With Tom Hardy rumoured to helm the iconic spy franchise, Film Critic David Cohen dusts off the slick tuxedo to decide who, and how, is best suited to wear it
James Bond is as British as Apple Pie is American. As a staple of our little island’s history and culture, whoever gets to sit behind the wheel of that Aston Martin has the aftertaste of 14 books in their (shaken not stirred) martini, weighted down by 70 years in their suited pockets. Recently, a name that has swirled around in TV and Film for almost 20 years has found a seat at the top of the list to inherit the title of 007; Tom Hardy.
Having started with smaller and more sedated performances such as in the beloved Band of Brothers, Hardy has graduated to iconic. Performances within the last 5 years such as Alfie Solomons, the Kray Twins, Venom, and Bane, have demonstrated the charisma this actor can bring to a diverse collection of rogues and rebels. And in truth, Hardy could most likely play Bond in his sleep – the man was born for a suit and drips swagger with every step. To doubt his acting expertise is to risk inviting a crowd outside your house donning pitchforks and Bane masks.
So, the question isn’t if he can’t play Bond, but rather whether he should. Bond is a character that has never been the same (just look at Connery’s womanising Bond of the sixties and try and say it would be appropriate for a modern audience). Sneaky, smart, strong and silent, each actor has sought to develop a part of 007 that others had neglected; Daniel Craig for example looked to ground the character. Gone were the days of a bloodless and easy mission, as a ‘licence to kill’ was less a badge of honour but more a scar of trauma. Now, there is another opportunity for change. Growth. Development. Bond can be diversified as he has done in the past. Should Hardy come to meet Q, M, and I’m sure another secret-lair- cat-stroking villain, it should be as Tom Hardy’s James Bond, not a composite of previous performances. Maybe Hardy can stray from the muscles and brutality and instead embrace a slick agent using his mind and skills of persuasion. Perhaps this Bond relies on planning and precision, more akin to a heist film at heart.
However, there is also a lost opportunity if Hardy is cast. Choosing such a well-known actor is safe, but personally, I would love a risk to be taken by the studio. Casting an unknown talent in the role injects mystery and speculation into a franchise our grandparents saw premiere. A young actor who isn’t referred to as “that actor from that show” but just as Bond would enrich the film with youth and vigour. There is also a chance for the series to take a long overdue leap and cast the first black actor in the role (Idris Elba would be a clear choice), or even double down on Lashana Lynch’s role in No Time To Die and cast a ‘Jane Bond’. The choice of Hardy is excellent, but obvious. The joy of such a role is that it can shoot an unknown actor into the heights of stardom and introduce the world to a new and vibrant talent.
Should the stars align, and the cheque have enough zeroes, Hardy would have a lot on his plate to bring James Bond to a fresh audience without alienating the long-time lovers of the series. No, not in his acting performance, but in the idea of 007. The franchise that doesn’t evolve is relegated to bargain buckets on Disney Plus, and with every new actor, every new film, an opportunity to reinvent arises. There is a chance the suit is a little tight and the role doesn’t quite fit Hardy. Maybe it’s less a Dr.No or Casino Royale, and more of a Quantum of Solace or Moonraker. The trap for the potential Hardy Bond is a conceptual one; how not to make James Bond boring. However, whether new, different, recycled, or refurbished, it’s a strong yet expected decision to cast Hardy as he continues to be one of the best and popular actors in media at the moment.