The rumors keep swirling that Tom Hardy will be the next person to take up the role of James Bond after No Time To Die hits theaters in 2021. And while in many ways he is perfect for the role (and there are many reasons to believe these rumors are not true), we can do so much better. It's time for this franchise– as it enters its sixth decade– to think about changing with the times and bringing something new. Or else James Bond will become as out of date as the Cold War itself.
In Praise of Tom Hardy
First, this is by no means a knock on Hardy and his skills. He is one of the best people working in Hollywood today. He can take even a film as mediocre as Venom and make it somehow nearly watchable. And Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road are already two of the best films of the last decade. But because of that, and specifically, his performance in Inception, handing him the Walther PPK and vodka martini gives us a sort of "been there, done that" vibe.
And then there's the fact that James Bond's biggest enemy isn't terrorists or Blofeld or the Soviets or SPECTRE—it's time. And time is something that is not on Tom Hardy's side. Assuming he cleared away his schedule, he doesn't do the proposed/rumored follow-up to Mad Max: Fury Road and the Bond people were ready to put out another film in 2023, and Tom Hardy would be 45, making him the oldest Bond in their freshman appearance. If he then does four movies at the pace they've been putting them out with Daniel Craig, he'll be pushing 60. Tom Hardy is a fantastic specimen, but is that what he, or we, really need in 2035? I get that "50 is the new 40, yadda yadda" and Daniel Craig has been able to do that, Tom Cruise is doing it, but it certainly hasn't historically been a good track record for James Bond actors in their 50s. Roger Moore reportedly wanted to quit the role after finding out he was the same age as his co-star's mother in A View to a Kill. Us too, Roger, us too.
Lashana Lynch's Role in No Time To Die is Key
[Minor spoilers/speculation ahead for No Time to Die—skip the next paragraph if this is something you don't want to know.]
According to clues we can pick up from trailers, and what we know about Bond's next outing, it appears that at the beginning of the film, James Bond has at least partially retired, and Lashana Lynch has taken up the codename of 007 or is at least a fellow 00 agent. If this is the case, this should serve to break the Bond universe wide open. It means anyone, and we do mean anyone, can take Bond's place. And that's what we should expect from the franchise. And that means we should no longer be thinking only of white male Brits to take on this iconic role. What if, at some point in the film, we go to some sort of Wall of Remembrance and we see photos on it of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, all with their code names "James Bond" adorning their photos? And next to them all–Lashana Lynch? This clears the deck for the next Bond to be anyone.
The Multiple James Bonds Theory
It has long been theorized by some fans that "James Bond" is itself a codename and longstanding uber-cover for one of its top spies. This explains how James Bond can both be facing off against Dr. No and Goldfinger in the early 1960s and still be around to face off against Raoul Silva in 2012. James Bond is not the Winter Soldier, just getting unfrozen for missions every once in a while. He is not The Doctor, regenerating through 13 lifetimes.
Even the most ardent, die-hard fan has to accept that Goldeneye and Casino Royale were both at least soft reboots of the franchise. Craig's initial outing leaning more towards the harder reboot and franchise re-imagining that tries to retcon/shoehorn twenty other films of continuity and all the other Bonds into the opening credits of Skyfall. Nice try, but it's simply too much. It's time, instead, to be willing to accept a softer, more permissible canon where Bond has been many people. He's not just one man, especially if we're going to continue to accept that this scion of Cold War intelligence still has a place in the 21st century.
This would, ironically, dovetail with a non-canonical Bond film which remains problematic for many reasons, not just its canonicity—1967's Casino Royale starring Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, and David Niven. In it, seven different people assume the identity of Bond in order to stop Le Chifre (Orson Welles) in a baccarat game in the eponymous casino. Ursula Andress famously said that anyone could be Bond in that film, including her. Maybe it's time to make that a reality.
Anyone Can Be Bond- But Here's Some Top Suggestions
Let's give a chance to a more diverse group of actors. With Lashana Lynch leading the way, let's start with women of color and give them some consideration. Idris Elba's name comes up every time people want to fancast Bond (though his age, like Tom Hardy's, might be a consideration), and he would undoubtedly be amazing, but Chiwetel Ejiofor is worth considering as well. On the younger side, Henry Golding is worth looking at, as is Gina Rodriguez (I'd add Ana de Armas, but she's already in No Time to Die as a femme fatale), and while those would be unconventional choices, it would be an interesting commentary on what exactly spycraft is about in this brave new world.
Because let's face it, we've had six decades of this specific rumination on what the "gentleman spy" is, and the discussion has largely ended in a place with lots of overlap with toxic masculinity. The Bond films, starting in the '90s, started becoming more very self-aware about exactly the well-earned reputation of the franchise and the character. Judi Dench's M called Bond a "misogynistic dinosaur" in Goldeneye—and that was in 1995, folks. The subtext of every one of Daniel Craig's movies is trying to answer the question from the point of view of the British government if he's still relevant in the 21st century—and that ever since that first mission, he's been too old for all this shit. No knock against Casino Royale and Skyfall as the two best Bond films or Craig as arguably the best Bond. My vote, for the record, is still for Lazenby, who never made a bad Bond movie and therefore has the best batting average of anyone. We can and should do better by this character because there's so much more to spy work than seducing women, car chases, and vodka martinis, at least in the 2020s.
A Modest Proposal for Casting the Next Five Bond Films – Yes, Tom Hardy?
Now, all that being said, I actually support seeing Tom Hardy as Bond. The absolute best announcement the franchise could make is that their next five (yes 5!) films will come out once every few years, and they will explore an expanded Bond cinematic universe. First, give Lashana Lynch a spinoff as a new 00 agent (assuming she doesn't die, as the women around Bond very often tend to). Announce you're doing a standalone Tom Hardy movie, and it's going to be directed by Christopher Nolan, who promises not to just remake On Her Majesty's Secret Service. And you're doing a movie with Idris Elba. Then open up the final two films to a diverse array of actors so people can get the spy movies they deserve. Cast a relative unknown or up and coming actor, as most of the people who played Bond have been. Make some of them period pieces. Go back to the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Really play with the formula.
Worried, it can't work? Go watch Atomic Blonde and tell me you can't have a kickass standalone spy movie with a female lead. But if you say Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is just another 00 agent codenamed "Jane" Bond and you would have the best movie of the franchise– and it's not even close. Sorry, Skyfall.
Tom Hardy as Bond? Make it happen. But knowing the clock is ticking on his ability to make these movies, we can do better, especially if we want there to still be James Bond movies in the 2030s. This Bond fan would love to be able to add five more people to the argument of "Who's the best James Bond?" Cast Hardy for five movies, and you're potentially saddling him with a franchise with nowhere to go but down, and certainly no new territory to explore.