Fan-Casting: James Bond

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”  — Goldfinger, in Goldfinger

Yes, it is time once again to seriously contemplate who is “worthy” to pick up the mantle of James Bond, Agent 007.

So far, it appears that Daniel Craig (5’10”,b.1968) will do a fifth film — 25th in the franchise, not counting the original Casino Royale (1967), which was a non-series spoof, and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which was “unofficial” — before saying farewell. It’s just as well, since filming can be brutal. Craig has suffered various injuries during his stint, including a serious knee injury while filming a fight scene for Spectre (2015) that required arthroscopic surgery. Plus, he will be at least 50 years old by the time the next movie gets filmed, and Craig has admitted that it’s tougher to stay fit and that he already requires more action-doubles than he used to. (We all know that we prefer to see the actors performing their own stunts for that extra dose of realism.)

Who might take over? As I wrote a couple years ago, Idris Elba (6’2.75″,b.1972) is being talked up by some people. As much as I like him, I explained why I didn’t think they should go with a black Bond. (Or Asian or Latino, either.) In addition, Elba is already in his mid-40s, which automatically shrinks his “shelf life”, if you will. If he shot his first film as Bond for release in the early-2020s, then we’d soon be back to having a 50ish 007 already. Same goes for one of my other favorites, Richard Armitage (6’2.5″,b.1971) from “Strike Back” and The Hobbit movies. I think he’d be great, but as of this writing, he is already 45. Also, Damian Lewis (6’1″,b.1971), who’s name comes up on occasion. Tom Hardy (5’9″,b.1977), who has been suggested by others, is pushing 40, but I don’t think he (or Lewis) is right for the part.

Not that actors can’t remain fairly fit and handsome and charming well past 50. Connery and Moore certainly did, though I doubt they did their own stunts in the later movies. [Note: Connery was 32 when Dr. No (1962) came out, 41 for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and 53 when Never Say Never Again (1983) was released. Moore was 45 when Live and Let Die (1973) debuted and 57 when he finished with A View to a Kill (1985).] So, I’m not saying guys like Elba and Armitage couldn’t do a bang-up job. But, these days, it’s hard to find actors — let alone those heading into middle age — who would want to be tied into doing, say, five or more action films over a period of a dozen years or more. Especially if they enjoy performing in other genres.

My preference would be to see a younger James Bond, having recently been recruited from the Royal Naval Reserve and freshly graduated from MI-6’s “00” program. Ian Fleming never revealed Bond’s age, though researchers have come up with two estimates for his birthdate: 11 November 1920 and 11 November 1921. Fleming wrote his first Bond tale in 1953, and I believe it was supposed to be contemporary. That means Bond was already working for British Intelligence when in his early 30s. With that in mind, I’d like the new James Bond to be in his early- to mid-30s. The ever-popular Tom Hiddleston (b.1981) fits this age range, and he’d probably do a fine job, though producer Barbara Broccoli has said he is “a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”

In any case, I have a few other candidates that I like even better….

Aidan Turner

Aidan Turner (5’11”,b.1983), another Hobbit alum, is perhaps the current fan-favorite. He has also appeared in “Being Human” (the British version, where I first noticed him), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, “And Then There Were None”, and now stars in the latest incarnation of “Poldark”. He has the looks and the charm. If he buffs up a bit and practices that cold stare, he might be a pretty good choice.

 

 

 

Max Brown

When I first started thinking about fan-casting Bond a few years ago, the first person I thought of was Max Brown (6’2″,b.1981). I had recently seen him playing a medical examiner in “Beauty and the Beast” and thought that he might have the right stuff. He’s a handsome Brit, so that was a good start. You might recognize him from “MI-5” or “Agent Carter”. Or, if you’re a fan of series about British monarchs, you may have seen him in “The Tudors” or “The Royals”. Could he be our new Commander Bond?

 

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981) is another great choice and someone I’ve cast before. He’s a bit beefier than the previous two and has already played the action hero — primarily in “Strike Back”. Winchester has also been in Thunderbirds, “Crusoe”, Solomon Kane, “Fringe”, “24: Live Another Day”, and currently stars in “Chicago Justice”. He looks good in a tux, uniform, tee-shirt, or shirtless, and I can easily see him as our steely-eyed, suave Mr. Bond.

 

 

Sam Witwer

As a bonus, I’d like to throw an American into the mix. Sam Witwer (6’1″,b.1977) is pushing 40 (though he doesn’t look it), so he’s also older than preferred. But,… he’s a possibility. He has appeared in many genre shows, but you may best remember Witwer from “Battlestar Galactica”, “Dexter”, “The Mist”, “Smallville”, the American “Being Human”, and “Once Upon a Time”. He has also done voicework for various Star Wars video games, as well as “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” animated series. I know, it seems like heresy to suggest an American play an iconic British hero, but Brits and Canadian play Americans all the time. As long as he can “act and talk British”, why not?

Done. I’ll probably do another post or two on Bond’s regular supporting characters in a few weeks. Meanwhile, do you have any other casting ideas for the next ‘007’? Let us know below…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: Moon Knight

“I am vengeance! I am justice!”  — Moon Knight

Almost a year ago, I wrote a 2-parter called “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV”, and the first property I discussed was Moon Knight. (If some of the text below sounds familiar, it’s because I “borrowed” from the earlier post.) In fact, there has been talk of a “Moon Knight” series being developed for Netflix since at least April 2015, though I am not aware of any confirmation of them moving into production. Not even a place-holder entry on IMDB. Still, it seems a (super)natural fit with the other Marvel properties that Netflix has been working on. And, naturally, I have a few ideas about who might portray our hero. But, first…

Moon Knight

moon-knight-5-moon-knight-finchI’ll keep the usual origin/history of the character a bit briefer than usual, ‘cuz I want room to present six candidates rather than the usual three.

Moon Knight is part Batman, part Punisher, with some unique “issues” and abilities thrown in. Marc Spector is a former U.S. Marine-turned-CIA operative-turned-mercenary who died(?) and was brought back by the Egyptian moon god “Khonshu”, who inspired the Moon Knight persona for fighting crime (and Khonshu’s enemies). He also created for himself the alternate identities of successful financier “Steven Grant” and taxicab driver “Jake Lockley”, both of which serve his purposes as adventurer/vigilante. So, we have a rich guy with deadly skills and fancy toys who fights crime in costume (sound familiar?), who also struggles with keeping his multiple personalities straight; plus, there is the mystical connection with his serving as the “Fist of Khonshu”.

With friends & associates like Jean-Paul ‘Frenchie’ DuChamp and Marlene Alraune, and sometimes with other superheroes (e.g., Avengers) and vigilantes (e.g., Punisher), he has fought mercenaries, serial killers, assassins, mobsters, werewolves, and supervillains. It helps that he (or Khonshu) can increase his strength, speed, reflexes, stamina, durability, healing ability, resistance to pain, and his fractured psyche gives him limited immunity to telepathic control. Of course, he has plenty of other offensive and defensive skills from his training as a Marine, CIA operative, and merc — e.g., detective, pilot, marksman, interrogator, boxer, martial artist, and master of many weapons. His weapons of choice are a truncheon and throwing crescents. The toughest part of being the Moon Knight, though, may be simply holding onto his sanity.

Moon-Knight-IdentitiesAs I recall, the Marc Spector personality is somewhat gruff, whereas Grant is more refined and Lockley is friendly but a bit roguish. Moon Knight is often, though not always, the silent type, usually focused on a mission and/or vengeance, which tends to preoccupy him a lot. On the other hand, it has been ages since I read anything with the character, so I could be a little off. Anyway, as you can gather from this second pic, he is an attractive, well-built white man with brown hair and a scar over his left eye. Marvel’s wiki lists him at 6’2″, 225 lbs., so an athletically-built white guy in the 5’11” to 6’4″ range should work. The fact that he has already spent several years in the U.S. Marines, then in the CIA, then as a mercenary, tells us he was probably in his 30s when he gained his powers (and mission) from Khonshu. Theoretically, he could get all that experience while still in his 20s, but I always felt he was older. I would say anywhere from 30 to 40 would work, but my preference would be early- to mid-30s.

Normally, at this point I would list a few actors and/or athletes that I considered briefly but ruled out for one or more reasons. And, technically, I could have ruled out one on each end of my age parameters this time. But, I decided they were all worth presenting for your consideration. So, here is our six man line-up, in order of oldest to youngest…

gorham-christopher - shirtless, dogtags, camo pants

Christopher Gorham

You might remember Christopher Gorham (6′,b.1974) from “Odyssey 5” or “Jake 2.0” or “Covert Affairs” or maybe something of another genre. He has also done a little voice work, including as The Flash in a few animated Justice League movies and as the Wizard of Oz in “Once Upon a Time”. He may be on the slim side, but I used a shirtless pic of him so you could see that he’s in good shape. (Or, at least, he was a couple years ago.) And, yes, he is over 40, but he can pass for younger.

 

 

Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins (5’11”,b.1976) should be familiar to genre fans, ‘cuz that’s mostly what he does. For example, he has been in “Mutant X”, Unleashed, Undisputed 2 and Undisputed 3, The Bourne Ultimatum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Expendables 2, The Legend of Hercules, “Metal Hurlant Chronicles”, Jarhead 3: The Siege, and he’ll be in Doctor Strange. He definitely has the look and the martial arts skills, but his acting is a little stiff. Just turned 40, too.

 

 

Dylan Bruce

Dylan Bruce

I have mentioned Dylan Bruce (6′,b.1980) in at least a couple other fan-cast posts. I know him from “Arrow”, “Heroes Reborn”, and “Orphan Black”, but he has also appeared in Unstoppable, “NCIS”, “Motive”, and “American Gothic”. He’s got the look and muscular build we need for MK, and he can do action. I don’t know if he has the acting range, but I’m willing to give him a shot.

 

 

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981) is another beefy, square-jawed guy that could do quite well, I think, as our slightly unbalanced vigilante / “Fist of Khonshu”. I know him best from “Strike Back”, but he has also starred in the short-lived “Crusoe” and “The Player”. He also appeared in Solomon Kane, “Warehouse 13”, “Fringe”, “Camelot”, and “24: Live Another Day”. Winchester was classically trained in London, so I’m sure he can pull off the various personalities required.

 

 

Toby Kebbell

Toby Kebbell

Toby Kebbell (6’2″,b.1982) may be a bit of a surprise, but I think he could be an interesting choice. We already know he can play the brooding, unpredictable type. You may recall him from Alexander, RocknRolla, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Wrath of the Titans, or 2015’s disappointing Fantastic Four (which I recently reviewed). He was also in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Warcraft, though unrecognizable behind heavy makeup and/or CGI.

 

Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Youngest in our list is Oliver Jackson-Cohen (6’3″,b.1986), who I became aware of from his portrayal of a very intense contract killer in Faster (w/ Dwayne Johnson). He had some workout scenes that showed he was in very good shape (though on the lean side), and he became quite familiar with guns, too. He has also appeared in such genre fare as The Raven, “Dracula”, and the upcoming “Emerald City”. Not my first choice, but he could definitely handle the gig.

Well, I’ve given you more choices than usual this time. What do you think? Any of them strike you as a particularly good or bad fit?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.

Sons of Thunder

I figured this week was time to bring out one of my (semi-)original ideas for a character (or two) and storyline that might be adaptable into various formats/media. Now, if you are at all familiar with Captain America, you will recognize some similarities (though not exact matches) in their origins and choice of weaponry. If I was to adapt this more fully, I would probably write that “inspiration” into the origin story — e.g., someone on the “Thunder” project team was a big fan of Captain America comics, recognized the parallel with the “Super Soldier Program”, then got an idea for the shields, etc.

In any case, give it a read and let me know what you think….

“Sons of Thunder”

Over a decade ago, a special alliance was formed between the Research & Development divisions of… well, let’s just say, a covert operations organization (which shall remain unnamed) with ties to the U.S. government and its counterpart in Israel. The leaders of these two groups realized that they had similar goals, though taking different approaches, and working together could be mutually beneficial. They created a special project, co-funded and co-administered by both nations, to develop the perfect intelligence operative — equal parts James Bond, undercover cop, and “superhero”. The project, codenamed “Thunder”, aims to accomplish this by enhancing the physical and mental abilities of agents who volunteer for the experiments.

Two years ago, breakthroughs were made, and the project was ready for its first human subjects. Potential candidates were screened from military branches and intelligence agencies from the U.S. and Israel, with the goal of creating teams of two — one from each nation. After a couple of tragic initial attempts, the first successful team began their physical and academic training regimens. Mike Brown was recruited from the U.S. Marines and is of solid, (evangelical) Christian character. Ira “Ben” Benjamin is recruited from the ranks of the Mossad and is of traditional Jewish upbringing. The two subjects/operatives, both in their early 30s, bonded during their shared “Thunder” training and other interests, becoming as close as brothers.

Segun Oduolowu

Segun Oduolowu
(6’2.5″,b.1978)

One result of the program’s genetic/physical alterations was an increase in muscle mass & density. For example, whereas both subjects were muscular and extremely fit — approx. 6′, 190 lbs. –, they now each weigh close to 250 lbs. It is obvious that they work out extensively, but much of the added weight comes from increased density of their muscle tissue, so most outsiders would guess that they weigh about 200 lbs at most. Internal organs are also somewhat more efficient, and “fatigue poisons” build up at a much reduced rate. Naturally, this means that they are noticeably stronger, faster, and have more endurance than even most Olympic-level athletes, though only slightly superhuman. Their reflexes have been increased to at least twice that of normal humans. Further, their immune systems and natural healing ability have been greatly amplified, so that they can survive injuries, trauma, poisoning (both from toxins and radiation), etc., that most others would not. The drawback is that Brown and Benjamin must take regular doses of a special drug cocktail (aka “supplements”), which may be explained away to others as insulin injections. (I have not yet worked out what the side-effects would be for not taking a scheduled dose, how soon those side-effects would be felt, or how serious it could be.)

Matt Cohen

Matt Cohen (5’11”,b.1982)

The other major change resulting from the “Thunder” project was an increase in learning capacity. So, whereas both subjects were already well above average, with IQs in the 120-130 range, they now test at roughly 200. Both operatives have also developed enhanced — though not “photographic” — memories. Thus, in only 18 months they have learned the equivalent of advanced degrees in engineering and biochemistry, as well as studying political science, criminology, world literature, economics, computer science, and a few languages. They also work with a dialect coach on occasion. Their continuing military training has included various martial arts, demolition, aviation, mechanics of various vehicles, weapons of all types, and strategic warfare. These disciplines have been deemed the most potentially useful for the various sorts of research and other preparations they may have to take for missions — including those involving going undercover. One positive side-effect of this mental enhancement is that the subjects have an increased hunger for knowledge, so they are always reading and watching, learning new stuff. (Of course, some of it is just for personal pleasure — e.g., Brown’s fascination with American football and Christian theology, and Benjamin’s interests in world history and science fiction.) The negative side-effect is that they are especially prone to headaches, which leads to irritability. Commercially-available painkillers help, but the worst bouts require massage and/or relaxation techniques.

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981)

Their ongoing training includes a few weapons not available to the average soldier, sailor, or spy. Most notably, the shields. In more combat-intensive operations (e.g., storming an enemy compound), each operative carries a concave, disk-shaped shield roughly 2.5 feet in diameter, which can be used both offensively and defensively. Both shields have a titanium steel core, but the outer surface differs. One has a high-density rubber coating about 1/8″ thick on the ‘inside’ and 1/4″ thick on the ‘outside’. The other has an experimental ceramic coating that gives it yet-to-be-determined properties. Both shields are extremely strong (e.g., resistant to mortar-fire) and will absorb/dissipate large amounts of concussive force or kinetic energy, as well as being non-conductive of electricity. The shields are normally a dull grey color, though this can change, and the operatives may alternate who uses which one in any particular situation.

Enver Gjokaj (5'10",b.1980)

Enver Gjokaj (5’10”,b.1980)

“Project: Thunder” has — in some cases, borrows — facilities in several countries and deals with a variety of threats: terrorists, drug cartels, arms merchants, rogue nations, militia groups, international corporations, lone assassins, organized crime, etc. While they act globally, most of the “business” they are interested in is focused in the U.S., Middle East, and Europe. The two primary locations — combination labs and training facilities — are in rural Virginia and outside Haifa, Israel. As indicated, the “sons” will go on missions of various sorts, which may require any number of skills or sets of knowledge beyond what a simple mission-brief can provide — thus, the extensive academic studies mentioned earlier. These missions will range from hostage rescues to infiltration & destruction of enemy facilities to several weeks undercover in an enemy (or protected) organization. This means being able to pose as anything from a virologist to an airplane mechanic to a mercenary thug to an ordinary businessman. Sometimes they “go under” together — either in similar or in very different roles — and sometimes one remains “outside” as monitor and backup.

It should be noted that Brown and Benjamin are only the beginning, and new “Sons of Thunder” teams are being developed and trained. Not many people are aware of the Project, even within the international intelligence community. But, those who do know might be getting nervous about how such an “army of elite, enhanced paramilitary operatives” could be used against them….

Incidentally, and in case you were wondering, the phrase “sons of thunder” comes from the New Testament in the Christian Bible. It was a nickname given by Jesus (Mark 3:17) to James and John, two of his closest friends and part of the “inner circle” of his disciples. There is no explanation given for the nickname, but some have suggested that the incident in Luke 9:54 reveals an impetuousness and/or fervency that might be called “thunderous”. I suppose this biblical connection was also what made me think of giving my two protagonists their religious affiliations. (I haven’t decided, yet, whether or not to have either or both be particularly impulsive in nature. If so, it would be something he/they learn quickly to control, just as the disciple John eventually became known as the “Apostle of Love”.)

I have added casting suggestions above for Mike Brown (Oduolowu or Winchester) and “Ben” Benjamin (Cohen or Gjokaj). Any pairing might work, but I’m partial to either Oduolowu/Cohen or Winchester/Gjokaj.

The “Sons of Thunder” concept is a mix of sub-genres, I guess. I can see it going either more toward the espionage angle or a bit more superhero-ish (w/o costumes) or a fair mix of the two (a la “The Six Million Dollar Man”). Do you think it might work as a TV series? Are the Captain America similarities too much? What about the increased IQ? Constructive comments are welcome….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.