With No Time to Die just around the corner, we’re led to believe that we’ll be saying good-bye to Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond. If he is to leave the role, he not only leaves some big shoes to fill but also a creative conundrum in how to write in his successor. Without an in-universe explanation like that of Doctor Who’s regenerations, several speculative solutions have been thrown around, but they’re not without problems. So, here are some of the potential answers and their respective issues.
Firstly, and perhaps the simplest. Just pretend he’s the same person, much like how it’s been done in the past. So whoever it is, Idris Elba, Cillian Murphy or James Norton, they would simply take over the role of Bond and maintain the same continuity. It would essentially be a recast. What made it so easy for this to happen before is that there was never any real sense of interconnectivity between stories; very rarely did one film follow on from the last. This is the first problem for this approach, as all of the films featuring Craig have followed on from one another. It would be confusing to carry on and for Cillian Murphy to recall events that happened to Craig. The other major problem would also depend on the age of the succeeding actor. Craig is in his early 50s at the time of No Time to Die, so if a younger actor like James Norton were the successor (who’s in his mid-30s) it would distort Bond’s age meaning it can’t really be the same person. You could get away with this before given the gimmicky and even-fantastical tone of older Bond films, but not in this current, more realistic timeline.
A way around this would be to go along with the old theory that ‘James Bond’ is a code-name or persona, like the 007 tag. The theory goes that because of the number of times Bond changes over different time periods, all while characters like Q and M don’t change, they can’t be the same person. Therefore, ‘James Bond’ is a codename passed on from 007 agent to agent, made possible through the fact that little is known about Bond’s past. Yet this also wouldn’t work for this Bond. When Craig took over the role, it marked the beginning of a whole new continuity, essentially rebooting the franchise. This meant that Craig was the only Bond, and the others no longer count. Then in Skyfall, we see the character return to the Bond estate and use it as a defence positioning the final showdown. The estate gamekeeper, played by Albert Finney, recognises Bond and refers to him by his name. This all suggests that this version of the character is and always has been James Bond, proving it is not a codename.
Another possibility is to write Bond out and bring in a new character. We already know that Lashana Lynch has been added to the cast of the new Bond film, and the trailers revealed her to be the new 007 after Bond retired. So, rather simply, if Bond was to retire again at the end of this new film, the succeeding actor could take his place and become the central Bond character. This could be Lynch’s character, or someone new on the bookies’ betting lists. There would be nothing in-universe to prevent this from happening, but if Bond was to be written out then the films wouldn’t strictly be ‘Bond films’ anymore (unless one of James’ relatives took over much like in tv series Midsomer Murders). But, this isn’t strictly a bad thing as it could become about Bond’s legacy like how the Star Wars sequels revolve around newer characters but also the legacy of the originals.
Now of course, there are many incredibly talented people who are actually paid to figure out how to do this (and who also have more time), so this is far from an exhaustive list. Yet by covering these more obvious solutions, it suggests that the writing team behind the Bond franchise certainly have a task on their hands. Good luck to them!