Has Tom Hiddleston ruined his Bond chances by dating Taylor Swift?
Even if you missed 'The Night Manager' (where were you?), you won't - you can't - have missed the Tom Hiddleston hype. Last week, he was photographed stripped down to a pair of crisp white boxer shorts, the week before he was photographed embracing his new A-list girlfriend, Taylor Swift.
He's sexy, he's sensitive, he's steely: he is whatever we want him to be. The Rada-trained 35-year-old who came close to outshining Kenneth Branagh in his break-out role on the BBC's 'Wallander' has somehow managed to win over the thespians (who still rave about his Cassio in 'Othello'), the aunties ('Cranford') and the sci-fi geeks for his role in 'Thor'.
But what would he need to do to persuade Hollywood that he is up to replacing Daniel Craig as the next Bond?
After he was spotted out with 'Spectre' director and Bond producer Barbara Broccoli last month, the bookmaker Coral suspended betting on him to be the next 007. Yet last week, there was talk that our own Aidan Turner may have pipped him to the post after a flurry of betting, including at least one four-figure wager, which shortened the odds on the 'Poldark' dark horse landing one of the most coveted actor roles in Hollywood.
So does this really leave Tom out of the picture? Maybe we need to take a closer look at Hiddleston's Bond ambition and how his moves could be playing out with the people that really matter…
Move No. 1: He chooses his roles carefully
A key part in an adaptation of a Le Carre novel was never going to hurt. "'The Night Manager' was basically a six-part audition for Bond and doing it Tom must have topped any other contenders," says Hollywood entertainment reporter and stylist Marcellas Reynolds. "And although there's always room for a last-minute outsider to swoop in, everyone out here thinks he's the man."
Gone are the days when all you had to do to win one of the most desirable roles in show business was gamble with producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli (something Roger Moore once attributed his stint as 007 to).
Impressing the wife is always a good plan (it was Cubby's wife Dana who persuaded her husband to give Sean Connery a go), as well as playing hard to get (Timothy Dalton turned down the role four times before finally giving in), but really you can't beat stimulating 007 Inc's tastebuds with footage of yourself in a similar detective/spy/action man role, looking great in a suit - just ask Pierce Brosnan, aka Remington Steele.
Move No. 2: He now has a photogenic A-list girlfriend
When paparazzi pictures of Hiddleston embracing pop princess Taylor Swift appeared, people were anxious to know two things: how did it happen - and why on earth was the actor wearing a pair of $425 designer suede desert boots on the beach? While the second question remains a mystery, the first has since been clarified: the pair got together at the Met Gala in New York last month, where they had a dance-off and promptly fell in love.
This grossly photogenic romance already looks like Bond stills (and Swift would make quite the Bond Woman, please, never to call her a "Bond Girl") and so has understandably caused a fair few people to cruelly call out this pairing a "showmance". But who are we to judge? Surely having an A-list girlfriend can't help but boost 007 acceptability ratings?
Both Sam Mendes - the director of 'Skyfall' and 'Spectre' - and producer Barbara Broccoli are fans of discretion. And although this was something Hiddleston possessed in spades until a few weeks ago, maintaining even a smidge might be tricky now that the actor's dating one of the biggest names in music - and a woman estimated to be worth approximately $250m.
Move No. 3: He's become 'white pants man'
"There isn't a designer in the world who doesn't want to throw clothes at Mr Hiddleston right now," says Reynolds. "Not everyone may find him attractive, but we've been veering away from perfect cookie-cutter leading men like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt for a while, and he's got a quirky, unconventional British thing going on - as well as the ability to look fantastic in a suit."
However, it is how Hiddleston looks out of a suit which may now be crucial. In the latest issue of 'W' magazine, published last week, the star lounges on a messy bed wearing just white boxers and a scowl. But although the reaction was mixed ("my daughter thought it was Jeremy Kyle," said one reader), the actor was right to assure the publication: "My butt is not dangerous." "We've gone past the 'Tom Cruise refuses to show his butt' no-nudity clause epoch," Reynolds tells me.
"We're now in a moment where not only are you expected to show your butt - but it had better be a 007-worthy butt, too."
Hiddleston's acceptability rating here is clearly off the charts among female fans, but it might still be wise to proceed with caution.
In a conflicted, puritanical Hollywood, any chance sighting of a naked body part is both potentially brand-damaging and liable to end up on the cutting-room floor. This is what happened to Hiddleston's buttocks when 'The Night Manager' first aired in the US. After a public outcry and a rather limp network defence ("We had multiple versions of the scene and unfortunately the wrong one ended up on air," said a spokesman), the TV network AMC made the unedited footage available on its playback service, prompting an instant access meltdown.
Move No. 4: He shows off his brains as well as his brawn
An ability to showcase Eton-educated Hiddleston's thoughtful, cerebral side was another of 'The Night Manager''s unexpected side-effects. Ever since Daniel Craig turned down an offer for two more Bond films earlier this year, Broccoli has been said to be looking to move Bond back towards his classic, suave Sean Connery-style persona and away from the more brutish connotations Craig brought to the role. Something our man would rate better at than almost any other actor we can imagine. "Because, above all, Tom is just an incredibly talented actor," maintains top LA talent manager, John Ferriter. "Which is one of the most important reasons why he could make an excellent Bond."
All in all, it's easy to see why it looks like his MI6 pass is in the post. But with the new film set to start shooting imminently and MGM still refusing to confirm their leading man, now is a precarious time for the star.
In order to play the legend so many want him to be - and in order to remain untarnished by either celebrity or scandal - it might be advisable to lie low for a while, avoid the public gushing and at the very least keep the "HiddleSwift" train from leaving the station until he signs on the dotted line. © Daily Telegraph