Who will be the next James Bond 007?
There are few casting decisions as hotly anticipated as the question of who will be the next 007, with many expecting that a black Bond or even female Bond is on the cards.
Daniel Craig, a somewhat reluctant Bond at times, has had one foot out of the tuxedo almost from the moment he took on the role back in 2006.
But "No Time to Die" appears to really be his fifth and final outing, and so the rumour mill is back in action.
For years, several names have been closely linked to the role, which has previously been played by stars including Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.
- Tom Hardy -
Craig was an attempt to toughen up Bond after Her Majesty's top agent was threatened by an American -- Jason Bourne -- and his grittier adventures.
He was a massive success, with "Casino Royale" and "Skyfall" in particular seen as two of the best Bond films of all time, and returning the character to the style of the original novels by Ian Fleming.
Tom Hardy, often a villain or at least an anti-hero in films like "The Dark Knight Rises", "Venom" and "Mad Max: Fury Road", would be a way to maintain that darker vision of Bond.
He is currently the bookies' favourite in Britain, according to betting agency William Hill.
- Idris Elba -
A name that is often in the discussion is Idris Elba, known for "The Wire", "The Suicide Squad" and hit BBC series "Luther".
He set social media tongues wagging in 2018 when he posted: "My name's Elba, Idris Elba" -- echoing Bond's famous catchphrase -- but he added soon after: "Don't believe the hype!"
Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has repeatedly said that the next 007 "doesn't need to be a white man".
- Lashana Lynch -
Broccoli seemed to rule out the possibility of a female bond, telling Variety: "I'm not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that."
But that hasn't stopped speculation around Lashana Lynch, a 33-year-old black British woman.
Craig, however, agreed with Broccoli's position, telling the Radio Times: "There should simply be better parts for women and actors of colour.
"Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?"
- Rege-Jean Page -
Having set millions of hearts aflutter with Netflix hit "Bridgerton" over the past year, another bookmaker's favourite is the young British-Zimbabwean actor.
He has been self-effacing about the idea, telling US talkshow host Jimmy Fallon: "If you're a Brit and you do something of any kind of renown, then people start saying the B-word."
- Tom Holland -
Less coy about his desire for a licence to kill is Spiderman star Tom Holland.
Not content with being a superhero, Holland told Variety: "As a young British lad who loves cinema, I'd love to be James Bond. So, you know, I'm just putting that out there. I look pretty good in a suit."
- Also in the running -
There are plenty of other candidates, with Vogue recently offering a run-down that gave strong odds to "British-Malaysian dreamboat" Henry Golding, "Bodyguard" star Richard Madden -- or for a more cerebral twist on the character, "Peaky Blinders" lead Cillian Murphy.
For now, lips are sealed at Bond HQ, with Broccoli saying: "You can only be in love with one person at a time.
"For now, we just cannot think about anything beyond Daniel."
Daniel Craig: 007 over and out
After 15 years playing the legendary British spy James Bond, Daniel Craig is making way for a new generation of actors following his fifth 007 film, "No Time To Die", which has its world premiere in London on Tuesday.
The blond-haired, blue-eyed actor was not well known to the general public when he took over from Pierce Brosnan in 2006, and seemed far removed from the character created by writer Ian Fleming.
Even Sam Mendes, director of 2015 Bond film "Spectre", admitted that he thought at the time that it was a bad fit.
"I thought Bond had become the opposite of what Daniel is -- a slightly disengaged, urbane, jokey, eyebrow-raising, you know, a pastiche in a way," he told the BBC.
But the intensity Craig brought to the part won over doubters and allowed the multimillion-dollar franchise to be rebooted with a harder, more serious edge.
He celebrated landing the role by paying a boozy tribute to the iconic spy, previously incarnated by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.
"I got drunk," Craig told the official 'James Bond' podcast.
"I bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of vermouth, a cocktail shaker and made myself three or four vodka martinis," Bond's favourite tipple.
Producer Barbara Broccoli, however, explained that Craig had resisted her advances for some time before agreeing, saying "the big problem was that he didn't want to do it".
Although a fan of the famous MI6 agent since childhood, the actor feared that his personal life would suffer from the pressure and fame that come with being the franchise figurehead.
His private life remains relatively secret, although the tabloids have reported he had affairs with supermodel Kate Moss and actress Sienna Miller before marrying the Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz in 2011.
The couple had a baby girl in 2018. He already had a daughter, Ella, with his first wife, Scottish actress Fiona Loudon.
- 'I'm not James Bond' -
Born in 1968 in Chester, northwest England, to a pub landlord father and art teacher mother, Craig spent part of his childhood in Liverpool, where he moved with his mother and sister following his parents' divorce.
He started acting at an early age, attending drama school in London and landing a string of roles in television, art house cinema and on stage before breaking through in Hollywood with films like 2001's "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider".
He has played the painter Francis Bacon's lover in "Love is the Devil" (1998) and starred alongside Tom Hanks in Sam Mendes' "Road to Perdition" (2002).
He is also known for playing a cocaine dealer in Matthew Vaughn's 2004 film "Layer Cake", before signing for the James Bond films.
After 2006 debut "Casino Royale", he starred in "Quantum of Solace" (2008), "Skyfall" (2012) and "Spectre" (2015).
Craig, 53, then seemed intent on calling it quits, but Broccoli convinced him to make a swansong in "No Time to Die".
He has always insisted his own personality is a long way from the tuxedo-wearing, Martini-drinking Bond.
In real life, he prefers jeans, a T-shirt and a cold beer in the pub.
Shortly after the birth of his daughter with Weisz, he was pictured carrying her in a sling on his front.
British TV host Piers Morgan lashed out at the image, with the Twitter hashtag #emasculatedBond, but his comments sparked a backlash on social media.
Between Bond films, Craig has chosen roles far removed from the suave spy, including an acclaimed 2013 Broadway production of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" with Weisz.
"I'm not James Bond," he once told Esquire magazine. "I'm not particularly brave, I'm not particularly cool-headed."
He added: "The day I can walk into a pub and someone goes, 'Oh, there's Daniel Craig' and then just leaves me alone, that'll be great."
No time to wait
Celebrities and royals walk the red carpet in central London on Tuesday for the much-delayed world premiere of the latest James Bond film, "No Time To Die".
British actor Daniel Craig's fifth and final outing in the blockbuster franchise hits big screens after its release was repeatedly postponed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The film will be shown at London's historic Royal Albert Hall, with royal couples Prince Charles and Camilla and Prince William and Kate set to attend.
It will go on general release in Britain on Thursday and in the United States on October 8 -- a year and a half behind schedule.
The film is part of a backlog of major productions held back by distributors during the pandemic, hitting cinemas hard.
The release will be cinema-only, not streaming, which Craig called a "joyous thing" in an interview with Sky News.
Vue Entertainment, the UK branch of the cinema operator Vue International, hailed the movie's release as "the cinematic event of the year".
- Craig bows out -
In the latest film, reportedly costing $250 million (£182 million, 214 million euros), Bond returns to active service after retirement, vowing: "I have to finish this."
He deploys his trademark hi-tech gadgets in spectacular scenery in Italy and Norway while battling the villainous Safin, played by Oscar-winner Rami Malek ("Bohemian Rhapsody").
"I get shot and then I get blown up. It feels like James Bond to me," Craig said in an official podcast.
With Craig bowing out, speculation has mounted over who will inherit his licence to kill.
UK bookmakers are tipping the likes of Tom Hardy ("The Revenant", "Dunkirk") or Rege-Jean Page, the mixed-race star of the Netflix hit "Bridgerton".
Craig has held onto the role longer than any of his predecessors since his 2006 debut in "Casino Royale".
The 53-year-old has won praise for adding depth and emotional complexity to the all-action role, but only reluctantly agreed to one final appearance as Bond.
After "Spectre" in 2015, Craig told Time Out magazine he would rather "slash his wrists" than reprise the role.
Emmy-winning US filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga directed the new film, becoming the first American to helm the franchise.
His previous films include a 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre".
The filmmaker stepped in after the original director Danny Boyle, known for "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Trainspotting", left over "creative differences" in 2018.
- 'World has changed' -
Fukunaga said in a promotional video that his Bond is "like a wounded animal", struggling because "the world has changed, the rules of engagement aren't what they used to be: the rules of espionage (are) darker in this era of asymmetric warfare".
The Bond films are based on a character created by upper-class British writer Ian Fleming in novels published in the 1950s and 1960s.
As the MeToo movement has heightened awareness of misogyny in popular culture, some have argued that time has run out for the franchise.
The new film's director has also criticised Bond's sexual exploits.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Fukunaga said that in one 1960s-era film, "basically Sean Connery's character rapes a woman".
"That wouldn't fly today," he stressed.
Among those working on the script was Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British creator and star of the TV series "Fleabag" and writer of the first series of "Killing Eve".
In the film, Bond spars with a black female MI6 agent, played by Briton Lashana Lynch, and has to take a back seat to her as she flies a plane.
"They're doing exactly the right thing, and I think they'll continue to do that in the future," Lynch told Sky News of the creative team.