Who will play James Bond next?
The question sits atop the pile of Hollywood conundrums, right next to the future cast of Marvel’s “The Fantastic Four.”
Daniel Craig retired the tuxedo last year with the imperfect yet soulful and fulfilling finale, “No Time to Die,” a movie that crammed in all the greatest hits cinema gadgets from Craig’s tenure as the British spy. The sexy cars, big fights, exotic locales, and a bad guy who was a mirror image of Bond’s past. Where do you go after that?
First, I don’t think a female should inhabit the role, with reasoning said by Craig himself last year during his final press tour. That would be a disservice to female actresses, having to inhabit a role clearly designed for a male. If that’s the route, write a fresh and original story for Lashana Lynch, who blazed a trail in “No Time to Die.” Or write an all new tale for another actress.
Second, pick someone who isn’t a BIG name. I mean, box office clout and decades of headlining experience. Sorry, but this excludes Tom Hardy and Idris Elba. They are too well-known, and have engineered their careers in big films as both the protagonist and antagonist. It would be too familiar, like seeing a version of past Hardy/Elba films.
Richard Madden is an option, but I simply don’t think he’s a truly viable option. The “Game of Thrones” actor was regrettably mixed up in Marvel’s “Eternals” and starred in a television series adaptation of “The Bodyguard,” but there’s a magnetic quality missing from his repertoire.
Which gets me to my third and final point about this: think outside the box, but not outside the building of possibility. Enter Daniel Kaluuya. The actor won an Oscar for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and shined in Jordan Peele’s unusual yet successful sci-fi tale this summer with “Nope.”
Kaluuya is the type of actor who makes a dent in every single role. He has the necessary Bond palette: A combination of charisma, danger, wit, and dual-sided mentality. He can slip into the hero and the anti-hero quite nimbly, and not make it seem loud or out of place. Think of his best role yet, playing a deadly criminal in Steve McQueen’s “Widows,” a movie dominated by women and supported by popular male stars. But while seeing Liam Neeson and Jon Bernthal in entertaining yet minor roles, it was Kaluuya’s hired gun who stuck with you.
Turn that loose in the Bond warehouse. Kaluuya is just known enough to slay in this role, owning an Oscar and several noticeable roles in big movies. He elevated a supporting role in “Black Panther,” and broke through in Peele’s own breakout feature, “Get Out.” He takes chances yet doesn’t mind playing in the commercial pool.
Maybe redesign the entire Bond world, and hire Elba as his M. Or have Elba play the heel. The sky should be the limit, especially with a clean slate and a potpourri of possibilities. Following Craig’s smooth yet physically blunt instrument, seeing a different kind of threat in Kaluuya’s agent could be a real thrill.
Allow him to build off his name, and find a life line in promoting your film with someone who is well-known yet not completely established in one genre.
Until next time.