The question of who will be the next James Bond has long been a favourite topic in pubs, front rooms and online forums. Ever since Sean Connery ducked out after You Only Live Twice (and, again, after Diamonds Are Forever), the British press have made it a tradition to run rampant with theories of who could be the next person to don the tuxedo.
After Daniel Craig’s final film, No Time To Die, provided a fitting swansong to one of Bond’s best eras, the question of what should 007 look like in 2023 – and beyond – has been even more hotly contested. Should Bond be a woman? Is it time for our first Black Bond? Is Idris Elba really too old to take on the mantle? Now, it seems, we may finally have an answer. After months of rumours, British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson has emerged as the front runner, with bookmakers putting his odds at 5/2, ahead of Snowfall actor Damson Idris, Henry Cavill, James Norton and Regé-Jean Page. (Cavill, of course, was neck and neck with Daniel Craig, back in 2006, but was ultimately deemed too young to take the role.) All in all, it’s a thrilling and diverse selection.
Taylor-Johnson is yet to speak about Bond, but is reported to have had a very successful meeting with Bond producer Barbara Broccoli. In an August 2023 cover profile published in US Esquire, he repeatedly ducked the question. ‘It’s worth noting that at any point Taylor-Johnson could have shut this down by saying, “No, mate, I’m not fucking playing James Bond,” and he never does,’ notes writer Alex Pappademas. A potential spy playing coy? Looks like he could well be the man for the role.
Emerging as a child actor in the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy (2009), Taylor-Johnson was once most famous for his marriage to that film’s director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, as well as for his role in the pre-Marvel superhero series Kick Ass. He’s since grown up and bulked up, taking on multiple franchise roles (now two and counting in the Marvel universe, including the forthcoming Kraven The Hunter). He’s also played a spy in ropey Bond spoof The King’s Man.
It’s fair to say Taylor-Johnson’s screen roles have been a mixed bag. Often he’s been the best part of a less-than-brilliant production. His best work happens when he’s in character-actor mode. In Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, he's a sinewy and creepy loner. In Outlaw King, he is a violent and vengeful Scottish lord. These are serious, adult films, and their tone may bleed well into a post-Craig Bond, depending on the direction producers wish to take it.
At 33, Taylor-Johnson is also the right age for Bond. Martin Campbell, who directed Pierce Brosnan’s first outing, Goldeneye, and Craig’s debut, Casino Royale, has stressed that any new actor will need to be young enough to portray the spy for potentially the next 15 years, and that filming may still be a year or two away. Campbell isn’t touted to helm the next instalment, but, as a veteran of two of the franchise's best films, his insight is invaluable among Bond fans.
As to who might be steering Bond 26, well, that’s very exciting. After rumours that Christopher Nolan was in talks to direct what turned out to be No Time To Die, the Oppenheimer director – who cast Taylor-Johnson in his film Tenet – has once again entered the chat, with the latest intel suggesting he’ll direct two Bond films, set in the original time period of Ian Fleming’s books. With the first book, Casino Royale, published in 1953 (nine years before Connery appeared in Dr. No), we could be looking at a very different Bond entirely.
At present, Taylor-Johnson looks like the perfect contender. He’s adept at action. His face is beautifully angular and he can match Craig’s physical presence. He’s known – but not too well known. And, in 2022 actioner Bullet Train, he held his own against Brad Pitt, proving he has star power to spare. As a gruff Cockney hitman named Tangerine, Taylor-Johnson was allowed to let his comedic chops fly with the punches, to great effect. It didn’t hurt that he wore the hell out of a great suit, either.
Want more 007? Here, we speculate on the other Bond candidates…
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