Tom Hiddleston—dashing, debonair, smooth cocktail of a man Tom Hiddleston—is on a grand, exhaustive press tour right now for two big, buzzy projects he has out. It’s why you can’t escape headlines about him, most making a great big deal about a great big role he won’t stop talking about.
And that great big role is not one he has actually played, or is promoting. The twist—presumably to garnish a shaken, not stirred martini—is that the role Hiddleston won’t shut up about playing is James Bond.
The star of the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light and the upcoming AMC series The Night Manager has found himself in a bit of an unusual situation for an actor. He’s not just on a press tour for those two roles. He’s on the campaign trail for another one, too.
Hiddleston, it seems, really wants to be the next James Bond. Almost as much as headline-hungry interviewers want him to be.
Few roles are dream cast more fancifully than that of the international spy with the license to kill.
The process is familiar: Culture at large swoons over a suave British rising star with strong cheekbones who fills out a designer suit, and said dreamboat is suddenly wielding a revolver and running from exploding buildings in our collective minds.
When it seems that one Bond is on the verge of retirement—as increasingly grouchy Daniel Craig indicated amongst huffs, puffs, and scowls while promoting Spectre—suddenly the casting rat race ramps up. And it’s not just us who are placing bets on who might take over. It’s U.K.’s most handsome men themselves.
And so actors like Hiddleston, Idris Elba, and Henry Cavill are all publicly throwing their hats in the ring, joining the likes of Damien Lewis, Tom Hardy, and Aidan Turner, whom producers are said to be keen on taking the reins. It’s a campaign more crowded than a Republican primary in winter. But, thankfully, more attractive, and with contenders far more qualified.
Hiddleston fanned the flames on his chances in a recent interview with The Sunday Times, saying, “I simply love the theme tune, the tropes, and the mythology. I love the whole thing. If it ever came knocking, it would be an extraordinary opportunity.”
OK, not exactly, “MAKE ME YOUR BOND, WORLD!” But still, an enthusiasm to satisfy those who are #TeamTom.
It’s a chicken and egg situation: He won’t stop talking about it, but we also keep making him talk about it. Yet engaging each and every journalist in a giddy conversation about the possibility isn’t exactly an effective way to silence rumors.
Then there was this past week’s meta moment when, in the U.K. finale of The Night Manager (which appears stateside later this month), Hiddleston, dressed in a bespoke suit, gestures at a bartender and asks, “Excuse me, sir. Could I have a vodka martini, please?”
Hiddleston had a laugh about the timing—the episode airing at the peak of all the Bond discussion—in an interview with Marlow Stern for The Daily Beast. “Honestly, I didn’t think about it as I said it,” he said. “I can’t remember if it was in the script or I improvised it. I’m pretty sure I improvised it though because, actually, [co-star] Hugh Laurie really loves a vodka martini.”
Hiddleston has actually shared the screen with another Bond frontrunner, Beasts of No Nation and Luther star Idris Elba. Asked if they joke together about the rumor-mill, Hiddleston laughed, “I know, right? We should. What the hell is going on? Honestly, I have no control over it.”
At one point someone who did have control chimed in on all the rumors. Former Sony head Amy Pascal, it was revealed in an email unearthed by The Daily Beast in the Sony hacks, had said, “Idris should be the next Bond.”
In fact, enthusiasm for the possibility of Elba in the role, which would make him the first black James Bond, is so rampant that he’s been dubbed “The People’s Bond.” To Elba’s credit, unlike Hiddleston, he tends to be a bit more sheepish and reluctant to talk about all the rumors.
“Can we talk about the media obsession with you playing James Bond?” The Telegraph’s Chris Harvey asked him in an interview last winter. “Can we not?” he bluntly replied.
By that point, Elba had been questioned about it heavily. He even seemed to be enjoying it.
“If human beings want to know if there’s any connectivity between all of us, the one thing I’ve heard around the world universally is that, ‘You’ll be great at James Bond!’” Elba told Variety in September. “If it should happen, that’s proof there’s connectivity amongst human beings. If everyone wants something, they can make it happen. That would be true.”
His explanation for wanting to end the discussion is interesting in the context of a piece about Bond campaigning.
“Because it feels like I’m campaigning, and I’m not,” he said. “At first it was harmless—oh I know, wouldn’t be great?—and now it’s started off racial debates. I’m probably the most famous Bond actor in the world, and I’ve not even played the role. Enough is enough. I can’t talk about it anymore.”
The racial debate he is talks about likely refers to author Anthony Horowitz, who wrote the new James Bond novel Trigger Mortis and said that he believes Elba is “probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”
The comment drew understandable controversy, particularly when you consider the tone-deafness of shooting down an opportunity to modernize a franchise that, with Spectre, could use some shaking up. (Heh. Get it?)
That’s why other more traditional candidates talking up their chances elicit a few groans.
There’s Henry Cavill, for example, currently putting people to sleep in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Appearing on Graham Norton’s talk show in the U.K., Cavill said he’d love the chance to be 007: “Obviously I’m very busy with the Superman stuff, but if there were any windows and they wanted me to do that kind of role it would be great, and I would love to do it.”
Would it be greedy to be both Superman and Bond? “Greedy or awesome?” Cavill replied, revealing a personality for the very first time.
The truth is, that the Bond “campaign” lives on the press cycle of these actors’ other projects. Elba was assaulted with questions about it during the Beasts of No Nation tour. Hiddleston and Cavill are in the news about it now. Brace yourself, Moneypenny, because the onslaught is still to come.
Google for a list of Bond contenders, and see names like Damien Lewis (Homeland), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), and Aidan Turner (Poldark) emerge as odds-on favorites.
While Hiddleston has said that rumors about his involvement with the next film are all speculation and Elba made clear that he not met with Bond producers.
A thinly sourced article in the Daily Mail, however, indicated that Lewis had been given an “unofficial nod” from producers to be the new agent. It was also reported that Turner was flown to L.A. to have talks with Bond producers. And, at various junctures, bettors have set Hardy as the odds-on favorite for the role, using methods that presumably only Q would know.
And thus we arrive at the silliness of all these Bond inquiries, rumor mills, and campaigns.
As we’ve learned through reports of Star Wars casting (and basically every superhero film), when a role like this is made vacant, pretty much all of Hollywood is brought in to meet or audition for it. And ask any of the actors if they’d like to play a role like James Bond (and, you know, become one of the richest and most famous people in the world), should we be surprised that the answer almost uniformly is: “Uh…yeah?”
Elba, for what it’s worth, seems to be self-aware, bordering on defeatist, about this very thing: “It doesn’t matter how many people want me to do it,” he told U.K.’s Esquire. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to get it.”)
It’s not that there isn’t a history of this. Clive Owen jokes often about the ridiculousness of the Bond rumor mill, having been hailed as the fan favorite to take over for Pierce Brosnan, which Daniel Craig eventually did.
“Bond was the best thing that never happened to me,” he said. “It’s easy to keep saying no to a role that you’re not being offered.”
It’s not the rumor mill or the campaigning that’s new, or even the glut of worthy contenders. It’s the breathless pace of the online news cycle that exaggerates every whisper about the casting process into a breaking news story that spreads like a virus through the internet and social media that’s new. And thus here we are.
So is there really a campaign going on for James Bond? As long as we don’t see Tom Hiddleston walking the streets of London in a homemade leather catsuit wielding a riding crop, I think we’re safe.