Since the release of “Spectre” in 2015, rumors have swirled about who will play James Bond in the years to come. Will Daniel Craig, despite publicly washing his hands of the role, give in to the reported $150 million offered for his participation in two more films? Or will Eon Productions crown a new Bond in hopes of refreshing a tired franchise yet again?
It seems increasingly likely that Craig will pass on the role, in which case a worldwide search for the next Bond is likely already underway. While many fans of the franchise remain steadfastly convinced that the role can only be played by a white, British man, campaigns have swept the Internet in favor of a black or Asian Bond, or even a female one — Jane Bond, perhaps?
Fan favorites like Idris Elba and Gillian Anderson have been at the heart of these campaigns, but the odds are solidly against them. For more than a year, the rumored Bond shortlist has been exclusively limited to white, British men like Tom Hiddleston, Jamie Bell, Aiden Turner, James Norton and others. While a non-white or female Bond would be an exciting change for many viewers, it’s safe to say that Eon will stick to a casting choice that will satisfy fans of the traditional Bond, for better or worse.
They certainly have large shoes to fill — or a tiny blue Speedo, depending on how you look at it. Craig’s Bond brought a new kind of physicality to the role, whether he was lounging at the beach or dispatching henchmen. When he punched someone, the viewers felt it. It wasn’t Craig’s strong jawline or piercing eyes that brought the Bond girls running. It was his sheer masculinity, the idea that he was the ultimate man.
If the next Bond is going to have a chance of stepping out of Craig’s brawny shadow, Eon needs to go in a different direction— while, of course, staying inside its safe Caucasian box. Their best shot at a successful reboot is to cast an actor that is Craig’s opposite in all the right ways, while still representing the classic Bond attributes that remain important to a global audience.
The new Bond should be charming where Craig was reserved and verbose where Craig was taciturn. He should be on the younger side, as opposed to Craig’s near 50 years, and classically handsome where Craig had a dangerously rugged appeal.
In short, he should be Dan Stevens.
The blond, blue-eyed Brit is having one hell of a moment right now between starring in FX’s “Legion” and waltzing his way to box-office records in “Beauty and the Beast.” In the five years after his tragic departure from “Downton Abbey,” Stevens has transformed from a posh, doughy aristocrat into a complex, fully fledged leading man.
This evolution, while aided by Stevens’ physical transformation, is largely thanks to his penchant for intense, challenging roles. He went from stuffy “Downton” dinners to a series of edgier characters, including a sinister drug dealer, a cross-dressing father and most notably, his critically acclaimed turn as a psychotic super-soldier in 2014’s “The Guest.” It’s this performance that sparked the first musings of Stevens as Bond, but he was soon overlooked in favor of better-known names.
Now, thanks to his hairy turn in “Beauty and the Beast” and an intense performance in “Legion” that is already generating Emmy buzz, it’s clear that Stevens has both the raw talent and the necessary pedigree to step into 007’s well-worn shoes. He’s still far from a household name, but that may act in his favor. If an actor like Hiddleston or Elba were to be chosen as Bond, viewers may have a hard time disassociating prior knowledge of the actor with the classic role. Stevens is at the perfect level of fame to take on Bond, and at his current rate of ascension, he may not sustain that delicate balance of anonymity for long.
Fans of Bond have demonstrated an astonishing ability to criticize the smallest changes made to their beloved super-spy, which is why the idea of casting Bond as anything other than a white man is, at this point, unrealistic. But Stevens’ Bond could have one quality, despite his classic good looks and British high-class pedigree, that would quite possibly revolutionize Bond for years to come.
James Bond, as any true fan knows, has never had a beard. (At least, not outside of the occasional lengthy imprisonment.)
How about it, Eon? Forget casting a gay, non-white or female Bond. No, let’s be truly progressive. The world is ready for a bearded Bond, and Dan Stevens is the man for the job.