Saturday 1 October 2016

The name's Bond. Séamus Bond - why can't an Irishman - or woman - play Bond?

Meath's Pierce Brosnan rescued the franchise before, so why can't another Irishman - or woman - repeat the trick? Ed Power compiles a hit-list

Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30

Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender
Caitriona Balfe
Aidan Turner
Colin Farrell
Domhnall Gleeson
Liam Neeson
Cillian Murphy

These are interesting times for James Bond fans. Grumpy Daniel Craig is apparently no longer interested in squeezing into super-tight tuxedos and pretending to sleep with beautiful women while Gillian Anderson and 'Game of Thrones' star Emilia Clarke have offered to take the franchise in a new direction by reimagining the sexist super-agent as "Jane Bond".

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Bond has been at an existential crossroads before, of course. Sean Connery had to gallop to the rescue when teakwood George Lazenby nearly defenestrated the brand with 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' - an accidental sabotage Timothy Dalton almost repeated in the mid-'80s before Co Meath's Pierce Brosnan saved the day.

There is a lesson here. Whenever Bond is in trouble, you can count on a likeable Celt to pull 007 out of the fire. Thus, with producer/keeper of the Bond flame Barbara Broccoli scrambling for a new star to play the dapper operative and a female Bond striking many as implausible (sorry), why not cast an Irish actor?

After all, Brosnan was for many years considered the perfect Bond. Suave yet mercurial, handy with a one-liner but capable of taking the hokum seriously. His reputation was, it is true, thoroughly rained upon with the calamitous 'Die Another Day' - nowadays remembered for Bond zooming around in an invisible car and Halle Berry being out-acted by her swim suit. However, it would be shortsighted to allow a single turkey obliterate all of the good work that went before - which is why we think it behoves Broccoli and her team to consider casting an Irish person. We've even drawn up a shortlist.

1 Michael Fassbender

Charming, not adverse to appearing semi-clad - or indeed full frontal starkers - and with an eye for a lucrative franchise ('X-Men', 'Assassin's Creed'), the Kerry actor ticks all the boxes (he'll even do so with an exploding pen, as required). Fassbender has thespian chops, as demonstrated by the arty '12 Years A Slave' and 'Shame' (the sex addiction drama where he introduced the world to his man-bits) but can carry pulp silliness effortlessly.

Shaken or stirred? Shaken - given the key to Daniel Craig's wardrobe at Pinewood Studios, he could slip into the role tomorrow.

2 Aidan Turner

Aidan Turner
Aidan Turner

"Double o shirtless" anyone? Turner was a respected jobbing actor until cast in the BBC remake of bodice ripper 'Poldark' and - entirely for dramatic integrity - required to whip his top off. The Internet swooned and Mr "Poldark and handsome" was catapulted to insta-fame. He emanates Bond levels of ruggedness and clearly can carry off the shirtless thing. But, as with Craig, he values his privacy and the pressure of life as a global super-star might cause a little bit of him to shrivel up and die inside. Still nothing ventured and all that.

Shaken or stirred? Shaken - he's got the chops, no question. But does the easy going Turner really need the hassle?

Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy

3 Cillian Murphy

Recently turned 40, perhaps the 'Peaky Blinders' star is on the threshold of too old for Bond (craggy Craig was only 37 when cast in the part). As anyone who has caught him as 'Blinders' anti-hero Tommy will testify, however, he is a supremely menacing presence. If recent iterations of Bond have lacked anything it's the chilling ruthlessnessof Sean Connery's 007. Murphy's Bond could scare the bejaysus out of his enemies, no question. It's the frothy stuff - the naff one-liners, the bed-hopping, the invisible Aston Martins - that might trip him up.

Shaken or stirred? Stirred - Murphy is Connery-level unnerving, but those blue eyes would flash a little too scarily when garrotting the bad guys.

4 Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson

Obviously 63-year-old Neeson is not in the running. By the time Roger Moore was eased out of the Bold role at age 57 his "advanced" years had become a source of general derision. But let's suspend disbelief a moment and imagine a world where people were judged on ability, not wrinkle lines. In such circumstances Neeson would be perfect as a hard-punching Bond. In his latter-day screen incarnation as the world's most vengeful dad, he has absolutely owned the action genre. Only Neeson could make you believe that a man in late middle age was capable of taking down an entire cohort of Russian mobsters without breaking a sweat.

Shaken or stirred? Stirred, unfortunately. The world just could not come to terms with a 60-something Bond.

Colin Farrell
Colin Farrell

5 Colin Farrell

That blinding halo of super-celebrity having dimmed, Farrell is finally getting the opportunity to prove himself as a versatile character actor. He'd be a very different Bond, that's for sure - conflicted, anxiously sweaty, a little too dependent on those complimentary vodkas at the casino table. But perhaps a 007 we can take seriously in this era of Internet surveillance and Wikileaks is exactly what audiences crave.

Shaken or stirred? Stirred, alas. There's just too much actor in Farrell for him to play a character as two dimensional as Bond. He'd make the 007 come alive and lay bare all of the contradictions twitching just beneath the skin.

Domhnall Gleeson
Domhnall Gleeson

6 Domhnall Gleeson

Look, there is no universe in which Domhnall Gleeson could become James Bond for the simple reason that he's a flaming red head. That's a pity because, as his turn as General Hux in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' confirmed, he's brilliant at playing slightly ridiculous military types with overcooked British accents. Also he is arguably the straight-up best actor on the list (Farrell is his equal but with a tendency toward Method-y overkill). Alas, nobody needs a James Bond who could pass for Ed Sheeran if you squint…so… sorry Domhnall, it won't be happening.

Shaken or stirred? Stirred - Bond spent most of the '60s fighting reds. He's hardly going to become one himself.

Caitriona Balfe
Caitriona Balfe

7 Caitriona Balfe

In view of the clamour for a female Bond, why not an Irish actress? But who? Saoirse Ronan is too sweet (and when she did play a killing machine in 'Hanna', she was non-ironically terrifying), Ruth Negga too busy. What about Catriona Balfe, star of steamy time-hopping romp 'Outlander'? Just like Roger Moore she's a TV star eager (one presumes) to break into movies. And she finds a way to shine amid the top level absurdity of 'Outlander', which is basically 'Game of Thrones' crossed with a box of shortbread biscuits. Anyone able to maintain their dignity stumbling around the Highlands in a full length evening gown, as Balfe is called upon to do frequently, would find 007 a cinch.

Shaken or stirred? Shaken - in the admittedly unlikely event of the Bond producers going with a lady killer.

Irish Independent

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