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

Great days are made of Hay!

Firstly, apologies for the length of this blog post…but I had so much to share…!

On Sunday 24th May I had the great fortune to visit my beloved Hay-on-Wye again, nestled deep in the Welsh and Herefordshire countryside (it straddles the border between England & Wales), for their world-famous literary festival, The Hay Festival.

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It was a truly wonderful and exhausting day, tinged with great delights and just a little bittersweet sorrow. For it was almost exactly three years ago that I last visited the Hay Festival, as I did on Sunday, with my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Will Macmillan Jones, and it was on this occasion, three years ago, that we saw the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett on what turned out to be his very last appearance at Hay and one if not the, last public appearance before his untimely and sad passing earlier this year. I remember the event well, Will being a truly gifted comic fantasy writer akin in many ways to Terry Pratchett, his hero, was particularly excited to see the great man as was I. Sir Terry was witty, erudite, bracingly honest and, quite understandably given the nature of his condition and imminent demise, more than a little wistful and reflective. We noted that trademark and cutting sense of humour which was so prevalent in his work, but was now tinged with a grimness, a reality of the brevity of life perhaps. And so, coming back to Hay for the first time since that auspicious visit, brought the enormity of losing such a literary giant into clear focus. He was a man of many talents and his legacy will outlive us all.

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For this year’s visit, despite the sad memories of three years ago, I was very excited to see one of my favourite writers, Kazuo Ishiguro. I had read ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’, some time ago, and yes, saw the ubiquitous movies, and loved them. I was not to be disappointed. Kazuo Ishiguro proved to not only be an extraordinarily talented writer, but a genuinely lovely human being. Honest, warm, and completely open, he seemed amazed and genuinely humbled by his own success and quite baffled about how he has arrived where he has. Not a hint of complacency or arrogance.

SAM_7052He spoke in the main Tata Tent on stage to TV & radio presenter, Martha Kearney, a woman I knew well from various arts programmes and the whole conversation was televised. I was pleased to be sitting at the back behind the whirling TV cameras, and despite being so far away from the stage, we had a great view!

SAM_7054Kazuo Ishiguro spoke about his newest book, ‘The Buried Giant’, and the elements which permeate his work, the quietness, stillness with emotions bubbling under the surface, which is the trademark of his writing. He spoke about things unsaid, how we all have such buried giants in our lives, and whether we should speak about such experiences openly, good and bad, or self-censor ourselves, a kind of collective amnesia to allow us to continue in our daily lives rather than be caught up in the pains of the past. Should we remember everything regardless of the consequences? It’s a powerful notion. After all, although ‘The Buried Giant’ is not an overtly allegorical tale, none the less, the author spoke about conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Yugoslavian War, where neighbours had lived in relative peace despite their religious or cultural differences for years until suddenly a catalyst, a memory, an event had sparked hostility long harboured but buried, and the outcome of that Buried Giant was the slaughter of thousands and the disintegration of the country.

SAM_7056Is it good to remember or better to forget?

Interesting notions to be sure. I found myself conflicted over it. Certainly I have witnessed and been a part of a very traumatic past, full of personal tragedies and barbarity, things that scar, things that are best forgotten in order to try to move on and form some semblance of a future, of a future happiness. Churning up such painful memories for me, are not entirely helpful. I lived those events that made me who I am, I survived them and talked about them infinitum afterwards, but at some point a form of amnesia is helpful, a means of wiping the slate clean and starting again. In my case, new home, new location, new name. But certainly I found it a mesmeric and remarkably personal talk.

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Another of Kazuo’s wonderful observations and one which most of¬†my fellow fantasy writers will wearily nod their heads in agreement at, was the acute prejudice Kazuo Ishiguro faced when he told people that his next novel was going to be a fantasy book! He injected the conversation with humour, saying how unprepared he had been for the sheer level of prejudice he found against ogres. He talked about the inherent dangers in people being pigeon-holed into only writing in a certain genre, and how freeing it was and necessary to cross those invisible genre boundaries. Quite rightly, he talked about how people took the ‘rules’ of their chosen genre far too seriously and that he didn’t want to adhere to any restrictive and creative constrictive rules. Good for him! Yes, I see myself as primarily a fantasy writer, but I also write sci-fi, literary, children’s and poetry, and I hate some of the rigid made up ‘rules’ which others always want to adhere to those of us who write in those genres. I love the freedom of Ishiguro, that he defies such constrictions and instead writes about themes which inspire him, whether it falls into the category of literary, historical or sci-fi fiction. These genre boundaries are primarily there for marketing purposes by publishers after all.

SAM_7048It was refreshing and enlightening to hear. But yes, myself and Will certainly pricked our ears up when Kazuo described the snobbery and prejudice against the fantasy genre, as of course, most fantasy writers have experienced this, how somehow the fantasy genre is frowned upon as being a lesser form of writing than crime, sci-fi, historical etc., that somehow it is only the domain of the childish and illiterate.

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SAM_7002After the event, Will and I raced to the festival bookshop to meet Kazuo in person. While he was graciously signing my books, I asked him the question again and he elaborated, that yes, he had been hugely taken aback by the level of prejudice in the book industry against the fantasy genre and fantasy writers, that so many people had been surprised by his wanting to write in that genre! In fact, Kazuo went on to say that he was actually writing a newspaper article about it along with a prominent fantasy writer! SO great to have a light shone on this subject at last. SAM_7075

Great writing is great writing, regardless of genre!

Lol, anyway, I digress. It was fantastic meeting Kazuo and being able to chat to him for a little while, a real gentleman and such a genuinely lovely person. I marvel at his talent, and certainly hope to achieve even a little of his quality and success in my own writing.

Another funny moment, was Ishiguro talking about how he had always thought that writers peaked at 45 (so I only have a few years left!), and that all their greatest work, their seminal pieces had been written before this time…he then went on to say, that as he had now passed 60 yrs, he was rethinking this! ūüėÄ

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After our fabulous Kazuo Ishiguro event, we continued to wander around the Hay Festival. So many events going on, the whole place was buzzing. Musicians on tom-tom drums, SAM_7023Romany caravans, fluttering flags that gave the whole place a Tibetan feel, bohemian artists around every corner and to suit every taste, from street art to posh galleries, children events to the most intellectual fair. A heady mix of art & culture under canopies of white. The sky threatened rain, but the rains held off and in dazzling moments of perfect sunshine, I defy anyone not to think they had risen to Elysium!

SAM_7007Just before we left, to take the shuttle bus into the town itself and ensconce ourselves in their beautiful bookshops, I took a photo which for me perfectly encapsulated the Hay Festival experience Рa woman fast asleep in a deck chair in the blustery sunshine, surrounded by bibliophiles of every age, total heady exhaustion!

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We headed into Hay-on-Wye. The first sight was a little dismaying though, for amongst the plethora of bookshops which over the years I have visited so many times, there were noticeable gaps. Yes, even in a book heaven and haven like Hay, at least two bookshops had closed, replaced by clothes and odds & ends¬†shops. We’ve all heard the disturbing news of bookshops closing around the country, but to have at least two (I suspect three) independent and antiquarian bookshops close in Hay-on-Wye of all places, filled me with dread. I ask all of my friends out there, by all means by your kindle editions from Amazon, but please, PLEASE support your local independent bookshop! If you don’t support your local bookshop, frankly, it may not be there for many more years and what a poorer world we would have as a result!

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We wandered in and out of the bookshops, the posh expensive one, the cheap as chips one, the Hay castle one (on a wonderful honesty basis), and my favourite, The Hay-on-Wye Booksellers! Yes, I totally blew my book budget and bought loads! I couldn’t help it. Although my feet were aching with a dull persistence, the nooks and crannies of this shop held me in sway, around every corner was a little gem, a little undiscovered beauty…ah! I wish you could see and smell the pages, the leather bindings, gold leaved embossing, the parchments, the buckram coverings, the slightly imperfect spines, the whole experience….sheer book bliss!

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What a thoroughly lovely day….I must mention that we popped into Shepherds, the most gorgeous ice-cream parlour, something straight out of a Neapolitan street, all¬†rounded art deco glass front, high lacquered countertops and mosaic tiled floors, with the¬†scent of espresso in the air! It was, without doubt, the best ice-cream I have ever tasted outside of Italy itself, only later did I find out that this family firm was venerated by many others (besides my taste-buds) and made their delicious ice-creams from sheep’s milk! Wow and yummy! SAM_7096

All in all, it was one of those magical days that come along so seldom. Great company and great culture colliding into one utopian day that left me utterly exhausted but on a high all the way home. Thank you, Hay, I SHALL be seeing you again, very soon! Next year, I have my sights on the wonderfully talented, Neil Gaiman (appearing at Hay this Friday 29th May). SAM_7084

See you all next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after… ūüėÄ xxx

P.S. For other Hay Festival experiences, including the amazing Sir Terry Pratchett event, see previous posts: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/make-hay-not-war-a-tribute-to-hay-ray-and-sir-terry/

and

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/make-hay-while-the-sun-er-shines/

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