Post-Brosnan, Bond is a tough suit to fill
Where is James Bond?
With production set to begin in January on the 21st Bond picture, “Casino Royale,” the dashing movie hero who dates back to the ’60s might as well be missing in action.
The latest Bond film, “Die Another Day,” starring Pierce Brosnan, was released by MGM in 2002. But last year, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the sibling producers who control the Bond franchise, told the Irish Brosnan, 52, the fifth actor to portray Bond in the long-running series, that after four films they would not require his services for the new one.
According to sources familiar with the situation, the producers and Brosnan were too far apart on terms to close a deal. One Sony executive described Brosnan’s salary demands, which within the industry have been said to be as much as $30 million, “usurious.” (No Bond has ever landed gross points.) Still, commented Steven Jay Rubin, author of “The Complete James Bond Encyclopedia”: “They shouldn’t have let him go. Now they have to find a guy they can patch up to a seven-year contract.”
“It was a big mistake to let Pierce go,” agreed casting agent Debra Zane. “He’s got it all. Who cares if he’s in his early 50s? He’s completely Bond.”
As a result, the producers now face the difficult challenge of casting a new Bond.
The difficulty of that task became apparent shortly after a consortium headed by Sony Corp. of America announced its intent in September to acquire MGM and its assets.
In November, the many players who are involved in casting the new Bond — including Amy Pascal, chairman of the Sony Pictures Entertainment motion picture group — held their first meeting at a British men’s club in London, but they were unable to reach an agreement.
“Casino Royale” is scheduled to start production in January for an October release. Once again, Judi Dench will play M. and John Cleese will be Q. The casting of a new Miss Moneypenny is moving forward.
But so far there’s no Bond in sight. Broccoli and Wilson, her half-brother — were schooled in the Bond tradition by the late, legendary Bond producer Cubby Broccoli — often don’t agree with each other on the casting possibilities, according to talent agents. One source close to the movie reported that Broccoli liked “Layer Cake” star Daniel Craig, 37, but Wilson didn’t. Broccoli also thought Australian star Hugh Jackman, 36, who in addition to playing Wolverine in “X-Men” has appeared in Broadway musicals, wasn’t masculine enough. Colin Farrell, 29, was judged too much of a bad boy. Eric Bana, 37, star of “Troy” and the upcoming “Munich,” wasn’t good-looking enough. Ewan McGregor, 34, was too short. “Their natural instinct is to do what’s been done before,” the source said.
Bond director Martin Campbell, who helmed “GoldenEye,” has his own ideas about reinventing the franchise. He was involved in the recent hiring of Paul Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Crash”) to rewrite old Bond hands Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (“The World Is Not Enough,” “Die Another Day”). “Campbell wants to find a complete unknown,” one source said. “He wants to take credit for re-energizing the franchise again.”
Compounding the challenge, several bigger stars have passed on the opportunity to play Bond. When Clive Owen, 41, was approached by Campbell, who directed him in “Beyond Borders,” he told Campbell that he wasn’t interested in the role, his spokesman said. “He already had so many interesting, varied offers on the table that he wanted to keep his options open,” he said. Owen instead signed up for a string of films, including Spike Lee’s “Inside Man,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “The Children of Men” and Michael Davis’ “Shoot ‘Em Up.” In the meantime, Owen will send up Bond by playing Agent 006 in the upcoming remake of “The Pink Panther.”
As the search has dragged on, Bond spokeswoman Ann Bennett has been fending off one Internet rumor after another. Just about every leading man capable of a British accent has been bandied about for Bond. There have been rumors of a black Bond: British “Prime Suspect” star and 007’s agent cohort on the last three films, Colin Salmon, 43. There has been talk of a Croatian Bond: “ER” star Goran Visnjic, 32, who studied for 10 days in London with a dialogue coach and did a screen test. And there’s even been speculation about a baby Bond: Brit Henry Cavill (“Goodbye, Mr. Chips”), 22, also did a screen test, along with 28-year-old Australian Alex O’Lachlan (“The Oyster Farmer”). Glasgow-born Ewan Stewart (“Titanic”), 47, was reported to have tested for the role but did not, according to a Sony spokesman. “There is no pending announcement,” he added.
As a result, agents and managers from Hollywood to Sydney to London and beyond have all been dreaming about one of their clients landing the coveted Bond assignments. There have been lobbying efforts — some subtle, some not — to get the producers’ attention.
One campaign by Julian McMahon, 37, who has starred in “Nip/Tuck” and “Fantastic Four,” already appears to have backfired. After the Australian actor struck a Bond pose, dressed in a tuxedo and wielding a gun, along with the headline “License to Thrill” on the April cover of Angeleno Modern Luxury, he might have alienated the producers, sources said. Campbell did want to test McMahon. But according to several sources, the actor’s new representatives at CAA and Three Arts Entertainment advised him to turn down a test, a charge a CAA spokesman denied.The producers are determined to give Bond a face-lift. Before MGM’s sale to Sony was finalized, MGM execs arranged for “Layer Cake” director Matthew Vaughn to meet with the Broccoli family about directing the next Bond, possibly with Craig as his star. “They loved him more than me,” Vaughn said ruefully. “I would have nailed Bond.”
Other directors who have spoken about their interest in reviving the franchise include Quentin Tarantino and John Woo, but the Broccolis decided to work once more with Campbell.
However, they are concerned that the franchise has been skewing older as the boomer audience that grew up with Bond ages. In deciding to adapt Ian Fleming’s first Bond tale, the 1953 novel “Casino Royale,” they can reintroduce Bond as a young 28-year-old. “They were looking young,” the agent of one Bond wannabe said. “They said they wanted the next generation’s James Bond. Someone the younger audience could relate to.”
Meanwhile, the media have been busy advancing their own candidates, including Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“Bend It Like Beckham”), 28, who insisted that he was never approached for the role. “Who wouldn’t want the chance of being the world’s greatest super-spy agent?” he said. “It’s not reality for me at the moment.”
Jude Law, 32, earned the most votes in a Total Film Magazine Internet poll on Bond. Gerard Butler (“The Phantom of the Opera”), 35, also has been mentioned as a real contender. Other names that have surfaced — either in the media or inside the Hollywood beltway — are Hugh Grant (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”), 44; Ralph Fiennes (“The Constant Gardener”), 42; Rufus Sewell (“The Legend of Zorro”), 37; Matthew MacFadyen (“Pride and Prejudice”), 31; Karl Urban (“The Bourne Supremacy”), 33; Orlando Bloom (“Kingdom of Heaven”), 28; Jason O’Mara (“Band of Brothers”), 33; Jack Davenport (“Pirates of the Caribbean”), 32; Robbie Williams (“De-Lovely”), 31; Jeremy Northam (“Gosford Park”), 43; Dominic West (“The Wire”), 35; Dougray Scott (“Dark Water”), 39; Rupert Friend (“Pride & Prejudice”), 26; David Morrissey, (“Derailed”), 41; Gary Stretch (“Alexander”), 36; James Purefoy (“Rome”), 41; and Ioan Gruffudd (“Fantastic Four”), 31.
But there is a risk in casting a young Bond, one former Bond marketer said: Although the global franchise needs to be made more contemporary — many kids see Bond movies as belonging to their parents — “the danger of going too young to broaden the appeal is that you alienate the core, which is males over 25. He has to wear the suit well, as Brosnan did. You can’t lose sight of the core.”
Broccoli and Wilson will find themselves competing with movies like “The Bourne Identity” series, starring Matt Damon, one ICM agent said. The “Bourne” filmmakers “took a ’70s low-tech action franchise and made it work like gangbusters. Now they (the Bond producers) have to make Bond relevant all over again.”
“It’s a tough casting job to replace someone whose qualities are stuck in people’s heads,” said Marcia Ross, senior vp casting at Walt Disney Studios. “He can’t be so profoundly different that he’s jarring. You have to find someone with similar elements. He has to be charming, intelligent, sexy, commanding and authoritative. You can argue that you bring more value to the part by going to an actor who the audience knows and likes. But the minute you get into somebody who has a career, he’ll want to be paid. I’d pick Gerard Butler, who has an impish quality hiding behind his sexiness.”
All of which has Hollywood asking: Will the next Bond please stand up?
Who do you think it should be?
Post-Brosnan, Bond is a tough suit to fill