Which Tom will make the better Bond?
With Spectre rumoured to be Daniel Craig's last outing as James Bond, we look at the top contenders for the role of Agent 007
It's not official, but Spectre could well be Daniel Craig's last James Bond film.
The 47-year-old British actor seems to have tired playing the dashing secret agent with a love of martinis, fast cars and women, as well as the licence to kill, having done it four times since Casino Royale in 2006.
He rather dramatically told Time Out London magazine last month that he would rather "slash my wrists" than reprise the role, despite being contracted to do one more film for the blockbuster franchise.
Admittedly, Craig has since eaten his words. "As I've said before, I reserve the right to change my mind," he told TV show Good Morning Britain.
No matter. Whether he's in or out, the ending of Spectre - which opens here tomorrow - unequivocally ties up all the loose ends of the Craig-era instalments, paving the way for a fresh face to take over.
We've rounded up our top five contenders, and whoever gets the gig would do well to heed Craig's advice: "Don't be s***. You've got to step up. People do not make movies like this any more."
1 ROUGH-AND-TOUGH BOND
TOM HARDY, 38
THE BUZZ: Hardy told the Belfast Telegraph in September that he "wouldn't say no". And his odds with UK bookmakers William Hill are high at 5/2, making him the current favourite.
PROS: With his action-packed roles in movie hits like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy has proved he's a tough customer. And he sure looks good in a suit.
CONS: None. Hardy is the right age to play Bond, and his star power is at its peak now.
There's a good chance we'll see him as Bond. He's got the chops, the swagger and the popularity to bring the franchise more success.
2 BRAINY BOND
TOM HIDDLESTON, 38
The buzz: He told TV station BBC that he would "enjoy the experience" if he were cast, and we think he'll bring his own brand of charm and intelligence.
"I think (for) any British actor who gets a phone call that says 'Would you like to play James Bond?', there's no more enticing question," he admitted to Entertainment Tonight. "I'd love to be in a Bond film at some point. Even if (it happens) when I'm in my 70s, standing in the background and giving James Bond directions."
Pros: Hiddleston is age-appropriate, can be menacing when he needs to be (see his turn as Loki in the Avengers movies) and has an army of fans behind him.
Cons: He can play dapper gentlemen as evidenced in the gothic romance-horror Crimson Peak, but the intellectual-looking Hiddleston may not be the right choice if the studio and producers prefer a more gritty, hard-as-nails Bond.
Personally, we can't think of a better match-up than Hiddleston's Bond versus Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch as a sinister Bond villain. The combination of their rabid female fanbases, Hiddlestoners and Cumberbitches, would guarantee a boost in ticket sales.
3 BLACK BOND
IDRIS ELBA, 43
The buzz: The star of crime dramas like The Wire and Luther has been tipped for the part ever since Craig started playing Bond in 2005. Even Amy Pascal, former chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, championed Elba as 007. In a leaked e-mail from the Sony hacking saga last year, she wrote that "Idris should be the next Bond".
Pros: Elba has proved he can do action (Pacific Rim) as well as romance (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom), and he's keen on the role. He wrote in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread last year when asked if he would take on the 007 role: "Yes, if it was offered to me, absolutely."
Cons: Not everyone is convinced that James Bond should be black, with 007 author Anthony Horowitz telling The Daily Mail he thought Elba was "too street". In April, Elba told the audience at London's British Film Institute he believes the Bond ship has sailed for him.
"Honestly, it's a rumour that's really starting to eat itself... If there was ever any chance of me getting Bond, it's gone," he said.
With his charisma and stellar acting credentials, Elba is a solid choice. And with recent complaints that the 007 franchise is getting stale, a black Bond might just be the thing to reboot the franchise.
4 GINGER BOND
DAMIAN LEWIS, 44
The buzz: Best known for his role in TV drama Homeland, Lewis was a top contender in June. English bookmakers William Hill PLC announced then that he suddenly skyrocketed to first place in their "Next Bond" poll, suggesting insiders may be betting on him.
There have been reports that he's been given "an unofficial nod" that he is the first choice if Craig quits.
"He is seen as an all-round international star who is perfect for the role. As he ages, he looks increasingly suave and sophisticated," The Mirror quoted a source as saying.
Pros: Lewis joked to UK newspaper The Telegraph in 2013 that 007's Scottish heritage "paved the way perfectly for a redhead Bond".
Cons: Lewis is the oldest in the running, and since one will need to commit to a few movies, he may not have the stamina to keep up with the physical demands of the role.
We're open to the idea of a Ginger Bond. After all, Craig was the first blond Bond. Lewis has also drawn praise for his suave ways in a 2012 Jaguar commercial.
5 SEXY BOND
MICHAEL FASSBENDER, 38
The buzz: Comic book author Mark Millar, who wrote Kick-Ass, Wanted and Kingsman: The Secret Service, declared Fassbender his top choice. On his Twitter account, Millar wrote: "Bond's been boring for years... Fassbender would jazz it up."
Pros: German-Irish heart-throb Fassbender was a master of intensity as Magneto in the rebooted X-Men films, and in 2011 showed us his romantic leading man impact as Rochester in Jane Eyre.
Cons: Fassbender may be too famous and important to play Bond, which is typically a role given to newer actors. He is already producing and starring in his own potential blockbuster Assassin's Creed, has portrayed the titular protagonists in Macbeth and Steve Jobs and already has the X-Men franchise keeping him busy.
It seems unlikely we'll see Fassbender order a "shaken, not stirred" martini, but hey, we can dream.
Barely there Bond girls
Agent 007 has lady friends aplenty, but not many get to ride off into the sunset with him. Here are the blink-and-you'll-miss-them bevy who make fleeting appearances in the Bond movies.
Quantum Of Solace (2008)
Casino Royale (2006)
Die Another Day (2002)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
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