Back in 2018 when Idris Elba was at the centre of peak James Bond fantasy casting, the possibility that a British black man might portray 007 seemed a distinct possibility.
Speaking to Variety, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, said, "He can be of any colour, but he is male", while Elba himself told the publication, "Everybody would like to see something different with it, why not?"
Fast forward two years, add a global pandemic, more of the #MeToo reckoning and the strengthening of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the world has changed indefinitely and irrevocably.
All of which makes the rumoured decision to cast Tom Hardy a clear message from producers that while the world may change, we can all take a quantum of solace (not) that 007 will be staying firmly in his lane.
The first rule of being Bond … no one talks about Bond
As Sarah Marrs, film critic and entertainment writer at Cinesnark, says, "The Bond rumour mill exists in a perpetual state of out of control." So, it's worth noting that online chatter putting 007's Walther PPK in the hands of British actor Tom Hardy remain unsubstantiated.
Originating on The Vulcan Reporter website, journalist Emre Kaya declared, "Daniel Craig's successor has been found: Tom Hardy will be taking over the role of James Bond … While Tom Hardy was expected to be announced as the new Bond in November, this does not seem to be the case anymore due to the coronavirus. Nevertheless, I anticipate the announcement to come out this year all the same."
And if the news turns out to be true, Hardy will have beat out a list of his illustrious British peers, including Henry Cavill, Tom Hiddleston, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, David Oyelowo and James McAvoy, all of whom have been attached to the role over the past few years.
However rumours connecting Oscar nominee Hardy to the part have gained groundswell before.
"There's a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting, that if you talk about it you're automatically out of the race. So, I can't possibly comment on that one," Hardy said of stories linking him to the role in 2017. And when rumours that resurfaced the following year turned out to be an April Fool's gag, the Inception actor took to Instagram to joke, "Dammit I was in my tux and on the runway good to go. No drama. Return to base."
No time for women?
When the news broke last year that 007 would be played by a woman in No Time To Die, a certain subsection of fans (read: white male fanboys) predictably suffered a collective breakdown on Twitter.
Furious that feminism was going to destroy this cinematic bastion of manhood in the same way a female Dr Who destroyed the British TV franchise (spoiler: it didn't), fans set about creating an uproar after confusing the character, James Bond, with his designation, 007.
"I believe we should be creating new characters for women – strong female characters," said Broccoli, eschewing the idea that Bond would ever be portrayed by a woman. "I'm not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that."
However, while there's a gender barrier on who can play Bond, if Hardy's appointment turns out to be true, it appears there's no age cap, as at 43, the actor is already seven years older than Craig was when he joined the franchise aged 36. And five films and 16 years later, Craig is bowing out at 52.
"Even if we were to entertain the idea of Bond 26, for them to find a director and get a good script into shape, they wouldn't start shooting until at the earliest 2021," said Elaine Lui of Canadian entertainment news show etalk. "You want a Bond who can do at minimum three films for you. That's a decade."
A decade that would mean Tom still shooting, quipping, shaking and stirring at 53.
And judging by his IMDb page, on which he has 11 projects in the works, including the Venom and Mad Max sequels, it's difficult to see where Bond might fit into his schedule.
Oh well, if it doesn't pan out for Hardy, he can rest safe in the knowledge that the list of also-rans when it comes to playing Bond is as long and illustrious as the ones who actually won the role, and he'd be joining the likes of Cary Grant, Dick van Dyke, Burt Reynolds and Mel Gibson in the realms of Dr No Thanks. Next.