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Bond reborn: 17 suggestions for how to really reboot 007

Illustration by Nick Wanserski

Spectre, the latest installment in the never-ending James Bond series, opens this Friday—and if cryptic and hostile interviews are to be believed, fourth time could be the final time that Daniel Craig slips into the black tux. The star’s potential departure from the franchise has led to a lot of speculation about who could take up the 007 mantle next, with some lobbying hard for a change in ethnicity, sexuality, or gender, while others insist that Bond remain male, straight, and “suave.” But maybe we’re thinking about this casting business all wrong. Maybe, after half a century of sequels, the producers of this series need to really shake (not stir) things up by rethinking the basic alchemy of the character. Maybe it’s time not just for a different actor as Bond, but also a different kind of Bond. Below, we’ve made 17 suggestions—some more plausible than others—for how to make over cinema’s most famous spy. Roger Moore, avert your eyes, because it’s going to get unconventional.

1. Saif Ali Khan is… Desi Bond


While Ian Fleming conceived of the character as English through and through, over the years we’ve had a Scottish Bond, a Welsh Bond, an Irish Bond, even an Australian Bond. So why not look to the one-time jewel in the Empire’s crown, and cast an Indian Bond? Plenty of Britons with Indian heritage—the country’s largest minority—would surely be he happy to see themselves represented on screen, and the studio would no doubt love to endear Bond to the world’s largest film audience. (Plus, it might help us forget Bond’s only trip to India thus far, Octopussy.) As the series’ producers prefer an actor with past spy experience (The Saint, Remington Steele, etc.), the first choice would have to be Saif Ali Khan, who starred in Agent Vinod as, essentially, an Indian James Bond. But Khan has dramatic range as well; he won plaudits for playing Iago in Omkara, an Indian adaptation of Othello, but was equally at home as a romantic comedy lead in Hum Tum (for which he won National Film Award for Best Actor). While most of Khan’s work is in Hindi, he’s done English-language films for Bollywood. All that remains is to see how he takes his martinis. [Mike Vago]

2. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is… Legacy Bond


Her name’s Bond, Jade Bond. And much like her father before her, she’s one of the top agents at MI6. But she often finds herself living in her dad’s shadow—she’s even inherited his number, 007. So in addition to fulfilling her assignments, she’s got a personal mission as well: Prove herself as her own agent. With a female Bond at its center, the film could have some fun playing around with casting. Here Q is a brilliant female scientist, Mr. Moneypenny is a bumbling office assistant, and Jade is surrounded by her fair share of hunky Bond boys, too. Her famous father would naturally make a cameo and since Gugu Mbatha-Raw was born during Roger Moore’s era, the film could milk some delicious irony from Moore’s less-than-progressive stance on who’s allowed to play Bond. [Caroline Siede]

3. Sean Connery is… Elderly Bond


One reason that we get a new Bond every decade or so is that the superspy never ages, at least not permanently: Whatever wear and tear an actor brings to the character just by virtue of getting older with each movie is wiped clean with the casting of his replacement. But what if that trend was dramatically reversed? The Daniel Craig Bond movies have embraced continuity between entries and a more vulnerable take on 007—two qualities the producers could double down on by introducing an elderly version of Bond, grappling with the weight of his many years in the field and forced out of retirement for one last mission. Hey, it worked for Sherlock Holmes and Batman. And so long as we’re dreaming, why not bring the original, the incomparable, the one-and-only Sean Connery back for the role? Or failing that, Roger Moore? Hell, we’d settle for George Lazenby if it meant getting the chance to see a mortal version of this immortal icon. [A.A. Dowd]

4. Idris Elba is… Pacifist Bond


Idris Elba’s name has been bandied around so much when it comes to future Bonds that if he ever does actually get cast as 007, expectations for his debut are going to be sky-high. And since Elba’s previous roles on The Wire and Luther have cast him as violent, imposing figures, why not play against type by casting him as a Bond who has a license to kill, but doesn’t want to use it? Following a traumatic event in the field—maybe one in which he accidentally killed an innocent bystander—Elba’s Bond swears off excessive violence. Far from softening the character, this no-kill policy just makes Bond more badass. Since he can’t just use his gun to solve every problem, Elba’s Bond uses his quick wits, ingenuity, and unmatched ability to bluff to get the job done—while simultaneously making sure no one dies in the process. [Caroline Siede]

5. Dwayne Johnson is… American Fish-Out-Of-Water Bond


Tank chases. Space lasers. Explosions galore. For all their pretensions to British composure and reserve, the James Bond movies have never been afraid to go big and crazy and bold. So let’s throw caution to the wind, and put the franchise in the giant, beefy hands of the biggest, craziest, boldest action star in the world: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Sure, Johnson’s not British, but that just means we get to see him smash his way through the stiff upper lips and obstacles of British society, turned upside down as it struggles to cope with this on-loan maverick from the C.I.A. Flirting with M, slapping Q on the back, and doing it all in a kick-ass suit, this is a Bond who never met a problem he couldn’t blow up, a bad guy he couldn’t deck, and a quip he couldn’t deliver with a smirk on his lips and an explosion raging in his big American heart. [William Hughes]

6. Christopher Eccleston is… Misanthropic Bond


Daniel Craig’s Bond is the grimmest the character has been in decades, matched only by Sean Connery’s thuggish wit. But even Connery maintained an ironic distance that belied his coldness. Craig is sincere, brutal, and borderline mechanical, and his take suggests an even darker take on the franchise. Christopher Eccleston would, initially, seem like more of the same—craggy and unconventional good-looks, stoicism, ruthless pragmatism. And yet the actor is able to project a certain unhinged rage, a despair at the perfidy and hideousness of the human race, that could serve a new kind of Bond, one whose corruption over the years has resulted not in the potentially redemptive soul-weariness of Craig’s turn, but a bone-deep contempt for every human enterprise. (If you doubt Eccleston’s ability to convey this, just watch Shallow Grave.) A Bond who despises men and women, and can just barely restrain his fury at both, could provide a frenzied, unsettled energy and give the series new life. Or it could destroy it. [Zack Handlen]

7. Dev Patel is… Young Techie Bond


Over the years, Bond has been everything from campy to brooding, but the one thing he’s never been is young and nerdy. A reboot of sorts, this film casts Dev Patel as MI6’s youngest ever employee—a certified genius who serves as tech support for more established spies while dreaming of one day doing fieldwork himself. But when a nefarious villain takes out half the MI6 agents, Patel is promoted to 007 years ahead of schedule. The film charts his first few missions, which he faces with the kind of bumbling but formidable energy that only Patel can provide. In between assignments, his Bond attends regular training sessions with a skeptical combat-vet (Jason Isaacs as M) and butts heads with his own tech support (Karen Gillan as Q), the only one who can match his intellectual prowess. After years of Daniel Craig’s hyper-serious take on the character, Patel could be the one to insert some much-needed levity back into the Bond franchise. [Caroline Siede]

8. Kristen Stewart is… Queer Bond


Back in the late ’90s, Rupert Everett ruffled some feathers when he announced his intention to write and star in a movie centered on a gay James Bond. The project never took off, but after people picked up on sexual subtext between Daniel Craig’s Bond and Javier Bardem’s Silva in Skyfall, the question of whether 007 could be queer came up again. Roger Moore says he thinks Bond could never be gay or female, so he would probably bristle at the suggestion that Bond be both. But James Bond as a lesbian makes a lot of sense. The movie could keep the Bond girl trope, subverting it by making the characters queer and also giving them complicated relationships with the leading lady. The villain would definitely be her ex. And who better to bring the level of swagger necessary for a lesbian Bond than Kristen Stewart? While indies seem to be more her speed recently, Stewart has really come into her own and could easily front a Bond film with a subtle, alluring performance. She’d certainly rock the suits. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]

9. Benedict Cumberbatch is… Intellectual Bond


Bond is often held up as a masculine paragon, even when he’s called out as a relic; the greater emotional depth of Daniel Craig’s take is still accompanied by his designation as a “blunt instrument.” But at some point, variations on fights, shoot-outs, and car chases can become numbing, and casting a thinkier actor in the part could re-orient the character to better show him being, you know, good at his job. A focus on the more analytical side of Bond’s job (like Batman’s detective skills, rarely used on film) could temper the series’ tendency toward excess—and if this Bond did eventually get into physical scrapes, it would up the suspense quotient of the action scenes. Benedict Cumberbatch is the obvious suggestion for this job, but if there’s wariness about hewing too closely to his take on Sherlock Holmes, almost anyone else from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy could suffice for a tweedier, dweebier, Bond. [Jesse Hassenger]

10. Iko Uwais is… Martial Arts Bond


Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, has a wonderful opening chase scene, where Craig is racing after a guy who busts out a bunch of parkour moves. While his prey nimbly bounces and rolls around obstacles, Bond just bashes straight through them, demonstrating there’s no substitute for grim efficiency. But what if James Bond were suddenly a martial arts master? Imagine how radically this could shift the possibilities of the Bond universe. And if you’re going to make the change, you couldn’t do better than Iko Uwais, the almost preternaturally gifted star of The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2. Being able to do pencak silat—the hyperkinetic style of martial arts practiced by Uwais—would immediately elevate the potential for Bond action scenes, the bread and butter of the franchise. Given his raw ability, it’s hard to think of another actor who could so easily convey the impression of a spy who refuses to die, mostly because you can’t imagine anyone actually beating him. [Alex McCown]

11. Ewan McGregor is… Swinging Bond


One recent concession to current mores has been to limit James Bond’s womanizing; in the Craig series, he’s fallen in love and engaged in only occasional casual sex. This makes sense in a modern context, as the smooth-talking, double-entendre-spouting “Oh James” Bond could be pretty off-putting, not to mention already thoroughly spoofed by the Austin Powers series. A counterintuitive fix: cast Ewan McGregor in Down With Love mode as a James Bond actually living in a brightly colored version of the ’60s. It wouldn’t have to be an Austin Powers-style cartoon, especially with McGregor providing actual wit and sexiness. Instead, an on-the-town throwback Bond could provide retro pleasure and a little relief from some of his grimmer predecessors. [Jesse Hassenger]

12. Alexander Siddig is… Immigrant Bond

James Bond has always been a quintessentially British character and this hypothetical film would keep that idea at its center while also expanding the scope of what it means to be British. Like the actor who’d play him, Alexander Siddig, this Bond was born in the Sudan but raised in England. His is a classic immigrant story: Although he’s proud of his British identity, Bond still has ties to his Sudanese culture and the extended family that lives there. That international perspective gives him a harsher view of European imperialism, but it also proves to be an asset in the field—he has more connections abroad, plus he can more easily blend in while on missions to the Middle East. Regardless of the plot around him, however, Siddig is certain to bring the right erudite-but-suave energy to the role. In fact, he already did on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. [Caroline Siede]


13. Steve Buscemi is… Grounded Bond


Though producers made big noise about Daniel Craig offering a more human take on 007 when they rebooted the franchise in 2006, Craig’s Bond still looks an awful lot like his predecessors: a dapper, Cary Grant-handsome lady’s man who always overcomes absurd odds. They could have gone several steps further by casting an actor decidedly more ordinary, somebody like Steve Buscemi. This wouldn’t mean destroying the character. Buscemi’s Bond would still be a highly skilled, highly intelligent, well-dressed agent who’s charismatic in his own way, but not the infallible cocksure man his acquaintances had been led to believe based on all the war stories and tall tales. Letting a little air out of the James Bond myth would help keep a sometimes over-the-top series down to earth, while actually raising the stakes for the character. Wouldn’t it be nice to finally have some suspense over whether Bond gets the girl? [Evan Rytlewski]

14. Judi Dench and Emily Blunt are… Grand Dame Bond


The single point of sort of continuity between the silly (but enjoyable!) Pierce Brosnan Bonds and the serious (but entertaining!) Craig Bonds has been Judi Dench, who producers smartly allowed to reprise her role as M despite Casino Royale’s pointed reboot of the character. Skyfall gave Dench one of her best recent roles, freed of the usual elderly-shtick poppycock often doled out to older female actors. Why not continue that streak, and extend that bridge between very different versions of Bond, by casting Dench herself as the secret agent? Her Bond could be, like M, toward the end of her tenure on the job; as Melissa McCarthy’s Spy pointed out (in jest, but still), it actually makes sense for a secret agent to have a less expected cover than a suave, fashionable woman or man of mystery. If Dench doesn’t want to film a bunch of fight scenes, there are two easy workarounds: Give Bond a more cerebral edge and/or include flashbacks to a younger female Bond. Emily Blunt, everyone’s favorite fantasy casting for ass-kicking women, could do wonders in the part. [Jesse Hassenger]

15. Mads Mikkelsen is… Horror Villain Bond


One of the more interesting aspects of the Daniel Craig Bond films is the way they emphasize 007’s role as a killer, the cold trigger finger of British foreign policy. Let’s push that iciness to the extreme, then, by flipping the usual Bond perspective to get an outsider’s look at his state-mandated indulgence in the license to kill. We’ll need a team of vaguely sympathetic criminal protagonists—a crew of well-intentioned eco-terrorists, maybe—to serve as fodder for Bond’s attack, guilty of some crime that draws the British empire’s murderous ire. Soon, they start to vanish and die, one at a time: sniped from afar, poisoned at a distance, garroted from the dark. The killer: unseen, ruthless, and perfectly equipped for the job. Paranoia rises with the body count, until eventually, the group’s charismatic leader is left alone, his comrades vanished into the night. From out of the darkness comes death, blond-haired and immaculately dressed, in the form of an unsmiling Mads Mikkelsen. The leader attempts to negotiate, to monologue, but he shouldn’t assume that Bond is here to talk (and he can’t, anyway, thanks to that accent). No, Mr. Bond is here to make sure other people die, and he does so swiftly, before fading back into the night, vigilantly waiting for his next bloody assignment to come. [William Hughes]

16. Michael B. Jordan is… Code name: Bond


Within the world of James Bond movies, the code name “James Bond” is one of an internationally known spy, for better or for worse. It’s a code name that bears decades upon decades of stories—he’s a folk hero within the spy community. But he’s still a man who has to be chosen for his particular set of skills, and one would assume that there are certain spies within the community that want to vie for the role. Enter Michael B. Jordan’s character, a hotshot American spy for the CIA whose entire career has been basically one big audition to be an eventual 007. He’s got every single skill you’d want in a James Bond, from his wit to his luck with the ladies, but he’s got two things working against him (and it’s not his age): He’s black, and he’s American. Doing everything he can to get on MI6’s radar, he makes his intentions known, but it’s the hugest uphill battle, thanks to nothing more than “tradition.” It’s a meta commentary, it’s a culture shock, and it’s a challenging of the norms all wrapped up into one. [LaToya Ferguson]

17. Hayley Atwell is… MCU crossover Bond


Marvel’s Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell has already expressed interest in playing The Doctor on Doctor Who, and there’s no reason she couldn’t pick up another legendary British character for her resumé. As Agent Carter, Atwell is already well practiced in the dual arts of espionage and ass-kicking, adeptly using poisonous lipstick and fierce martial-arts moves to take down grown men three times her size. So when 007 gets captured by an ambiguously accented villain somewhere in Eastern Europe, Peggy Carter assumes the 007 mantle until she can rescue him. With Hayley Atwell as a crossover Bond, throwback ’40s style, and a twist on the classic Bond mission, this can only spell blockbuster. [Laura M. Browning]

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