James Bond: 11 Actors Who Have What It Takes To Fill Daniel Craig's Shoes

Daniel Craig as James Bond in No Time to Die

When Daniel Craig made his first appearance as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, it was a bigger, badder, and bulkier take on cinema’s favorite spy unlike anything we had seen before. Now, his reign will end this April with his final performance as 007 in No Time to Die.

The big question now, and long-discussed even before, is who is next in line to be the seventh (or eighth, if you count David Niven) actor to play James Bond on the big screen? There is nothing set in stone as of now, but I have a few suggestions.

Henry Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Henry Cavill

Playing Superman may have made him a household name, but it is clear that who Henry Cavill really wants to be is James Bond. The 36-year-old British star of Netflix’s series adaptation of video game The Witcher has practically spent most of his career outside of DC movies auditioning for the role of the famed spy.

His debonair performance as CIA agent Napoleon Solo in Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was essentially an American Bond and he nearly usurped Tom Cruise as the ultimate badass of the IMF in Mission: Impossible - Fallout’s epic restroom fight that saw him breaking mirrors and sinks as well as bones. Few things are as clear as the fact that Henry Cavill is tailor-made, head-to-toe and inside out, to play 007.

Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch

However, after the grittier edge that Daniel Craig brought to the role, perhaps it might be time to switch gears to a 007 who is, while still a master of espionage, a bit softer? Benedict Cumberbatch is not the first name, if not the among the very last, that comes to mind when the word “badass” is spoken, but I just might be willing to trust him with my life anyway on the sheer chance that he can outrun, and especially outwit, any obstacle that would come our way.

The 43-year-old London native is the go-to guy for playing the most brilliant minds imaginable, from his Oscar-nominated role as Alan Turning in The Imitation Game to the MCU’s expert surgeon-turned-Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Stephen Strange, and, of course, a modern-day iteration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective in Stephen Moffat’s long-running Sherlock. If there is anything that the James Bond franchise could use, I would bet on a little more brains over brawn, and Benedict Cumberbatch would effortlessly bring the intelligence out of cinema’s most famous intelligence agent.

Tom Hardy in This Means War

Tom Hardy

On the other hand, 007’s newfound grittiness is what reignited people’s interest in the franchise and who does not love seeing the MI6 agent take on death-defying stunts? A guy who knows a thing or two about grit and probably had a few near-death experiences on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road is the incomparable Tom Hardy.

The 42-year-old Oscar-nominee (The Revenant) has opted not to comment on any of his rumored chances to take over for his Layer Cake co-star Daniel Craig (despite recommending his Inception and Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan to helm an installment), but that is most likely to help protect his chances, which are not bad. Tom Hardy has the English origin, the imposing physicality, and more than enough spy movie credits to be a lock for the new James Bond.

Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager

Tom Hiddleston

There is also another British Tom in Hollywood who has some pretty good chances, and for many of the same reasons as Tom Hardy. Tom Hiddleston has had many fans backing him to be next in line to play James Bond, and not just for his Golden Globe-winning role as a hotel employee recruited by British Intelligence in the John Le Carré novel-inspired miniseries The Night Manager.

While he may not be as physically imposing, Tom Hiddleston most definitely possesses a charming suaveness and delectable intimidation that made his portrayal of Loki one of the best things about the MCU in its infancy. All he would have to do is switch that persona over to the good side and you have yourself the most classic appearance of 007 in decades.

Nicholas Hoult in Tolkein

Nicholas Hoult

It has been a while since we have seen the Bond franchise take 007 in a younger direction (a decision that is not without its advantages). The top name I have in mind to make that a reality is this accomplished 30-year-old, British actor who earned acclaim in his home and in the States when he was barely a teenager for his role opposite Hugh Grant in About a Boy… Not that that’s a role we really want to refer to when talking about his merits to play James Bond.

Nicholas Hoult has proven himself as an exceptional leading man in films like the romantic zombie comedy Warm Bodies or apocalyptic drama Young Ones, has endured the franchise machine for nearly a decade as Hank “Beast” McCoy since X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and, like his Mad Max: Fury Road co-star Tom Hardy, can pull off car chases and crazy action stunts, but might rather perform them in some more formal attire. It also appears that he is set to star in the upcoming seventh installment of the Mission: Impossible series, so it looks like Hollywood already sees his potential for 007.

Charlie Hunnam in The Gentlemen

Charlie Hunnam

OK, let’s talk about how much of Charlie Hunnam’s potential has been wasted in the years since playing the troubled Jax Teller on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. The British actor had a subtle taste of franchise glory as the lead of the modestly successful robo-smash-a-thon Pacific Rim, only to opt out of the dismal sequel, and when Guy Ritchie cast him as King Arthur, it was a critical and commercial misfire.

It is clear that this charming 39-year-old can act, as evidenced by his performances in recent turns such as The Gentlemen or the well-received Papillon remake. But he has yet to find a real cinematic sweet spot and I think that the character of James Bond is just asking to be the role that gives it to him. He has the voice, the physicality, and the revered stoicism right for the part that it is hard to believe, as he has claimed, that no one has called him about it yet.

Jude Law in Side Effects

Jude Law

Say, why has no one called Jude Law about playing James Bond either? He has been among the rumored candidates to replace Daniel Craig (without the best odds to land the role), but I mean, earlier in his career around the time that Pierce Brosnan was retiring from his stint, why was Law passed over then, too?

In Hollywood’s defense, the London-born star of the Barbara Broccoli-produced spy thriller The Rhythm Section was barely 30 when Die Another Day came out. Still, since then, they have to have taken note of his ability to be a ladies man in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Alfie, his heroic charm in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and skills in hand-to-combat as Watson in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, right? Jude Law has also starred in movies called Spy and Sleuth. What more does he need to do to be 007?

James McAvoy in Wanted

James McAvoy

He has proven his chameleonic performing skills as a superhuman DID patient in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split and Glass, has experience inheriting a character from a previous actor after playing a younger version of Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise, and dabbled in espionage alongside Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. However, I think I have to name only one movie to prove 40-year-old James McAvoy’s 007 potential: Wanted.

As a trainee to a fraternity of assassins with extraordinary abilities in Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of the Mark Millar comic book, James McAvoy made it clear he was primed for the action star life with every glorious pistol whip and the devilish grin he sported with it. Furthermore, he is Scottish, just like the man most often credited as the greatest actor to play James Bond, Sean Connery. So, there’s that.

David Oyelowo in Jack Reacher

David Oyelowo

You probably did not realize that David Oyelowo was British, did you? I cannot really blame you there. An actor whose most famous role to date is that of American icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava Duvernay’s Selma (having played several American roles since) is bound to be mistaken for a man of the States.

That is just one reason why it would be a treat to see the 43-year-old, two-time Golden Globe nominee fill the shoes of the British secret agent, in addition to his experience in action thrillers such as Captive and Jack Reacher. The bottom line is that David Oyelowo is simply a fantastic actor, one of the most acclaimed of his time, yet he has not received household name status yet. Picking him to be 007 would mark the end of his obscurity.

Simon Pegg in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Simon Pegg

Am I the only one who is just a little tired of seeing Simon Pegg resorted to the Mission: Impossible franchise’s comic relief? His role of Benji Dunn went from goofy side character, to bumbling field agent, to far more experienced agent who is still the butt of the joke most of the time.

I believe the British, nearly 50-year-old star of Shaun of the Dead and Scotty of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek franchise deserves to be given a spy movie role that would allow him to be taken more seriously, so why not go the full mile and cast him as James Bond? Simon Pegg, in his geektastic glory, has already had a taste of every franchise from George A. Romero’s Dead series to Star Wars, so filling in for Daniel Craig is more than just a natural fit, but would finally make him the leading action star that Hot Fuzz proved he deserves to be.

Idris Elba in 100 Streets

Idris Elba

Of course, I had to save the best choice for last. Rarely have I seen an actor receive as much support to land a role like Idris Elba has been rooted for to be the next James Bond. Quite frankly, despite my obvious support of the other aforementioned British actors, I do not believe there is a single person at the moment who deserves the honor more.

The 47-year-old Golden Globe-winner has played every kind of character imaginable, from a charismatic ship captain in Prometheus, an inspirational military official in Pacific Rim, and an unparalleled sharpshooting gunslinger in The Dark Tower. If you are keeping score here, you will notice that he is widely credited as the single best thing about each of those films, but has rarely been given the chance to lead a film that lives up to his talents. Give Idris Elba 007 and he will finally fulfill his destiny.

Daniel Craig will surely be missed for playing James Bond, but, luckily, there are plenty who can accept the torch with ease. For more updates on the upcoming No Time to Die and other 007 casting rumors, be sure to check back here at CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.