The hunt for a new James Bond is on, and British tabloids are updating the odds daily.
There is no greater priority for EON Productions — the production company behind the Bond franchise — than to find the right replacement for Daniel Craig.
The future of the 60-year-old franchise hinges on it.
Here are three ways to nail the process and the outcome:
Those are the words of Bond producer Barbara Broccoli’s father, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, who created the cinematic Bond alongside Canadian film producer Harry Saltzman and the character’s literary creator, Ian Fleming. And they still ring true.
Dig through the Fleming novels, and Bond fans will find a treasure trove of unused material — fantastical plot points, quippy lines, chilling villains, violent henchmen and stirring romances. The complexities of the Bond character — an embodiment of competence, ruthlessness and doomed love — shine through. Class and grit come together to create a greater whole.
Ever since the 1950s, the blueprint for Bond’s cinematic form has never wavered. Draw on the grittiness of the novels. Pull out the classy moments. Bring Bond’s presence at the baccarat table or the dinner table to life. In Fleming’s second novel, 1954’s “Live and Let Die,” Bond goes on a mission to stop gold coins from being smuggled out of Jamaica — with the Soviet Union looming in the background.
A bomb goes off in his hotel room, and he barely survives. In the following year’s “Moonraker,” Bond is described as “the man who was only a silhouette.” Even after 25 (official) Bond flicks, countless literary strands of brilliance have gone unused by filmmakers. Untapped potential remains, so tap into it.
Numbers don’t lie: The Bond franchise is anything but broken. Since “Dr. No” dropped in 1962, Bond movies have amassed more than $7 billion at the global box office, not to mention Fleming’s book sales, luxury brand partnerships, movie merchandising and the like. A formula has been established for decades — and the formula works.
The Bond character doesn’t need a total reboot. Bond’s childhood demons or unexplored romances may warrant closer introspection, but his general character traits need not change. He is gritty, but fun. His lifestyle is luxurious. Bond is a fantasy, role model and cautionary tale all at once. He is cinema’s most famous anti-hero — the good outweighs the bad, but it’s the fallibility that endears him.
To experiment for experimentation’s sake would be bad for business. For example, the overwhelming majority of fans aren’t looking for a female Bond. To quote Craig, “Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?”
Stick to the right formula. The wrong one is scoring political points to appease people who aren’t even Bond fans in the first place.
EON’s mission is twofold: Keep your old fans satisfied and bring new ones into the fold. In the 1970s, Roger Moore outings like “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker” (not like the novel) energized young fans with dazzling set pieces, breathtaking stunts and iconic villains like Jaws. The post-Sean Connery era leveraged the success of Jaws’ namesake and the Star Wars phenomenon to diversify the Bond audience.
In 2022, the Bond brain trust can look to the 1970s for inspiration — if not even earlier. One possibility is a 1960s period drama, which would simultaneously recapture Fleming’s world and depart from Craig’s. Given the success of Bridgerton and The Crown in recent years, there is a clear appetite for nostalgia.
The key is to pivot like the franchise has pivoted before, rather than doubling down on Craig’s Bond. (This is no knock on Craig, who remains my personal favorite in the role.) The heightened emotional stakes of the five Craig films successfully rebooted the character. The Craig pivot ultimately worked in a post-Pierce Brosnan context, but it doesn’t need to become the status quo. It’s possible to create emotional tension and return to the escapist fun that predated Craig — they’re not mutually exclusive (see: Brosnan).
The coming months are monumental for Bond fans. Nail the next pick for James Bond, and the franchise may endure for an additional 60 years. Fail, and Bond will be overshadowed by Marvel and whatever comes next.
EON reportedly stands for “Everything or Nothing.” Those are the stakes.
Editor’s note: Luka Ladan is president and CEO of Zenica Public Relations. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.