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: Doctor Strange, part 1

I confess, I was never a huge fan of Doctor Strange or the other mystical elements of the Marvel Universe. (Same goes for DC or any other fictional universe.) But, Strange is an important character and, therefore, worthy of casting attention. Plus, there’s that movie starring that Cumberbatch guy coming out in about a year. But, while I think BC is a great choice, he wouldn’t be my first choice. So,…

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange 2Dr. Stephen Strange is Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme… except when he isn’t, as has temporarily been the case on at least a couple occasions since he originally attained the honor & title. If you aren’t already familiar with his history, here’s the short version. Strange was a brilliant young neurosurgeon whose wealth & fame were matched only by his arrogance and cold dispassion. Much of his egotism, emotional distance, and materialism was really only masking intense feelings of guilt and frustration over the losses of loved ones over the years.

While in his 30s, Strange survived a car crash that resulted in severe nerve damage to his hands, thereby ending his surgical career. Not satisfied with consulting or teaching, he exhausted his fortune vainly searching for a cure. Eventually, he sought out a powerful mystic in Tibet — the then-Sorcerer Supreme known as the “Ancient One”. Although his hands were not cured, Strange witnessed great mystical feats by the Ancient One and his duplicitous apprentice, Baron Mordo, and decided he wanted to become a sorcerer. The Ancient One agreed to teach Strange the mystic arts, since he had already sensed Strange’s potential. Before departing Tibet many years later, Strange defeated the avatar of Death itself in a test, granting him a greatly extended lifespan, like his predecessor.

doctor-strangeHeadquartered at his Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village with his trusty manservant, Wong, Strange became known as the “Master of the Mystic Arts” and developed an impressive reputation as a consultant on the occult — first with private individuals and law enforcement, later with the superhero community. In fact, at various times he has been either a part of or aided several teams — e.g., Defenders, Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men — and has been instrumental in protecting Earth and her heroes from many mystical/extradimensional and alien threats — e.g., Dormammu, Asmodeus, Mephisto, the Undying Ones. When the Ancient One finally left this plane of being, Strange inherited the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, much to the resentment of Mordo. He is an incredibly powerful sorcerer, having accumulated mystic artifacts and mastered spells that few ever have or could.

Whoever plays Strange in a movie or series needs to be able to convey that upper-crusty arrogance and emotionally cold personality, while hiding a deep guilt over not being able to save the lives of family members (and at least one lover). Beginning with his mystic training and over the years, Strange learned to be a bit more personable, even compassionate. So, there will be some personality change in the character, assuming the production in question spans enough time to show him evolving. Also, assuming it at least shows a bit of Strange’s “origin” (i.e., famous neurosurgeon, car crash, travel to Tibet), the actor should not be any younger than mid-30s. In fact, 40ish would seem to work best, if you ask me, so mid-40s would probably be the oldest we want. (Keep in mind that he may have actually been in his 50s when he returned to NYC, but he looked a bit younger, thanks to that extended lifespan.) Strange is known for having gray at the temples of otherwise black hair (like Mr. Fantastic), but I’m not sure when that appeared. He characteristically wears a horseshoe mustache, though he has also worn a circle beard. Marvel’s wiki has him at 6’2″ and a slender 180 lbs. I think a height range of roughly 6′ to 6’4″ is reasonable for our search.

When Marvel was casting for the movie role, we heard names like Joaquin Phoenix, Patrick Dempsey, Jared Leto, Tom Hardy, Justin Theroux. Some of them were rumored to have been “in talks” at one point or another. But, we all know that Benedict Cumberbatch got it. Of those I just listed, imho, Cumberbatch is probably the best choice. (We already know he can play cold and arrogant, for instance.) But, I cast my net a bit further. For example, one of the older gents I considered was Dr. Who’s Peter Capaldi (6′,b.1958). But, if I was casting a 50-something Doctor Strange, I would go with the extremely talented Michael Eklund (6′,b.1962). When watching “Eureka” a few years ago, it struck me that Ed Quinn (6’4″,b.1968) might make a pretty good Strange. But, he’s a tad older than I’m looking for, too. Another interesting choice would be Oded Fehr (6’1.5″,b.1970), who I’ve enjoyed ever since seeing him in The Mummy (1999).

This brings us to my Top 3 candidates…

Jack Huston

Jack Huston

Jack Huston (6′,b.1982) was rumored to be up for the part of Strange back around Aug. 2014. He has appeared in such genre fare as the Spartacus TV movie, Outlander, “Eastwick”, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, “Boardwalk Empire”, and even did a little voice work for an episode of “TRON: Uprising”. Frankly, I don’t remember him from Outlander, and I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything else. But, from what I understand, he is quite talented. He could certainly portray the young Dr. Stephen Strange, who finds his life turned upside-down, then embarks on a mystical journey.

 

 

Richard Armitage (GQ)

Richard Armitage (GQ)

Richard Armitage (6’2.5″,b.1971) is my oldest candidate and closest to the comic version in height. You may recognize him (or not) as “Thorin” in the Hobbit trilogy, though the first thing I remember his name from is the first season of “Strike Back”. He has also appeared in “Ultimate Force”, “Robin Hood”, “MI-5”, Captain America: The First Avenger, and “Hannibal”. Though I usually think of him in more typical action roles, I think he could pull off the Master of the Mystic Arts just fine.

 

 

Luke Evans as Aramis

Luke Evans as Aramis

Many fans have cast their vote for Luke Evans (6′,b.1979). Frankly, I’m torn between him and Armitage. Evans has starred or appeared in the Clash of the Titans remake, Robin Hood, Blitz, The Three Musketeers remake, Immortals, The Raven, No One Lives, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, and Dracula Untold. So, he is certainly familiar and comfortable in the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres. This guy has the look and talent to make an awesome Sorcerer Supreme.

 

 

Do you like any of these guys as much or more than Cumberbatch? Who else do you think might have been a good casting choice for the good doctor? The all-seeing Eye of Agamotto shall reveal the truth….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.