This weekend it was reported that Tom Hardy had been cast as the next James Bond. And that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to believe, so long as you’re prepared to go on the say-so of an unsourced post on a Star Trek blog that hardly anyone has heard of.
If that’s the case, then we should probably adjust our expectations for the next era of Bond. When Daniel Craig was announced as the new 007, it was via a big-budget stunt where he raced up the river Thames on an assault boat. If the Tom Hardy news is true, then the world will have to remember hearing about it from a 470-word blogpost on something called the Vulcan Reporter, which had to spend a fifth of its word count explaining who James Bond is. Tighten your belts, lads, because it looks like Bond is going absolutely threadbare.
Still, this freakishly obscure post has nevertheless been taken as gospel by several newspapers, which means one of two things: that Covid has starved us of real film news to such an extent that we’re willing to believe whatever unsourced speculation gets lobbed at us, or that we’re all excited about the prospect of seeing Tom Hardy as 007.
If it actually happens, it would be an interesting choice. It would mean that Hardy is, by far, the most established actor ever to play James Bond. Usually the role of 007 is handed to someone who, like Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig, are up-and-comers with a solid background in TV and a clutch of splashy supporting roles to their name. But Tom Hardy? Tom Hardy is Venom. He’s Mad Max. The films he has made in the last five years alone have not only earned $2bn around the world, but have also won 12 Oscars.
This is both good and bad. The upside is that audiences are already aware of Hardy, and will need less convincing to see him as Bond. The bad news is that, when they do, they’ll bring all his existing baggage along with them. It might take a film or two for them not to see him as Bane, or Eddie Brock, or his incomprehensible hillbilly from The Revenant.
What Hardy does have in his favour, though, is a level of mystique. As successful as he is, I’d be surprised if audiences would say that they truly knew him, in the way they know Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise or any other movie star who has managed to craft a carefully hewn persona. There isn’t really a cut-and-dried Tom Hardy role yet. Yes, he might have a thing for gangsters, or people who enjoy covering up their faces, or unintelligible accents, or sounding a bit Welsh all the time (he’s from London), but as a star he remains curiously nebulous.
Perhaps that means Bond would work in his favour. He still has space to be defined by a role, and certainly 007 has a habit of doing that to people, so perhaps this would be the moment that he blossoms into the fully formed megastar he has always threatened to become.
A Tom Hardy Bond, too, has the potential to be fascinating. Hardy doesn’t exactly shy away from villainy – he’s been Al Capone and both Kray twins, and even his superhero managed to decapitate people with his teeth – so his could be a Bond who muddies the water between light and dark more than usual. After all, James Bond is an alcoholic murderer with sociopathic tendencies and a long history of sexual impropriety, so wouldn’t it be great to see a version where he actually gets a kick out of it? Where his innate sadism comes to the fore a smudge more than usual? If that’s the path that 007 wants to go down, Hardy would be the perfect choice.
Then again, I’m not sure it is. The announcement of a new Bond is an opportunity for the franchise to chase the big-screen trends of the day with renewed vigour – competing against 90s one-man army movies with Brosnan, the Bourne films with Daniel Craig – and his competition now is Marvel and Mission: Impossible. Big, expensive, brightly coloured, self-aware, easily defined fare characterised by visual spectacle. That’s what people want to see now, and the assumption was that’s what Bond would become. And if that’s the path that 007 wants to go down – and I say this with regret to the Vulcan Reporter – Tom Hardy might be a bit too complicated for the job.