007 Casting Director: Younger actors lack the 'gravitas' and 'mental capacity' to play Bond

Having lost a few hands at Baccarat, the bewitching Sylvia Trench proposes raising the stakes; in response, an unseen man quips: "I admire your courage, Miss...?"

"Trench, Sylvia Trench.  I admire your luck, Mr....?" replies Sylvia.

"Bond, James Bond," replies the man in a black tuxedo as he flips open a gold lighter to illuminate a cigarette.

The introduction was on paper, understated and minimalistic, almost a non-event by today's standard of overstatement, where every element on screen has to be amplified to the hilt.

It was the vision of director, Terence Young; the writing by Richard Maibaum, Berkely Mather, and Johanna Harwood; the character by Ian Fleming; the masterful camera work by Ted Moore; the crisp editing by Peter R. Hunt; the thrilling background score by Monty Norman; and the magnetic screen presence with distinctive dulcet tones of Sir Sean Connery that set the screen on fire.

My uncle, who watched it during its first run in 1962, said the audience cheered and erupted into applause.

The moment made cinematic history, catapulted Sir Sean to superstardom, and introduced the world to one of its most beloved characters, James Bond, agent 007 with a license to kill.

Over six decades and five actors later, the character of James Bond continues to be a rage in the movie world.

George Lazenby took over from Connery and did well in his sole outing as Bond, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  Lazenby was good, but the audience was accustomed to Connery, and the film was drastically different from the previous five films.

Sir Roger Moore carried the Bond role through the '70s and most of the '80s, with seven spectacular pictures.  Moore was quite excellent as Bond, playing the character almost like a superhero but with a sense of humor.

The brilliant Timothy Dalton returned to Fleming's roots, playing Bond as an often sullen, cold-blooded killer with a predilection for insubordination in two very underrated pictures.

Pierce Brosnan carried Bond through the '90s and the early 2000s, with four pictures.  Brosnan was a fine actor and certainly looked the part, but the films, apart from Goldeneye (1995), never really gave him much to do.

Daniel Craig went back to the beginning of Bond with the outstanding Casino Royale (2006), where audiences saw how Bond earned his license to kill and embarked on his first mission.  Craig followed it up with four more adventures; Skyfall (2012) was particularly eminent.  Craig, like Timothy Dalton, played 007 like a real character.  He was a fighter and a ruthless killer, but also a lover whose heart was broken following a betrayal.

Following Daniel Craig's departure from the franchise in 2021's No Time to Die, the search for the new James Bond is yet to officially begin.

Rumors began to swirl last year that a younger actor was being courted for the part, and perhaps there would be a Bond in his early 20s.  Some speculated if it would be prequels to Craig's films. 

Some even wondered if it would be an adaptation of the Young Bond novels by Charlie Higson.

However, those claims were quashed by franchise producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, who assured fans the new Bond would be a "thirty-something" actor.

But there were some issues.  Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Debbie McWilliams — casting director on the 007 film series since 1981 — explained why younger actors won't work for Bond.

She recalled the idea of casting younger actors for 2006's Casino Royale.

"When we started, it was a slightly different feel.  We did look at a lot of younger actors," McWilliams said of casting Casino Royale.

However, the casting director and the producers realized that it wasn't going to work.

"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.  So we kind of scrubbed that idea and went back to the drawing board and started again," said McWilliams.

An older Bond doesn't necessarily mean an established movie star.

In fact, Bond producers have preferred to opt for names relatively less known in the film world and make stars out of them.  The advantage is that audiences do not see them as anyone else but Bond.  Hiring an established star brings all the associated baggage.

"Timothy Dalton was known, but he was known as a Shakespearean actor, really.  Pierce was known, but that was basically from television.  Roger Moore was known on television.  Sean Connery wasn't known — nobody had ever heard of him," said McWilliams.

"A certain audience had heard of Daniel Craig, but much more the kind of independent cinema audience.  He hadn't done any huge commercial film at all, really — [2004 film] Layer Cake, I suppose, was the most popular, should we say, of the things he had done prior to Bond, but he wasn't a hugely well known actor."

Some may remember the intense backlash received online following the announcement of Craig's casting as Bond.  This was the pre–social media era, so they set up a "hate" website called CraigNotBond.com.  The media, always ravenous for sensationalism, joined the online mob and amplified the hysteria of irrational loathing, despite not seeing even a minute of the film.

Craig allowed his work to speak for itself, and Casino Royale opened to great reviews, including an appreciation for Craig and the reinvention of Bond.

Originally, the idea of Sir Sean Connery as Bond wasn't really welcomed by creator Ian Fleming.  "I'm looking for Commander Bond, not an overgrown stunt-man," Fleming allegedly told the producers.  He was also not pleased about a "working-class Scot" playing his upper-class Eton-educated English secret agent.  But when he saw the final product, Fleming loved Connery's portrayal and even added Bond's Scottish roots in a subsequent novel.

From Connery to Craig, the producers have had a keen eye for the right kind of talent for the part.

From Moore to Dalton, those shoes are certainly not easy to fill.

One hopes this continues in that spirit by hiring someone who may not necessarily fit everyone's expectations but ends up revitalizing the franchise, the way Craig did in 2006 while retaining all the elements that made them Bond films.

During the '80s, they made one Bond film every two years.

The most recent Bond film, the disappointing No Time to Die, came out in 2021, and it was made prior to the pandemic, which means it was shot perhaps in 2018–19.

Hopefully, the producers will not delay any further.

Image: Screen shot from James Bond 007 via YouTube.

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