beyond NY: James Blond?
A favorite to take over from Pierce Brosnan as the next James Bond emerged on Tuesday, yet aptly enough for the world’s most famous fictitious spy the true identity of the next 007 remained a mystery.
Just days ahead of an expected official announcement, Englishman Daniel Craig was named as the first “blond Bond” in an unsourced newspaper report, while British bookmaker William Hill closed betting on Bond after betters rushed to back him.
Hill has taken bets on no less than 39 pretenders for the part, several “winners” have been named in recent months and media and dedicated Bond Web sites have been awash with gossip.
With shooting of the 21st Bond film, “Casino Royale,” due to begin in January, speculation has only intensified. The delay in announcing the casting has been portrayed as a crisis that could cause costly production delays.
Only five actors have donned 007’s tuxedo since Sean Connery took on Dr. No over 40 years ago.
Dozens of others have been mentioned as possible successors to Brosnan, including Englishmen Clive Owen and Jude Law, Australia’s Hugh Jackman and Croatia’s Goran Visnjic.
Craig’s agent in London declined to comment, and both the next film’s Hollywood backers, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc, and Bond production company EON have remained silent on who will take over as the super-spy.
“The decision hasn’t been made yet. They are casting and that takes however long it takes,” was the reply from an EON spokeswoman clearly tiring of fielding the same question.
For the filmmakers there is more at stake than how to prepare a martini (shaken, not stirred).
Not only is Bond a national institution in Britain, but he is also one of history’s most profitable film franchises. It has netted nearly $4 billion in ticket sales of which Brosnan’s four films grossed $1.5 billion, industry figures show.
Hollywood producers and directors familiar with casting an iconic action hero like Bond say a relative unknown is most likely to take over.
Avi Arad, who runs Marvel Studios with its “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” movies, said the main criterion for his heroes was simply an ability to act, and that big stars were unnecessary for such a strong brand name as Marvel.
The same could be said of Bond or Batman.
“It’s such an iconic franchise and such a huge part of American culture,” John Papsidera, casting director for “Batman Begins,” said of the caped crusader.
“Inherently, (the filmmakers) felt the audience would be there as long as we didn’t screw it up.”
In the end, Christian Bale, who honed his acting skills in independent films like “The Machinist” and “American Psycho,” was chosen and proved a critical and commercial hit as Batman.
Brosnan has said he would be willing to play Bond for a fifth time, and experts believe that Sony, mindful of the Irishman’s box office clout, would welcome him back.
But Web sites devoted to all things Bond say producer Barbara Broccoli wants fresh blood, with Casino Royale returning to the start of the spy’s career on Her Majesty’s secret service.
James Page, director of Bond Web site (www.mi6.co.uk), agreed Brosnan was likely to be replaced with a lesser known actor.
“If it’s not Daniel Craig, it will be someone the public doesn’t know,” he said. “They did this with Sean Connery originally. Roger Moore was the only (Bond) actor who came in with any stature in the film industry.”
When asked who his choice would be, Arad named Australia’s Julian McMahon, who played the villain in the Marvel movie “Fantastic Four.”
The other two actors to play James Bond are Timothy Dalton, last seen in "License to Kill" and George Lazenby, who briefly replaced Connery as Bond in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Connery returned for "Diamonds Are Forever" and was replaced thereafter by Moore.
Lazenby's daughter, Melanie, is New York real estate broker.