And the next Bond is..?

This light-hearted post is my way of shaking off the dreadful Covid malaise that has settled over so many of us for the last 18 months. So I’m not talking about mental health, illness, depression, heavy life stuff, art or writing, I’m talking about something entirely daft and wonderfully trivial…who will be the next James Bond?

Barbara Broccoli take note!

Daniel Craig – for many, the definitive Bond.

While I’m a fan of the Bond franchise I don’t count myself as a hardened aficionado, but I am a massive movie geek & cinephile though, so the question of who and how the UK’s most successful movie franchise will continue, does interest me. I’ll discuss the actors touted over the internet and papers as current frontrunners first, about 24 of them by all accounts, then pitch my own out of left field contender & why I think he would be the best choice to take on the new Bond going forward.

Lashana Lynch

Firstly, excluding the idea of a female Bond, for which I think Lashana Lynch is awesome and has more than proved herself a brilliant 00 agent, by all means let’s have a female ass-kicking secret agent, but not a ‘Jane Bond’, but something new instead. As for James Bond, there are several of the male contenders that can be eliminated to narrow the field based on either age/height/acting ability – a short James Bond would be ridiculous! Although to date, Daniel Craig (53yrs) is the shortest James Bond there has been at only 5ft 10″ (most have been 6ft 2″ or slightly under), having a Bond shorter than Craig just wouldn’t work. Even ignoring the ‘tall, dark & handsome’ labels often attributed to Bond by its creator Ian Fleming and subsequent Bond incarnations, at the least Bond is supposed to be physically imposing, someone who can dominate or at least intimidate an opponent either by height/stature or physical size.

There are several frontrunners for the plum role to replace Daniel Craig, these are among the most popular names doing the rounds:

  1. Mad Max’sTom Hardy (44yrs 5ft 9″) – The odds on favourite. Great actor with undoubted versatility & appeal but too physically similar to Craig’s brusque complex Bond and just too short, also, the Venom actor would be one of the oldest Bonds when he starts with only Roger Moore being older.
  2. Luther’sIdris Elba (49yrs 6ft 2″) – Used to be my first choice, wonderful actor who can easily do sexy, suave, dangerous and edgy but now sadly he is just too old.
  3. Superman’sHenry Cavill (38yrs 6ft) – The obvious safe and perhaps boring choice, but rather wooden acting at times and comes with Superman baggage and reported personality problems – bit of a dick. Not keen on yet another private school/posh boy either.
  4. Bridgerton’sRege-Jean Page (31yrs 5ft 11″) – Would make the first Bond of colour which would be great and can certainly do sexy & suave but is he edgy, dark or imposing enough?
  5. Rich Young Asian’sHenry Golding (34yrs 6ft 1″) – Would make the first Bond of non-white Asian descent but too nice a guy? Not dark or edgy enough?
  6. Outlander’sSam Heughan (41yrs 6ft 2″) – Another safe choice, has a good fanbase though not widely known by public and unproven in sole lead role. Perhaps too safe/boring, he is older too and is he edgy enough with enough acting range?
  7. GoT’sRichard Madden (35yrs 5ft 9″) – Too short and still unproven as sole lead.
  8. Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya (32yrs 5ft 7/8″) – Great actor and very charismatic but sadly far too short and not physically imposing enough. If he were a beefed up 6ft he’d be one of top choices.
  9. Spiderman’sTom Holland (25yrs 5ft 6/7″) – Great actor but way too young and far too short/small in stature. Fantastic Spiderman, but Bond, no.
  10. Loki’sTom Hiddleston (40yrs 6ft 1″) – Would be a safe and popular choice. Good actor but is VERY known for Loki and therefore could be too typecast, also, brings humour but is he physically tough & edgy enough?
  11. McMafia’sJames Norton (36yrs 6ft) – Would be the safe choice and nice to have a diabetic actor in the lead role. Has proved he can do dark and brooding in Happy Valley so a possibility? But yet another advantaged private school/posh boy background is not a bonus.
  12. Star War’sJohn Boyega (29yrs 5ft 9″) – Good actor but just too short and some Star Wars baggage.
  13. Peaky Blinder’sCillian Murphy (45yrs 5ft 6/7″) – Good actor but far too short and too old to play a younger Bond.
  14. 50 Shade’sJamie Dornan (39yrs 5ft 9/10″) – Just a bit too short & damaged by 50 shades baggage.
  15. Dracula’sLuke Evans (42yrs 5ft 11″) – If rebooting Bond for a newer younger version, then too old? Also, his wannabe crooner status is a bit of a put off.
  16. David Copperfield’sDev Patel (31yrs 6ft 1″) – Great actor and versatile, would be the first Bond of colour which is great, but could the Green Knight actor be sexy and edgy enough?
  17. 1917’sGeorge MacKay (29yrs 6ft) – Young actor with versatility, could be a young Bond? But is the Captain Fantastic actor too young though and not edgy or sexy enough?
  18. X-Men’sNicholas Hoult (31yrs 6ft 2/3″) – Great and versatile actor, may be a possibility? Is the A Single Man actor too ‘pretty boy’ in looks though and not gruff or edgy enough?
  19. Kiss Ass’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson (31yrs 5ft 11″) – Good actor, though seen perhaps as a ‘pretty boy’ face rather than serious actor? Can do dark, sexy & edgy though as seen in Nocturnal Animals. Possibly a strong contender?
  20. Downton Abbey’sDan Stevens (38yrs 5ft 11″/6ft) – Too ‘sweet & safe’ choice wise and rather uninspiring/boring. Loyal fanbase but not dark, edgy or physically striking/imposing enough.
  21. GoT’sTom Hopper (36yrs 6ft 4″) – Not a well known actor and ironically, his VERY tall stature may be too tall, meaning the likelihood of him being able to ‘blend in’ in a spy context is doubtful, he’d stick out like a 6ft 4″ thumb! Not proven yet acting wise either or as sole lead.
  22. Rocketman’sJamie Bell (35yrs 5ft 7″) – Great and versatile actor who can pretty much play anything, but far too short/small in stature and lacks sex appeal. I’m afraid this is one role he couldn’t pull off.
  23. Viking’sClive Standen (40yrs 6ft 1″) – Not well known actor, so no massive fan base, would be an unusual choice. Is he versatile enough and too old for young Bond?
  24. Dunkirk’sHarry Styles (27yrs 5ft 11″/6ft) – Too young and not physically imposing enough to pull off Bond & FAR too distracting due to pop icon baggage. A total non starter.

So, those are narrowed down to 11 now…still a long list. If you discount anyone 40 or over, to reinvigorate Bond as a new younger Bond (which I think is definitely needed after Daniel Craig’s retiring Bond – re: my pitch idea later), then the list is narrowed further to just 8 possible contenders. Despite the fact that Ian Fleming’s Bond is supposed to be in his mid-late thirties around 37yrs, certainly in Moonraker, given that you would want any new Bond to have as many years as possible playing the role, then you could start looking at dismissing the older of the contenders too (meaning Henry Cavill at 38yrs and with his ‘maturity’ may not have much of a Bond run in him and would certainly struggle to play a Bond much younger than his actual age.) Do I seem fixated on age? There’s a reason for that…

How to overcome the colossal influence of Daniel Craig’s James Bond?

Daniel Craig has undoubtedly made a huge and lasting impression as Bond, for many he is now their favourite all-time Bond, with his mix of rough n’ ready physicality, that brusque side with a slight hint of tenderness beneath. So, how on earth do you follow such a powerful and definitive interpretation? Do you just offer up more of the same? The ONLY thing you can do, is to take Bond in an entirely new and fresh direction. Just continuing in the same vein but with another similar actor like Tom Hardy, just won’t work as brilliant an actor as Tom Hardy is, it would just be too familiar. Daniel Craig mark 2.0.

Here’s my pitch idea…!

The fact that Craig was playing an older Bond getting ready for retirement, means that the only way to really refresh and reboot the series is to take Bond in the opposite direction. Go from an aging older Bond on the point of retiring to a young Bond, in fact, Bond BEFORE he became Bond!

Restart the new series with a new Bond by having a younger actor play a youthful James Bond as a naval officer first, which, after some terrible event where he not only manages to survive against the odds but proves his bravery, cunning and skills, leads to MI6 approaching him and them recruiting him as a new agent! So the film charts how Bond became Bond, from how he was recruited to his training and first missions to what made him a 00 agent, with the film ending with him getting his 00 status and being directed to his first mission as 007. The series would then be up and running for years to come!

Not only would this approach give us something entirely new and fresh, we have NEVER seen a young Bond before he became Bond, what put him on the path, what drove him, what his training was like, what he had to give up, his mistakes etc., but it would give the new reboot a fresh start and one with plenty of mileage!

Francois Arnaud

Now, my other pitch idea – casting…and here’s my out of left field suggestion. The name is Arnaud…Francois Arnaud.

Yes, this is NOT a British actor (remember Pierce Brosnan is Irish, George Lazenby is Australian), BUT, this French Canadian actor can bring something truly unique to the part. Here are just 10 reasons why:

Francois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia, a guy not to mess with.
Francois in black Bond tux n’ tie
  1. Brit AccentFrancois Arnaud can do a perfect British accent as seen in his work on The Borgias.
  2. Languages – He is fluent in English, French & Spanish – in today’s multilingual society especially in the world of espionage, spy’s & secret agents, James Bond would HAVE to be able to speak in multiple languages, especially when he was undercover and assuming another identity. How great to have a tri-lingual actor that could do this naturally as well as doing British AND American accents flawlessly, allowing him to change multiple identities effortlessly. James Bond with some subtitles, hell yes!
  3. HeightFrancois Arnaud is 6ft 2″ tall, therefore he has the height, physicality, body and stature needed for the part, and is loved by ladies and men alike!
  4. Looks – He also has the looks (‘tall, dark and handsome’) to pull off a convincing James Bond, from his handsome face and great body to his deep voice and ridiculously thick hair. No (Sean Connery) toupee needed here!
  5. ActingArnaud has great range and acting chops and is one of the most versatile actors working in TV & film today, working in both French speaking and English speaking roles. After winning the Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film Award (VCFF) early in his career in the critically acclaimed I Killed My Mother, he went on to famously play the dark and dangerous Cesare Borgia in The Borgias, displaying an ability to portray brooding, sexy, Machiavellian and violently ruthless characters to the point where he was outshining established star Jeremy Irons. He can play shady, duplicitous characters in TV’s The Blindspot, romantic leads in films like Permission & She’s in Portland, humour and more sex appeal in US TV’s The Moody’s or angst ridden unhinged characters in French film Rabid Dogs and most recently he can be seen as a disturbed ex-military soldier unable to adjust to civilian life in French Canadian film La Switch.
  6. Solo lead/track record – Arnaud is never out of work! Unlike some of the other contenders on the list who have yet to carry a film or project single-handed, Francois Arnaud has already played the lead in both mainstream TV & independent film projects, from Midnight, Texas to French Canadian film Origami and upcoming Norbourg as well as joint lead with Lili Taylor in upcoming US indie film The Winter House. He has never given a duff/bad performance even if he is the only glue holding a project together.
  7. Age – He is 36yrs old but looks younger so could easily play a young Bond recruit in his early-mid-late twenties onwards, giving him possibly the longest run as a new Bond.
  8. FanbaseFrancois Arnaud being a French Canadian actor working in both French speaking & English speaking films he has the benefit of having a solid and very loyal fanbase, including those that love his work in independent films and network television shows like Heat Wave (Les Grandes Chaleurs) and Midnight, Texas. So although he is not a household name in the UK, apart from The Borgias, with the baggage and typecast problems others may have, neither is he an unknown and unproven actor with no following or fanbase.
  9. Hidden talents – Apart from speaking three languages fluently and a bit of Hungarian too, the guy can also play the piano and sing…yes, multi-talented. Could we have a scene with Bond tinkling the ivories?
  10. Something different – It would also be great, and a great forward movement for the franchise, to have an international actor in the role and one who happens to be bisexual too, although this doesn’t have to play any part in the role of Bond, it would show a more inclusive open policy on behalf of the movie makers and a major move away from being seen as old-fashioned and out-of-step.

There, there’s my pitch! I can see Francois Arnaud starting off as a young naval officer who’s unit comes under attack in South America or the Philippines (so he could use his Spanish to get out of his situation) or French speaking Africa etc., where he is able to survive a terrible assault, stop the bad guys, save people etc,. which makes MI6 take notice of him and decide to recruit him as a fresh new agent in training…hence the title of the new film ’00….’, as it charts the story of how James Bond became 007.

Barbara Broccoli, you can send me my cheque in the post! ūüėČ ‚̧ ūüėÄ

The joy of writing and building worlds…

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The joy of writing is the act of creation.

A whole fantasy world made manifest – turning blank pages into battles of character, plot and the subtleties of prose.

But for me, the joy of writing is not merely the act of creating a story which engages and enthralls its readers but in creating a world I can immerse myself in. World building is a skill and one of the many challenges that fantasy and sci-fi writers face when weaving their tales. When done correctly, it compliments the story giving depth and gravitas to ground the fantasy. When done poorly, it smothers the story Рturning it into an incidental neighbour you forgot to invite to the party, or worst still, jars with the story due to its utter lack of realism.file3121313815879[1]

The temptation for all writers who world build, is simply that it becomes¬†SO enjoyable to construct your worlds, that you can get easily seduced by your own cleverness – by the intricacies of cultures, the development of language, the botany and animal life, geology, geography and rich histories of your creations. Now that’s fine, if you intend being the only reader of your novel. But, if you’re looking for¬†a readership of more than one, you have to curtail your inner nerd…just a little!

I speak from experience here. Being a teacher of phonetics among other things, I love linguistics and the construction of language. As a result, between my love of phonics and etymology, I have constructed a working language for my characters – ancient Dworllish¬†complete with a basic 24 character Dworllian alphabet based on Maori, Old English, Old Norse and African Bantu dialects! Yes…I did mention nerd, didn’t I?

So, did I include this language and all its nuisances in my book? No. Elements, occasional references and words, but that’s all. I want my novel to have as wide an appeal as possible and readers, even language loving nerds like me, simply don’t need all that information and certainly the story doesn’t.file0001006582285[1]

Okay, so you’ve curtailed your inner¬†geek and taken out those character genealogies¬†you were working on, but what makes a world work? If your novel is a fantasy, whether it be urban, steam punk, classic, high, crossover, contemporary¬†or gothic, do you need to make your world real? HELL YES! No matter how fantastical your creations are, if they are not grounded in realism it makes it damn hard for the reader to connect or care about them.

Think of basic scientific laws, gravity, light speed, evolution etc, of course to bring the magic in, you’ll need to break or subvert these laws but you’ll need to bring realism in somewhere else. This for me, is my next joy…research, research, research!file000816536459[1]

SO much fun it should be illegal! If you’re writing about histories, cultures, mountains, desserts,¬†jungles – research. Let me say that again…RESEARCH! (my nerdy self¬†revels in this)

Even if you only use a fraction of your research in your novel, it will give an integrity and depth of realism to your world that you won’t be able to replicate without. But again, don’t overload it, use sparingly.

For White Mountain and the world behind The Darkling Chronicles, my research runs into three or four large box files and a plethora of books. Ancient history Рparticularly Sumeria, the Hittites and the Indus Valley civilisation. Indigenous people Рlike the Chukchi, Nenets, Khanty and Evenki of Russia and the Siberian tundra. The geography and geology of the real locations my characters travel to. Botany and wildlife etc etc. Make it REAL!

Kallorm ‘City of Light’, my subterranean metropolis beneath the Congolese jungles, in central Africa, feels real because¬†so many things¬†around it¬†ARE¬†real, from the colour of the earth in that region to the sapele¬†and iroko¬†trees that grow there.¬†For my Fendellin ‘Kingdom of Dragons’, a lost realm amongst the Himalayas, I based on Tibetan¬†Buddhist myths and Indian folklore about Shambhala – the same legend that inspired James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon¬†and his Shangri-La.

Oh…and any places you travel to, use them for inspiration too. The landscapes of Dartmoor and New Zealand have been particularly rich for me.

So, you’ve done your research, built your world, made it real but not overpowered or forgotten your story (remember – story and characters take gold & silver, setting –¬†bronze), then you are on your way!

Ah…the joy of writing and building worlds… ūüėÄ

For some useful advice on the subject, check out Fantasy Faction and their post ‘Why World Build?’ http://fantasy-faction.com/2012/why-would-build/

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