James Bond is arguably one of Hollywood’s most coveted roles, and his casting is usually shrouded in even more secrecy than the average 007 mission. But according to reports, the franchise’s typically hush-hush producers have let the cat out of the bag earlier than usual. And here we reveal the actor who’s emerged as a hot favorite to utter that immortal line, “Shaken, not stirred…”
Adapted from Ian Fleming’s series of spy novels, the James Bond film franchise began in 1962 with Dr. No. But despite Fleming’s major concerns that he was the wrong man for the job, the original 007, Sean Connery, proved to be one of the most enduring and most popular Bonds. Indeed, the Scotsman appeared in seven Bond movies in total, including From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball.
Then George Lazenby briefly assumed the role of Bond after Connery’s admission that playing the character had “[become] a terrible pressure, like living in a goldfish bowl.” After 1969’s Lazenby-fronted On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, though, the Scot returned to the part for a bumper pay packet. 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever proved to be Connery’s second swansong.
Another hugely popular James Bond, Roger Moore, stepped into Connery’s shoes for 1973’s Live and Let Die. Deciding against simply replicating his predecessor’s suave, brooding style, the British actor instead gave 007 a sense of humor. As a result, Moore-starring films such as The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only became almost as renowned for their comedy as for their action set-pieces.
However, Moore himself admitted that he was getting too old to be donning Bond’s famous tuxedo by the mid-1980s. So, after A View to a Kill, he made way for Timothy Dalton. And just like Moore, Dalton wanted to put his own stamp on the character; ultimately, then, he turned Bond into a much darker, ruthless killer. This approach wasn’t commercially successful, though, and after just two films, Dalton was replaced.
But Pierce Brosnan would bring back both Moore’s natural comic timing and Connery’s macho charm when he assumed the role for 1995’s Goldeneye. And the Irishman went on to play 007 for a further three movies: Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. When contract negotiations for a fifth film broke down in 2004, however, Brosnan left the franchise.
Daniel Craig was next up to play Bond, although his appointment for 2006’s Casino Royale was initially met with huge skepticism. Lacking the character’s trademark towering appearance and brooding good looks, the blond-haired actor was even dubbed “James Bland” by one particular British newspaper. However, Craig soon made his detractors eat their words.
Indeed, a number of critics would eventually describe Craig’s portrayal of Bond as the closest to Ian Fleming’s original creation to date. Craig also landed a BAFTA nomination for his performance, while 2012’s Skyfall became the franchise’s biggest-ever money spinner. Then, after 2015’s Spectre, Craig confirmed that he’d be returning for the character’s 25th official big screen outing. Still, that news didn’t stop speculation over who’d be assuming the role for the 26th movie in the franchise.
James Norton and Michael Fassbender emerged as the early favorites to take over from Craig. Ryan Gosling, Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner, Jack Huston and Theo James were also said to be in the running. But it was another actor – himself no stranger to playing brooding heroes – who ultimately appeared to become the main frontrunner.
And that man was Idris Elba. Born in London in 1972, the actor first attracted attention for his performance as Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire. Elba later portrayed Nelson Mandela in a 2013 big-screen biopic of the South African; since 2010 he has also starred as the eponymous cop in the BBC’s hit crime series, Luther.
The Elba rumor first began to gain traction in 2014 with the Sony leaked emails scandal. In one particularly interesting email, Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony Pictures, recommended that Elba should become the next 007 to a Columbia Pictures executive. Columbia Pictures, of course, co-distributed the Bond films between 2006 and 2015 with MGM.
And Elba expressed his desire to take on the iconic part that same year. He told CNN, “It would be such an honor. I mean what do we have to do here? We have to wear beautiful suits, drive nice cars, chase bad guys and date beautiful women? I dunno, sounds good to me.”
Then, three years later, one of Elba’s collaborators appeared to let slip that the actor was a Bond definite. Director John Ridley, who worked with the star on TV drama Guerrilla, told BBC Radio One, “Idris is pretty much becoming a national treasure for every country. I can’t wait to see him as James Bond, quite frankly.”
Speculation only mounted further when Antoine Fuqua supposedly revealed all about a conversation that he had had with Bond producer Barbara Broccoli. According to a Daily Star report, the director had said that Broccoli believed it was time that a person of color took on the coveted role. She had also allegedly remarked, “It will happen eventually.”
However, it appears that Fuqua’s quotes were entirely fabricated. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, a representative for the acclaimed director said, “He never had a conversation with Barbara about the franchise or about any casting. It’s all made-up stuff. Not sure how it got started.”
But just as the rumors began to die down, the man at the center of them sparked them again by tweeting, “My name’s Elba, Idris Elba.” The actor posted that message in August 2018, and much of the press interpreted it as confirmation that he would become the next Bond.
However, just four hours after this first tweet almost broke the internet, another one suggested that Elba was simply toying with both the press and Bond fans. The actor posted an image of iconic hip-hop act Public Enemy along with an accompanying message quoting one of their biggest hits. The note read, “Don’t believe the hype.”
In fact, while speaking to The New York Times in 2017, Elba revealed that he has no desire to be the franchise’s token black Bond. He said, “I think it’s more about, ‘We just want to have a black guy play James Bond’ rather than, ‘Idris Elba, the actor, play James Bond.’ That’s the part I’m like, ‘Ugh, come on.’”
Nevertheless, Elba has also told Variety that he would like the franchise to shake things up a little. “Are we interested in having a Bond character other than being a male?” he said. “Could be a woman – could be a black woman, could be a white woman. But I think, that character, everybody would like to see it have… do something different with it, why not?”
Perhaps Elba intended that his contrasting tweets would court publicity for his first directorial effort. Adapted from Victor Headley’s debut novel, Yardie follows the fortunes of a Jamaican youngster’s journey to becoming the head of a drug empire. Also inspired by Elba’s real-life past on the streets of East London, the film hit U.K. theaters in the same month as his confusing social media posts.