Last week, Boyle left the project (due to “creative differences,” according to an official statement), and his script is apparently going with him. Rather than hire someone dependable but unexciting to keep the project on schedule (as Lucasfilm did with Ron Howard and Solo), Variety reported that the production company Eon and the studio MGM are prepared to undertake a major rewrite and delay shooting if necessary. Boyle and Hodge’s script reportedly focused on a Russian villain, and The Telegraph claimed that Craig disagreed with Boyle’s casting choices. But after so many reboots, the problem with Bond goes far deeper than who plays the villain—and arguably nobody knows that better than Craig.
“I don’t know if I’d like to spend too much time with him,” Craig said of the character in a 2015 interview with Esquire promoting Spectre. “Hopefully, my Bond is not as sexist and misogynistic” as previous iterations. The actor’s willingness to talk about the character’s wincingly old-fashioned (or, to put it bluntly, mildly sociopathic) approach to love and romance has been refreshing. But that self-awareness doesn’t erase 007’s inherent flaws. In Spectre, Bond walks off into the sunset with his latest love interest, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), but there’s been no mention of Seydoux returning for “Bond 25,” because the agent has to be single and unattached for his continued lust for danger to remain plausible.
Craig’s frustration with the character is in some ways part of a larger pattern. Every 10 to 20 years, there is some sort of existential reckoning with Bond’s place in pop culture, which is then followed by an overcorrection. Roger Moore, who was 57 in his last appearance as Bond, in 1985, was eventually seen by producers as too old and unable to keep up with more modern, action-packed blockbusters. Timothy Dalton’s Bond was quickly dismissed by critics as too dark and moody after his second outing, in 1989’s starkly violent License to Kill. Pierce Brosnan’s films were drowned in product placement and corporate branding, with his 007 becoming a glorified watch spokesman. Then came Craig, whose movies are less gadget heavy and better recall Sean Connery’s original performance. Craig helped ground the character in reality again, but with that has come more recognition that James Bond the person would be quite awful to interact with.
So, as Craig prepares for what might be his final go-round with the character, rumors about who might replace him have once again kicked into high gear. The result is an unofficial long list of British leading men, including genuine stars such as Tom Hardy and Tom Hiddleston, and emerging TV talent such as James Norton and Aidan Turner. But for most of the past decade, one name has consistently stayed at the top of oddsmakers’ lists: Idris Elba. Not only is he a marquee idol, but his casting as the first nonwhite Bond would also be a genuine milestone.