Is Aaron Taylor-Johnson the next James Bond? Why casting the next 007 is a challenge.

The "Bullet Train" star isn't the first actor rumored to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond.

Photo illustrations of various James Bond actors.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (center) is rumored to be the new James Bond. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS, Getty Images (3))

Few roles command as much reverence as James Bond, the British spy known as agent 007.

Brought to life by novelist Ian Fleming in the 1950s, the character made the leap onto the big screen by Scottish actor Sean Connery in 1962’s Dr. No. Six decades, 27 films and six Bonds later, it has become one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history.

Daniel Craig’s final appearance as Bond in 2021’s No Time to Die ended with the character’s death, a decision the actor said was necessary in order to start the next Bond chapter anew.

"We had to find a way to make his death no choice,” he told The Times in December 2022, noting that "if we kill Bond, we can begin again. I think [producer] Barbara [Broccoli] thought that too.”

Subsequently, the search for the next 007 has become a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

As speculation mounts that Aaron Taylor-Johnson is next to join the prestigious lineage of Bond actors, fans are once again captivated by the prospect of a new era in the franchise.

Meet James Bond

There have been 25 James Bond films produced by Eon Productions, the U.K.-based production company founded by Albert Broccoli that owns the rights to produce future films through holding company Danjaq and Hollywood studio MGM, which was acquired by Amazon in 2022.

When Albert Broccoli died in 1996, his children Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took over Eon and produced some of its most successful films, including 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre, both starring Daniel Craig.

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.
Michael G. Wilson and his half-sister Barbara Broccoli run Eon Productions, the U.K.-based film production company that owns the rights to make James Bond films. (Kate Green/Getty Images for EON Productions & Prime Video)

Two other films — Casino Royale (1967), starring David Niven, and Never Say Never Again (1983), starring Connery — are considered “unofficial” James Bond films because hey weren’t produced by Eon, but rather independent producers.

Past Bonds

Connery and Roger Moore each played the role in seven films.

Connery took on the role in Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971), as well Never Say Never Again (1983), which is considered an "unofficial" member of the franchise.

Moore starred in Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985).

Craig has played the spy five times — in Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015) and No Time to Die (2021).

Craig's immediate predecessor, Pierce Brosnan, played the agent four times, in GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002).

Timothy Dalton played 007 twice, in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989). David Niven and George Lazenby each played him once, with Niven starring in the “unofficial” Bond film Casino Royale (1967) and Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), respectively.

Who has been rumored to be the new 007?

According to the U.K. tabloid The Sun, British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the latest star to reportedly be in discussions.

“Bond is Aaron’s job, should he wish to accept it. The formal offer is on the table and they are waiting to hear back,” a source told The Sun. “As far as Eon is concerned, Aaron is going to sign his contract in the coming days and they can start preparing for the big announcement.”

In response, an Eon source told Deadline that if company representatives spent time reacting to such casting rumors, they’d have “time for little else.”

Yahoo Entertainment reached out to both Eon and Danjaq, but did not immediately receive responses.

Taylor-Johnson recently told fashion magazine Numéro that it’s “charming and wonderful that people see me in that role. I take it as a great compliment.”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson. (Aldara Zarraoa/Getty Images)

Taylor-Johnson isn’t the only actor whose name has been floated in recent months to play Bond.

In 2021, fans speculated that Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page would be good for the role. During a January 2021 appearance on The Tonight Show, the British actor told host Jimmy Fallon he was flattered by the rumors.

“I think the internet thinks a lot of things, and that’s one of the more pleasant ones,” Page said about the rumors. “If you're a Brit and you do something of any kind of renown that people regard well, then people start saying the 'B' word. It's like a merit badge.”

A years-long casting rumor also had Idris Elba in the running, though the actor said in a September 2022 interview on The Shop podcast that he’s not eager to fill the shoes.

“It is not a goal for my career,” he said at the time. “I don’t think that, you know, playing Bond will satisfy some of my personal goals.”

Irish actor Paul Mescal emerged as a rumored candidate when his All of Us Strangers co-star Andrew Scott said he’d be “a great James Bond” after a December 2023 screening of their film.

Meanwhile, Tom Hardy received several endorsements, including from a former James Bond himself. In June 2018, Pierce Brosnan told the Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine that he’d “be happy to see [Hardy] do it,” noting that Hardy will “put a bit of wiggle” into the part.

Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam was favored for a time as well, telling People in November 2020, "I would be so flattered and honored to be considered to play James Bond as an Englishman. But my intuition tells me that I shouldn't be waiting for that phone call to come. I think there are many people ahead of me on that list."

Henry Cavill, Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed have also had their names thrown into the ring.

Reinventing Bond

In a January 2020 interview with Variety about the actors being considered for Bond, Wilson said he and Broccoli weren’t opposed to shaking things up a bit.

“You think of him as being from Britain or the Commonwealth, but Britain is a very diverse place,” he explained.

“We’re reinventing who he is, and that takes time,” Broccoli told Deadline in June 2022. “Nobody’s in the running. We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script, and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond.”

They’re also looking for someone with experience, Broccoli told Yahoo Entertainment in November 2023.

“We're totally open to casting a non-star, but acting is a very specialized profession, and if somebody has to carry a movie and have the range of requirements [for Bond] in terms of physicality, it's not going to be someone who has never done it before,” she said. “It would be sort of irresponsible to do that. But we'd certainly be open to a non-star.”

Longtime James Bond casting director Debbie McWilliams told Radio Times in April 2023 that the franchise requires a person of a certain age to pull it off.

“When we started, it was a slightly different feel,” McWilliams said of the search for a 007 that culminated in Craig’s casting. “We did look at a lot of younger actors, and I just don’t think they had the gravitas. They didn’t have the experience; they didn’t have the mental capacity to take it on, because it’s not just the part they’re taking on, it’s a massive responsibility.”

Mark O’Connell, author of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan, told Yahoo Entertainment that giving fans what they want can be complicated.

“Steering Bond forward is no easy task for this 007th spin of the dice,” he said. “The producers and studios have to carefully pinpoint and decide, ‘Where is our movie heroism now?’ Where is the tone of adventure cinema?’”

What makes the franchise so unique, explained Robert Thompson, professor of TV, radio and film at Syracuse University, is Bond’s ability to reflect the times — going from the “tough, masculine” womanizer as portrayed by Connery in the '60s to a “strong yet vulnerable” Craig in the early 2000s.

“A lot of those early movies were when American culture had a monolithic sense of masculinity and of maleness,” he told Yahoo Entertainment. “That changed significantly as we moved through the '70s and 1980s.”

O’Connell says movies like Barbie, Top Gun: Maverick and the upcoming Ryan Gosling-Emily Blunt action-comedy The Fall Guy are examples of the kind of “adventure cinema” audiences crave now.

“Mainstream cinema is riding a wave of nostalgia as it often does, which is perfect for Bond,” he says. “Warm-spirited, well-played cinema beats of pure entertainment are back in vogue.”