Now that Pierce Brosnan has bolted from the James Bond franchise one flick sooner than expected, filmdom’s most famous name is without a face. Of course, the most bankable Bond nearly bailed once before, only to return for the last 007 flick, “Die Another Day” — which became the franchise’s biggest moneymaker. So he may yet live twice.
Or he may never say never again. Word is that EON, the production company behind Bond, wants to compete for the youthful “Spider-Man” demographic as well as push Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne off its turf, which means shying away from the traditional image of Bond as a suave older man to one of, for lack of a better term, spy candy.
So what’s the requirement for updating yet still embodying Ian Fleming's sophisticated secret agent? For starters, he’s got to wear a tux well, no matter how badly EON wants to dumb him down and tart him up. He’s got to be convincingly wired — just ask Q, technology has moved beyond the old hidden-ejection-seat-in-the-Aston-Martin trick. And finally, indubitably, he’s got to be able to charm the pants off the ladies, literally.
Naturally, there’s a stable of young (and some not-so-young) actors who’ve been clamoring to replace Brosnan. Here’s a look at those mentioned, and their readiness for the job.
Last Seen: “Troy”Spy Game: A fine, classically trained actor, the boyish Bloom was so wonderfully cast as the ethereal Legolas in “The Lord of the Rings” and the dashing but naïve Will Turner in “Pirates of the Caribbean” — but manly man James Bond? Maybe if Bond was younger. And a virgin. And attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.Verdict: Dr. No
Last Seen: “Love Actually”Spy Game: Excelling at light comedy, Grant’s style is reminiscent of Roger Moore’s lighthearted take on the deadly world of international espionage. The problem with Grant is that his foppish persona precedes and defines him, and Bond is too much of an icon to allow him to be eclipsed by the actor who plays him. He may be comfortable at a diplomat’s sophisticated soiree, but can you imagine this guy in a fight?Verdict: Octopussy
Last Seen: “Timeline”Spy Game: Butler’s a versatile Scottish actor who’s no stranger to bravery: During a break in the filming of “Mrs. Brown,” Butler’s debut movie, he responded to a cry for help and jumped into a Scottish river to save a boy from drowning. He may have hurt his chances by supposedly proclaiming himself to be the next Bond way back in 2001, the last time Brosnan threatened to quit.Verdict: You Don’t Live Twice
Last Seen: “King Arthur”Spy Game: Best known as basic cable’s swashbuckling “Horatio Hornblower,” Gruffudd’s got the good looks to go along with the derring-do but, like Orlando Bloom, needs to see the world a bit more before he can settle in as the wizened Bond.Verdict: Try Another Day
Last Seen: “Love Actually”Spy Game: One of England’s most well-respected actors, Firth hasn’t gotten his props in the States. Classy, subtle and intelligent, he certainly appears as if he could kill a man without spilling his martini and soiling his tux. But his restrained, thoughtful approach probably won’t jibe with the direction that the series seems to be headed.Verdict: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Last Seen: “Troy” Spy Game: Bana has previously denied rumors he was under consideration but he’s emerged as a serious dark-horse candidate, at least among internet cinephiles. Like fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman, Bana was an unknown tapped to play a beloved superhero in “The Incredible Hulk” and though the movie was a huge disappointment, he came away relatively unscathed. A former comedian and bartender, he’s a fresh face with a physical, nimble presence, though he’s been labeled as a difficult, er, demanding actor. Verdict: License to Kill