So according to Entertainment Weekly's web site, Pierce Brosnan has played James Bond for the last time (via AP story). The 21st Bond movie is scheduled for release in Fall 2005, and now they need to recast. And really, my entire reaction is simply ... oh well.
No matter how sorry it makes me to say this, I think Bond is over; at least, if they keep making Bond films the way they have been for the last several years.
I'm not knocking Brosnan; he's been a perfectly adequate Bond in his four outings: still not as good as Sean Connery at his best (From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, but better than Roger Moore at his worst (A View to a Kill). Of course, the most wasted Bond was not George Lazenby in the underrated On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but was in fact Timothy Dalton who has received unfair criticism for his portrayal of the character when the problems with The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill had much more to do with shitty scripts and bland direction.
In fact, Dalton could have been the best Bond had he been given the opportunity to appear in a film based on one of Ian Fleming's original novels. (The Living Daylights was the last Bond film to be based on original Fleming material, but it was a short story.) Dalton's darker, more serious and less suave portrayal may not have been as popular as Connery's, but it was more true to the character Fleming created. Ironically, the one Fleming novel to never receive the real "serious" Bond treatment is the one that devotes the most time to establishing the many dimensions of the character: the very first Bond novel, "Casino Royale". The Bond in the "Casino Royale" novel has much more in common with Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe than simply being a high-tech British dandy. But the only film treatment of this book was a bizarre, slapstick spoof from 1967 featuring an amazing cast and multiple directors but not really having anything to do with Fleming's story or the character. Rather, it was simply an attempt to capitalize -- in a comic manner -- on the success of the first four Bond films (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball).
It's a shame, though, because Casino Royale is a great book and a fascinating examination of the Bond persona. On Her Majesty's Secret Service, with it's more emotional examination of the character, comes closest in film terms to exploring what a straightforward adaptation of Casino Royale might look like. And Dalton would have been marvelous in such an adaptation. However, such a film has never come to pass, and instead, the Bond series has basically been bastardized into looking like any other generic big-budget action movie, only one with a very specific and long-beloved (and watered-down) character at its center.
Believe it or not, Quentin Tarantino has often discussed his desire to see a proper treatment of Casino Royale come to the big screen; he's so into the idea that he wants to make the film himself. While Tarantino has a propensity to go over-the-top, I actually think he'd be a great director to re-energize this franchise with a serious adaptation of Fleming's most sober story. At Cannes, he told the BBC that he still wants to make this film (thanks Everything Tarantino.).
They're doing it with Batman; they're trying to do it with Superman – going back and reconsidering the earlier days of such superheroes. Why not do it with James Bond? The character also exists in a universe where he never really ages; they can redo an early, younger, tougher Bond, and use the one story which keeps screaming to be adapted properly.
Who should play him? That's tougher. If they go with Hugh Grant, it might help relieve Dalton's rep as the least-favorite Bond. He'd be awful. I'm not into the idea of Heath Ledger either, and while I love Hugh Jackman – and X-Men proves he can play tough – for some reason he doesn't excite me. Ewan McGregor and Colin Firth would both be interesting, and I'm sure Jude Law is a favorite idea of the producers much as Brosnan was even when they had to use Dalton instead. Still, I think my top choice would have to be Clive Owen who has many of the same qualities – a certain cold toughness mixed with tall, masculine good looks – that Dalton had. But the way I look at it, if I could make anything happen, Clive Owen as James Bond in Casino Royale directed by Quentin Tarantino could quite possibly be the best Bond film, and best spy action thriller, ever. Come on Ms. Broccoli and Mr. Wilson: you can thank me later.