Next James Bond: The rising stars with a genuine chance of replacing Daniel Craig as 007

Naomi Harris says Tom Hardy is too established for James Bond

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When Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond in 2005 he wasn’t as well known as audiences may remember. He may be an A-lister and superstar today, but back then in his mid-thirties he was simply, “That guy from Layer Cake”. At the time, much of the focus at the bookies and in the press was on established stars like Clive Owen, when really everybody should have been looking at more at the up-and-coming actors breaking onto the Hollywood scene.

Speaking with the BBC, Bond expert Mark O’Connell, author of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan said: “There is always the ‘bookies favourite’ and it tends to be whichever good-looking actor is launching a new television show at the weekend with a clever PR team generating such rumours. All the recent rumours of the last few years are Sunday night TV drama totty. James Bond has never really been Sunday night totty.”

That was certainly the case for James Norton a couple of years ago when he wore black tie in a casino during the opening scene of McMafia. Since then, he’s been near the top of the bookies’ favourites with the likes of Tom Hardy, Henry Cavill and Idris Elba.

Similarly, in Christmas 2020, Regé-Jean Page shot to fame as the star of Netflix hit Bridgerton and a flurry of bets for him to take up the Licence to Kill next followed.

So who is actually really in with a real chance of following on from Craig’s era? Express.co.uk asked the opinion of another Bond author and aficionado to find out.

Mark Edlitz, author of The Many Lives of James Bond, who has interviewed key members of the franchise over the years said: “The next Bond will be on the younger side and who can play the super spy in three to five films. I think the next Bond should be someone who is not on anyone’s list. He should be an actor with chops but who is not well known or familiar to the general public. Whoever they come up with, I know we will not be disappointed.”

Back to O’Connell who somewhat agreed, saying: “I have always said the next Bond will be someone we all know, but no-one thought of mentioning.”

As for who exactly, he said: “The names I would shake into the vodka Martini of contenders would be Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Invisible Man), Harris Dickinson (The King’s Man), George MacKay (1917), Matt Smith (Last Night in Soho), Paul Mescal (Normal People) and Nicholas Hoult (The Great).”

Some of those mentioned may be more familiar than others, so let’s take a closer look at these young men.

First off, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, 35, is perhaps best-known for playing Adrian Griffin in the 2020 adaptation of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man opposite Elisabeth Moss.

He’s also had a stint in horror playing Luke Crain and Peter Quint in Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. Most recently he portrayed Toni in the streaming service’s awards season movie contender, The Lost Daughter, starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson.

Next up is Harris Dickinson, who is currently starring opposite Ralph Fiennes in The King’s Man, which is out now in cinemas. The 25-year-old plays Conrad, the son of the M star’s Duke of Oxford, in Matthew Vaughn’s period Bond spoof. He’s also noted for playing Prince Phillip in Disney movie Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, opposite Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.

His next movie out this summer is Where the Crawdads Sing, based on the novel of the same name set in mid-20th century North Carolina.

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George MacKay (pronounced MacKai) began his acting career as a child actor, playing one of the Lost Boys in 2003’s Peter Pan movie.

Since then the 29-year-old has made his mark in period war movies, most notably starring in Bond director Sam Mendes’ 1917.

The BAFTA Rising Star Award nominee also acted in Private Peaceful and will next be seen in Netflix movie Munich – The Edge of War, starring Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain, on January 21.

The last three names mentioned by the Bond expert are perhaps the best known of those mentioned, starting with Paul Mescal. The 25-year-old is best known for starring in BBC Three Irish drama Normal People, for which he won a BAFTA. He also features in new Netflix movie The Lost Daughter as Will, alongside Jackson-Cohen.

Last, and certainly not least, are the most famous of those mentioned: Matt Smith and Nicholas Hoult. The 39-year-old former Doctor Who has broken into Hollywood over the last decade, with roles in Terminator Genisys, Last Night in Soho and this year’s Spider-Man villain movie Morbius with Jared Leto.

But most notably he starred as Prince Philip in the first two series of Netflix’s The Crown and has a major role in Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon, out later on in 2022.

As for Hoult, his breakout role was starring in About a Boy opposite Hugh Grant, before receiving wider recognition as Tony in E4 teen drama Skins. In Tinseltown, the 32-year-old made a mark opposite Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road and starred as Beast in the X-Men prequels. Most recently he’s played Tsar Peter III in comedy-drama The Great with Elle Fanning and lost out to Robert Pattinson in the Bruce Wayne auditions for The Batman.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, so here’s hoping the next 007, whoever he is, is announced before 2022 is out.

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