The rise of Aaron Taylor-Johnson: From playing John Lennon to James Bond

The talented British actor is set to join an exclusive club of actors who've played the famous spy

If Aaron Taylor-Johnson gets the Bond role, it could keep him busy for the next decade. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson has already experienced an eclectic career, and now, the British actor is the front runner to become the next James Bond.

From starring in a stage production at a young age, to playing a role within the Marvel’s cinematic universe, Taylor-Johnson, 33, has already proved his mettle as an actor.

Starting in television, he soon became a leading star by his early twenties, taking on different roles in comic book adaptations and featuring in titles directed by Oscar-winning filmmakers.

While already appearing in global box-office hits, the role of James Bond would make Taylor-Johnson a member of an exclusive club of actors who have portrayed the fictional character. Securing the gig would elevate his fame from a favourite among film fans, to a household name.

Ahead of any official confirmation, we take a look at the actor’s career and mark his rise to front runner for agent 007.

1996-2002: Small roles on the stage

Taylor-Johnson began his career at age six in theatre. During that time, he took part in a stage production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth alongside Rufus Sewell, playing the role of the unnamed son of Macduff.

He also took part in the stage production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, a three-act tragedy play about betrayal between business partners.

2003-2006: Chaplin with Jackie Chan and magic with Edward Norton

After appearing in stage productions, Taylor-Johnson made his first big screen appearance in 2003. The young actor starred in the Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson comedy Shanghai Knights, a sequel to Shanghai Noon.

Playing a pickpocket, it is revealed during the course of the film that the character is, in fact, a young Charlie Chaplin. Despite only being 12 at the time, taking on the role of Chaplin gave Taylor-Johnson the chance to show his comedic chops against heavy hitters Chan and Wilson.

After Shanghai Knights, he was cast in several British television shows, including BBC’s Feather Boy and ITV’s The Bill.

In 2006, Taylor-Johnson appeared in The Illusionist, a film about a magician evading the law, starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti.

2008-2009: Teen rom-com and John Lennon breakout

By 2008, Taylor-Johnson was maturing into a talented teen actor. He tried his hand at the heartthrob love interest role in British comedy film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. The film starred Georgia Groome, Karen Taylor and Alan Davies.

A year later, Taylor-Johnson starred in Nowhere Boy, a biographical film about John Lennon’s years before the formation of the global musical sensation, The Beatles.

The film received four Bafta nominations, and while Taylor-Johnson wasn't nominated for this award, he did appear in nomination lists for the Empire Awards and the London’s Film Critics’ Circle.

The film shaped both his career and personal life for years to come, as he met his future wife on set – the film’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson.

2010-2012: Comic-book superhero and Oliver Stone

As his star was rising, Taylor-Johnson was about to become a household name with a role in a subversive superhero film that excited and entertained fans around the world.

Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn, also starred Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicolas Cage. The film is an adaptation of a beloved comic book series that recounts the story of a young man determined to become a vigilante masked hero, despite not possessing any real powers. The film was a hit, earning $96 million worldwide against its $30 million budget. A sequel was also made with the same director and cast in 2013.

Two years later, the actor was chosen to front a film directed by three-time Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone. Titled Savages, the film had an impressive cast that included John Travolta, Selma Hayek, Blake Lively and Benicio Del Toro.

Following the success of both Kick-Ass and Savages, it had become clear that Taylor-Johnson was an exciting talent to watch.

2014-2015: Marvel and the big lizard monster

Continuing his climb up the ladder, the actor landed a role in 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. The film was a global box-office success, earning more than $500 million worldwide in ticket sales. The film also starred Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe.

A year later, Taylor-Johnson was cast as Pietro Maximoff, also known as Quicksilver, in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film was the biggest production the actor has been involved in to date, earning more than $1.4 billion at the box office.

While it was a huge opportunity, Taylor-Johnson’s character was killed off in the film, meaning he won't be returning in future Marvel Cinematic Universe projects.

2016-2022: Golden Globe win, Christopher Nolan and Bullet Train

In Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, the Bond front runner proved he could do more than family-friendly blockbuster films. The role earned the actor a Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.

And while the film had a strong cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon, Taylor-Johnson made his mark.

He went on to feature in several mid-budget films such as The Wall and Outlaw King, until 2020, when he had a small but memorable role in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending action film Tenet, released in 2020. Taylor-Johnson appears toward the end of the film during a large action set piece that ties the story together.

Two years later, he featured as part of the ensemble cast for Bullet Train, which included Brad Pitt, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benito A Martinez Ocasio and Sandra Bullock.

The future is bright

Back to the world of action, Taylor-Johnson’s next film is The Fall Guy, in which he stars alongside Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. The film is due for release in May and is directed by David Leitch, who also directed Bullet Train and John Wick.

He is also starring as Kraven the Hunter, a villain in the Spider-Man universe from Sony that is due to be released later this year. The film is directed by JC Chandor and stars Russell Crowe and Ariana DeBose.

He will also star in Robert Eggers’s remake of the classic horror film Nosferatu alongside Willem Dafoe and Bill Skarsgard. It is expected to arrive at the end of the year.

If Taylor-Johnson is indeed the next James Bond, it could be a gig that keeps him busy for the next decade and beyond. His predecessor, Daniel Craig, played the role for more than 15 years.

Updated: March 20, 2024, 2:49 PM