The Actors Who Could Be the Next James Bond

It's been two years since Daniel Craig hung up the tuxedo, but has a clear favorite yet emerged to become the next James Bond?

James Bond in Gun Barrel Sequence
Photo: MGM / Eon Productions

It’s been almost two years since (spoiler alert) Daniel Craig’s James Bond went to that big luxury casino up there in the sky. But go he did, with audiences bidding farewell to his version of the character at the end of No Time to Die, a film which culminates with Bond sacrificing his life in order to save a daughter he never knew and one of the few genuine loves of his life.

Nevertheless, the end credits for the film announced loudly and proudly that “James Bond Will Return.” And yet, despite this reassurance to longtime fans of the series, there has been surprisingly little movement on a new 007 reboot. The 60th anniversary—a diamond jubilee, as it were—marking the beginning of the 007 franchise with 1962’s Dr. No came and went, but a confirmed date for Bond’s return never materialized. We still do not even know who’ll be slipping into the tuxedo!

There have been rumors though, to be sure, and theories and online whispers too. However, nothing solid has been confirmed about the casting of the next person in the tux. Nonetheless, we know a little bit more about what producers and stewards of Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, are looking for in the next Bond: It will apparently be someone under 40 (ruling out a lot of popular fan castings like Henry Cavill or Idris Elba) and it will be a man. In other words, there are no Jamie Bonds or a gender-flip in the character’s immediate future.

Within those parameters though, we think we can still come up with a decent short list of possible candidates for the next 007 star…

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Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry in Bullet Train

Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Let us begin with the actor most chattered about in the rumor mill: Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson certainly fits the criteria as specified by Michael G. Wilson, who previously said the next Bond will be between his mid-20s and mid-30s when cast. Taylor-Johnson is in the sweet spot then, firmly situated betwixt “young gun” and “veteran” at the age of 33. He also has definitely met at least once with Barbara Broccoli. Beyond the chatter though, he’s proven to be a versatile thespian with eclectic tastes.

Probably first catching most genre fans’ attention by playing the titular nerdy superhero wannabe in Kick-Ass (2010), it should be noted in the same year he also convincingly embodied a young John Lennon in Nowhere Boy. This Brit has range, and he’s done some legitimately good creeper stuff in Nocturnal Animals while also playing a typically dry/humorous supporting role in a Nolan action flick, in this case as a commando in Tenet. So don’t hold bland roles in 2014’s Godzilla and Avengers: Age of Ultron against him. He can be funny, scary, and dashingly handsome with big blue eyes. And he’s definitely in the running. Although if next year’s Kraven the Hunter is a hit, it’s unclear if Eon would like their new Bond already having a popular action franchise up and running.

Henry Golding
Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

Henry Golding

Speaking of younger actors who the next generation might arch their collective eyebrow over, here enters Henry Golding into the conversation. At only 36 years of age, he still meets Eon’s age requirement. More importantly, he is an undeniably charismatic presence who could bring back some of that old school charm which took a backseat during the Daniel Craig era.

The breakout star of 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, the British-Malayan actor has already proven he can be a smoldering heartthrob. See also A Simple Favor and Last Christmas for more. But he’s also proven he knows how to lean into the nasty side of screen acting, and how to play someone who’s a bit of a shit. Look no further than his vile turn in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen for evidence of that. Walking that line between swagger and sadism is the stuff 007 dreams are made of, and we already know he looks good in a tux.

George MacKay
Credit: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

George MacKay

The breakout sensation of 1917 gained a lot of attention for his compelling performance as a young man desperate to deliver a message that would save the lives of thousands during the First World War. It’s a phenomenal performance and speaks to a talent George MacKay has already teased in films like Captain Fantastic. He also may have an “in” with the series’ producers given that 1917 was directed by Skyfall and Spectre’s helmer, Sam Mendes. So could the world be ready for its first ginger James Bond? We imagine so, albeit the headlines in the British tabloids will be grim.

Sam Claflin in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Sam Claflin

At age 37, we admit Claflin is a tad on the older side of Eon’s prerequisites, but they might be able to bend their rules if the screen test is good enough. Because this British actor is very, very good and has long been looking for a franchise to take advantage of his talents. He easily stole the movie from all the other young men in a love triangle with Katniss when he appeared in a supporting role in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), and he had the misfortune of starring in one of the later, post-Gore Verbinski Pirates of the Caribbean movies in 2011. But the fact he still is something of an unknown quantity to mainstream audiences would be advantage while casting 007.

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Because when you get out of Hollywood franchises, Claflin has proved to be a commanding screen presence, from relying mostly on his charisma and chiseled jaw to play the wheelchair-bound romantic lead in Me Before You (2016) to playing an absolutely terrifying sociopathic British officer in The Nightingale. If you want the next Bond to still have an icy edge, Claflin could do it, and he’s already looked good as a ‘60s revenant when he convincingly portrayed a young Terrence Stamp in Last Night in Soho.

Richard Madden in Bodyguard

Richard Madden

Here’s an interesting bit of potential casting. Richard Madden, the once fabled “Young Wolf” and King in the North on Game of Thrones, has long appeared poised to become the next big thing, with George R.R. Martin even allegedly suggesting he might be 007 one day. Madden also had a brief but memorable role in 1917 to boot…

Already age 37, Madden is the right age bracket, if only just. He also has the look and, at times, the charisma as perhaps best demonstrated by BBC/Netflix’s Bodyguard. As with Golding before him, he’s shown a range between the suave and dreamy in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella to the downright cold and manipulative in Rocketman, opposite Taron Egerton as Elton John. But while we can imagine his sometimes cold stare fitting a license to kill well, we suspect Eon might think otherwise after Madden already played a Bond-adjacent role on the pricy Amazon flop Citadel. Between that and a turn as a Marvel villain, he might just be deemed as having traveled too close to Bond’s shadow already.

Rege Jean Page sits in a chair as Simon in Bridgerton

Regé-Jean Page

Here was the early favorite, at least according to the odds makers in Las Vegas. The breakout star of Bridgerton who made millions of folks around the world swoon, one might wonder if Regé-Jean Page is the heir apparent for the role in much the same way that TV audiences expected Pierce Brosnan needed to be Bond after starring in Remington Steele. And on paper, it is enticing.

Based purely on Bridgerton and a more comedic turn in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Page’s persona can be as smooth as a finely poured martini, and his gaze as piercing as a stiletto. However, he’s still a bit on the younger side for a new 007. But to the producers that could be a plus since Page would certainly bring in a younger audience who were turned off by Craig’s Old Man Bond film in 2021, as well as perhaps older fans who might be curious toward Page’s casting.

Dev Patel in The Green Knight

Dev Patel

Dev Patel has said he does not want to be James Bond, telling IndieWire in 2021 he’d worry about it being “tokenistic” casting. And while that does seem like a pretty definitive no, we also remember that Daniel Craig once told Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson that they’ve got the wrong man, and he couldn’t possibly imagine himself as 007. And here we are 17 years later. To quote Sir Sean, never say never again.

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Dev Patel would make a fantastic James Bond. Already having played roles originally imagined another way by their authors, such as David Copperfield and Sir Gawain, Patel has proven himself to be one of the most charismatic and charming English actors in his generation. If you’ve seen his Oscar nominated turn in Lion, or what should net him a second nod in The Green Knight, you’d also know he’s a phenomenal actor who could bring as much weight or gravity to the role as Craig while also undoubtedly making it his own. For starters, he’s already proven to have a great knack for comic timing and could easily reintroduce the forgotten playfulness of the series into the mainstream while never losing sight of a psychological reality which has become expected in the last decade. Plus, we already know he can handle those shirtless scenes.

HBO Max New Releases February 2021 Judas and the Black Messiah

Daniel Kaluuya

This would be a novel bit of outside-the-box casting, not least of all because Daniel Kaluuya is a highly respected British actor with one Oscar already to his name. Normally, that could (and probably still would) make him a nonstarter for Eon… but in the IP-obsessed 2020s, we’ll point out that Kaluuya still has no leading franchise role to his name, and Eon has already signaled its formerly tight standards about not casting actors who are too well-known are shifting. Also, as with with Daniel Craig before him, the casting of Kaluuya would signal the next Bond would be bringing some serious acting credibility and gravitas to the role.

To most moviegoers, Kaluuya is best known for his Oscar-nominated work in Get Out, as well as his subsequent reunion with writer-director Jordan Peele in last year’s Nope. But beyond even winning an Oscar for playing Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, Kaluuya has done remarkable work as varied as a reptilian killer in Steve McQueen’s Widows and then being genuinely funny as an anti-conformity voice actor in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse where he played Spider-Punk! We’ve never really seen Kaluuya do suave before, but we have a hunch it’s in his arsenal.

Will Poulter in Dope Sick

Will Poulter

An admittedly unconventional choice, the nerdy kid from We’re the Millers could low-key become the next James Bond. Poulter certainly has the kind of blooming career that would catch Eon’s attention, having matured into a respected British actor who can easily shift from sometimes horrifying character work (see Kathyrn Bigelow’s Detroit and despair!) to comedic franchise-friendly goofiness (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3).

He also cleans up real good when he wants to. We’ll admit though that while the talent is there, like Sean Bean going up for 007 in the mid-‘90s, he might wind up being better suited for playing a Bond villain.

John Boyega in Steve McQueen's Small Axe

John Boyega

John Boyega seems understandably wary of most mainstream franchises these days—and James Bond is about as mainstream as one can get. After the experience of playing Finn in Disney’s Star Wars trilogy famously left the actor with mixed feelings, as well as a turn in the otherwise generic Pacific Rim: Uprising, Boyega has pivoted to smaller films that better interest him, including They Cloned Tyrone and last year’s magnificent The Woman King.

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So we are honestly not sure he’d be interested in taking on the role of 007, and frankly Eon would also have a lot more trouble breaking their rule about “no other franchises” with Boyega since this actor starred for five years in arguably the biggest franchise in cinema history. Nonetheless, Boyega has a natural affability that comes across onscreen. He also has style and that oh, so special light touch. Whether it’s as a street-wise entrepreneur defending his apartment building from an alien invasion in Attack the Block or as a royal African monarch with a wandering eye in The Woman King, Boyega is terrific at finding the humor in a role while still somehow underplaying it. He’d honestly be a great Bond, even if it seems unlikely to happen.

Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel)

Fabien Frankel

A bit of casting that would totally be dependent on how good his screen test might play, the British Fabien Frankel is an actor who has the look of a traditional James Bond. Classically handsome and athletic, as well as already versed with some degree of stunt work after playing Ser Criston Cole on House of the Dragon, Frankel could fill in the profile of 007 with ease. Whether he’d be able to handle all the nuances of the role is hard to determine from just his work on the Game of Thrones spinoff where he plays a sleaze. But if Eon wanted a true unknown for the role who could evoke some of that classic Bond iconography…