Licensed to act: casting the new 007


Victor Gonzalez | Staff Illustrator

By Mason Lazarcheff / Staff Writer

“Spectre” is more than just the next James Bond title — it’s also the job description.

With Daniel Craig’s penultimate adventure as 007 slated to open in November, the race to be the next Bond is heating up almost as quickly as the presidential primaries — and actor Tom Hardy is leading the way.

According to BoyleSports, an independent online Irish bookmaker, Hardy has a 2/1 favorite over previous frontrunners Idris Elba and Damian Lewis. Elba, who was the top pick for the next Bond, recently secured his first Golden Globe for the hit BBC television show “Luther,” in which he plays a detective haunted by his past. His new film, “Beasts of No Nation,” has received critical attention, and its trailer has reached more than 3 million views on YouTube. Lewis is best known for his role as Nicholas Brody in the popular Showtime drama “Homeland.”

Hardy has been busy building his case for the role. Between his summer blockbuster “Mad Max,” with at least one sequel on the way, and his latest film, “Legend,” which is already setting UK box office records, Hardy is currently one of the top acts in Hollywood.

Hardy has made a career playing independent, internalized characters. As if adjusting itself for the actor, the Bond franchise has taken a dark turn while also introducing a theme of classic Bond callbacks. The latest film, “Skyfall,” recalled beloved relics and characters from older Bond adventures that previous movies had excluded, like the classic Aston Martin. It also emphasized a new gadget expert, Q, whose toys are arguably what make 007 so iconic, yet who hasn’t appeared much recent films. However, Craig’s dark, lone wolf iteration of Bond, which plays into Hardy’s favor, is the exception to recent nostalgia.

The past three Bond films are evidence of the franchise’s transition that would welcome his brooding acting chops. Craig has taken the character rogue, like a dog let off its leash. In “Casino Royale,” Bond hacks his boss’ computer to find the location of villainous henchman Le Chiffre and then proceeds to take him out all on his own, without consulting the British external intelligence agency, MI6. He has become less of a secret agent and more of a secret vigilante.

Hardy’s demonstrated similar character traits to Dark Bond, suggesting somebody should start fitting him a double-vented suit. His appearances in films like “Mad Max” and “Warrior,” where he played the titular — if not quiet — hero Max and boxer Tommy Conlon, respectively, have similarly self-reliant tough-guy traits as the new dark Bond.

Elba was formerly the clear favorite to take the Bond mantle from Craig — and might still be a fan favorite to become the first black Bond — but Hardy has replaced him as the frontrunner. Elba, who got his start in the acclaimed series “The Wire,” hasn’t made an American blockbuster since 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” He also arguably isn’t a household name like Hardy, who broke out as Bane in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” and did a victory lap by starring in “Mad Max.”

Apart from playing macho characters like Bane or Max, perhaps his strongest experience for the role is his portrayal of the tight-lipped and strictly mission-oriented rogue spy Ricki Tarr in the spy drama “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Like Bond, Tarr functions alone and is constantly in danger. Transitioning to the fantastic, action-packed world of James Bond seems like the natural next step for someone who has played both spy and action star, though never both together.

We also cannot forget that Bond is a ladies man. With each film, he manages to work his way into the life of at least one woman. Hardy’s experience in this department triumphs — Tarr lands in a strikingly Bond-esque situation in “Tinker Taylor,” when he becomes romantically distracted while investigating a mole within MI6, jeopardizing the whole mission. This role, in retrospect, now seems like an audition — that Hardy passed.

Hardy has also shined in minor roles, such as his underrated performance in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 dream-world hit “Inception,” where he plays Eames, a smooth-talking con man and identity forger. Though he wears suits, it’s easy to imagine a man as witty and handsome as Eames in a tux — the uniform of any secret agent, whose very job is to trick people into capture.

Though we still won’t know the decision for some time, the case is rightfully in Hardy’s favor.

Directors take note: The name is Hardy, Tom Hardy.

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