(Getty Images for Campari)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson already has a taste for action, starring in fast-paced films including the Kick-Ass franchise and Marvel’s Avengers. So, it’s no surprise that speculation has been following the actor over becoming the next James Bond.

He reportedly met and impressed producers with a secret audition following Daniel Craig’s exit in 2021, and it seems he has doubled down on his chances of snagging the role, filming the famous “gun-barrel teaser footage” and becoming a front-runner in the process. Puck News’s Matthew Belloni reported that sources said Taylor-Johnson ticks all the boxes, although his upcoming roles in Kraven The Hunter and The Fall Guy could scupper his chances.

With bookies favouring the actor with 7/4 odds, it seems Taylor-Johnson is one of the favourites of the bunch.

Regé-Jean Page (aged 35)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Still one of the bookies’ front-runners to play the deadpan superspy, the Bridgerton star’s outing as the sullen, smouldering Duke of Hastings does rather suggest that he might at least have that side of it down – opportunistic shagging and excellent ability to raise a single eyebrow look like second nature.

But while these factors place Page firmly as one of the favourites for the vacant role, he has stopped short of adding fuel to the speculation. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Page insisted playing the iconic British spy is not something that “occupied his thoughts”, distancing himself from the James Bond discussion.

The Bridgerton star said: “It’s a conversation people are having, and it’s terribly flattering that they’re having it. I leave them to it.

“I’ve got enough on my plate at the moment. I worry about the work I have, not other people’s jobs.”

James Norton (aged 38)

James Norton (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
James Norton (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

The McMafia star was touted as an early favourite to replace Craig, and previous roles as a murderous psychopath (Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley) and a disillusioned aristocratic soldier (Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, War & Peace) would seem to make him a good fit for the somewhat dead-eyed spy (he told Gentleman’s Journal: “Bond’s such an icon and means so much to so many, so there’s an inevitable amount of speculation. But that’s as much as it is — speculation. Very flattering, very humbling speculation.”)

William Hill currently has his chances at 5/1, making him another favourite to become the next Bond. But is it a problem that a large number of fans know him as a boozy, jazz-loving, romantically unlucky vicar (Sidney Chambers on Grantchester)? We fear so.

Richard Madden (aged 37)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sure he played a Scottish Afghanistan war veteran prepared to shag an unsuitable woman in Bodyguard, and briefly reigned as King in the North as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, but for our money, it was Richard Madden’s role as Elton John’s long-term manager and former lover John Reid that showed his potential to play an utterly ruthless bastard. But we still think he’d make a better villain.

Plus his response to the rumours was suitably deadpan: “It’s very flattering to be involved in that conversation at all. But it’s all talk and next week I’m sure it’ll be someone different.”

Lashana Lynch (aged 36)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The news that Captain Marvel star Lashana Lynch had been conscripted as the “new 007” prompted a flurry of click-baiting headlines when it was announced oh-so-long ago. The reality is a bit more nuanced: the 35-year-old Londoner plays the agent who has been assigned Bond’s operative number following his departure from MI6 in the long-delayed No Time To Die. When the film was released in September 2021 we thoroughly enjoyed watching her face off against Craig with some barbed one-liners scripted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. In fact, perhaps Waller-Bridge should write Lynch an action franchise of her own.

Jack Lowden (aged 33)

Jack Lowden attends the
Jack Lowden attends the "Slow Horses" season 2 event at Soho Hotel on November 7, 2022 in London, England. "Slow Horses" season 2 premieres globally Friday December 2nd on Apple TV+. (Dave Benett)

Tom Hardy’s Dunkirk co-star Jack Lowden has also been touted as a potential replacement, but it seems the Scottish star doesn’t fancy his own chances as blonde Bond 2.0 – because he’s such an admirer of Craig. “I’m a massive Daniel Craig fan and I don’t think he should ever stop doing it,” he said last year. “Bond dealing with age is a brilliant idea and I think we should go the whole way until Daniel’s 85.”

Well, Lowden, we’re sorry to say that Craig has officially left the building. Plus, Lowden’s odds at the bookies are currently 14/1, meaning there are quite a few fans out there now backing him to take over from his hero.

Paapa Essiedu (aged 33)

Paapa Essiedu in March, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
Paapa Essiedu in March, 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu has skillfully managed to avoid saying anything concrete about Bond, so skillfully in fact, that it’s been quite Bond-like. “I’ve got nothing for you. I know as much as you do. Ask Barbara Broccoli,” he said to The Times before musing, “I wonder how many people have ever turned it down?”

By the looks of it, the bookies assume he’s bluffing (he’s got a point – who would turn down Bond?) and have his chances at 10/1. He’s ready to roll anyway, having conquered the performance side of the coveted gig (he was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s first black Hamlet, and starred in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect at the National Theatre) and having spent quite a lot of time practising being at the centre of a criminal empire in London as Alex Dumani in Gangs of London.

Damson Idris (aged 32)

Damson Idris in February 2023 (Getty Images)
Damson Idris in February 2023 (Getty Images)

In August, NME announced that a new favourite had joined the crowded field: Damson Idris is now one of the front runners after William Hill gave the actor 7/2 odds at having a shot at the role.

He also, sort of, showed his interest in playing Bond when speaking to HipHollywood last year. “It’s an iconic character,” he said when he was asked about taking over from Craig. “I don’t know, do I look like I could play Bond? Well maybe it could happen. Who knows?” OK, it’s not stirring stuff, but given that Idris has proved he can run around with a gun (and look pretty gorgeous) in Outside the Wire, and has helmed a show playing the lead of FX’s Snowfall, he’s surely at least half the way there. Our only quibble is that he’s slightly on the young side.

Knocked out (but we’re still hopeful)

Harris Dickinson (aged 27)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It’s truly sad that Harris Dickinson is a bit too young to play Bond this time round. He’s one of the only people on this list that doesn’t give us even a smidgen of an ick when we imagine him in a suit, driving a Jag. The Leytonstone-born actor is fast becoming a major star, too, after some stellar performances in Ruben Östlund’s Oscar-nominated Triangle of Sadness (2022) and Charlotte Regan’s debut Scrapper (2023).

But we hold onto hope. In 10 years, he’ll still be more than young enough to play Bond, and he has already indicated he’d be game, saying, “I mean, listen, man, you’d be a fool to not entertain that role,” in an interview with Total Film magazine. See you in a decade, Dickinson.

Paul Mescal (aged 27)

Paul Mescal in 2023 (PA Archive)
Paul Mescal in 2023 (PA Archive)

Much of the same can be said for Mescal. He may be way too young to play a convincing Bond, right now, but this won't be the case in two or three films’ time. He’s the stuff of Bond dreams, too: handsome, scruffy and endlessly charming, with a dangerously appealing lopsided smile. Mescal has already beefed up for Ridley Scott’s upcoming Gladiator sequel, so he could easily do it again.

Henry Cavill (aged 40)

Henry Cavill has announced that he is leaving The Witcher (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)
Henry Cavill has announced that he is leaving The Witcher (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

William Hill has the odds at 5/2 and half the internet thinks it’s a great idea, but it’s hard to imagine Cavill as the roguish spy: Bond is specifically not Superman. Then again, ever since the actor stepped down from The Witcher, and DC announced they were taking Kal-El’s story in another direction, Cavill’s diary has been rather freed up. And look, putting his excruciatingly embarrassing Instagram videos aside, he does now have plenty of that all important “experience” Wilson was after.

Cavill auditioned for James Bond back in 2006, too, with Casino Royale director Martin Campbell saying “his acting was tremendous”. “If Daniel didn’t exist, Henry would have made an excellent Bond,” said Campbell. “He just looked a little young at that time back then.” A real contender then.

Luke Evans (aged 44)

Luke Evans attends the launch of the new Plymouth Gin
Luke Evans attends the launch of the new Plymouth Gin "Ocean Edition" bottle, created in partnership with ocean charity The Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT), at London Shell Co. on April 19, 2023 in London, England. Pic Credit: Dave Benett (Dave Benett)

The actor and singer has a lot going for him. First and foremost, he’s not 26. He’s also six foot, looks great in a suit and has a tonne of experience in action roles (he was Apollo in Clash of the Titans back in 2010 and has since starred in several of the Fast & Furious films, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and action king Luc Besson’s Anna).

Have we found a perfect candidate, then? Well he’s four years over Wilson’s new marker, which possibly, devastatingly, makes him a bit old.

Tom Hardy (aged 46)

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Hardy, with that thrilling combination of posh boy and bit of rough that made him probably the most popular storyteller CBeebies Bedtime Stories has ever trotted out, is kind of perfect for Bond. You can plausibly imagine otherwise sensible women going weak at the knees for him; equally, you can picture him cheerfully throttling a double-crossing agent with his bare hands while eating a full English. He seems one of the more likely candidates, but producer Barbara Broccoli is keeping a tight lip as ever. And as with Evans, he is getting on (for a Bond).

Sam Heughan (aged 43)

 (Getty Images for Tribeca Festiva)
(Getty Images for Tribeca Festiva)

The Outlander star Sam Heughan, who easily spent as much time with his clothes off in five seasons of the rapidly darkening series as James Bond has over the course of 58 years and 27 films, caused a flurry of excitement across the internet last year by saying that yes, if he were asked to play the superannuated superspy, of course he would agree. HOLD THE FRONT PAGE.

To his credit, he did also share his theory on the subject that “any reasonably well-known British actor who’s worn a suit instantly has their name thrown into the ring by fans” which is a very sensible way to look at it. He’s also (dare we say it again?) no longer in his 30s, though he does have a baby face.

Tom Hiddleston (aged 42)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tom Hiddleston has had very little truck with the rumours about him being Bond. “No-one has talked to me about it,” he told Graham Norton in 2016, and now that he’s somewhat tied up with Disney+’s hit TV series Loki, whose second season was released in October, it seems unlikely that he’d be free to helm a second major franchise. Plus he’s one year over Wilson’s new cut-off point.

Anyway, he’s far more fun as the heroically deadpan, sarcastic God of mischief than the frankly less than quip-tastic modern angsty Bond, even if Loki has finally fallen in love.

Idris Elba (aged 51)

 (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
(Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Idris Elba has been an odds-on favourite to take over from Craig since the latter grumpily announced that he was ready to hang up his tux back in 2015, and there’s no doubt he’d be brilliant (Stormzy thinks so too – the rapper dropped a reference to Elba’s Bond chances in his 2019 single Vossi Bop).

However, the 51-year-old has persistently brushed off rumours by claiming that he’s “too old” to take on the role. And now it seems that this has been very much confirmed by the producers. Sigh.

Helen Mirren (aged 78)

Helen Mirren poses for photographers at the premiere for the film 'Golda' during the International Film Festival 'Berlinale', in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP) (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Helen Mirren poses for photographers at the premiere for the film 'Golda' during the International Film Festival 'Berlinale', in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP) (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

We think this is an indecently good idea – after all Helen Mirren’s campy turn as former wetwork agent Victoria Winslow in Red was by far one of the best things about the movie, and she’s certainly got the British Establishment vibe nailed, having played the Queen in, er, The Queen – but Babs Broccoli and Wilson would probably keel over at the thought.  Having said that, Mirren did tell Harper’s Bazaar that she harboured a secret ambition to play a Bond villain, which might even be better.

Harry Styles (aged 29)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Just think about it for a sec. You can see it can’t you? Even if he is just a tiny bit too young. There’s something about the supremely confident, easygoing Styles that makes us think that he just might be the one. And he’s already cut his acting teeth, starring in two major films last year– Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, alongside Florence Pugh and Chris Pine, and My Policeman, based on the novel by Bethan Roberts, in which he plays a gay policeman in a love triangle with his wife (Emma Corrin) and another man (David Dawson).

Is anyone more comfortable in their masculinity than Bond? Well, yes: Styles, whose insouciant lack of interest in gender signifiers means he could be the coolest superspy yet, and opens up the possibility of Bond Boys, for a change.