Casino Royale with Cheese

Johnny English Reborn. Image shows left to right: Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), Agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya)

Will the next James Bond have a licence to joke?

Anyone chancing upon the film Johnny English Reborn while flicking through our endless array of TV channels might be surprised to see one of the favourites to become the next James Bond popping up as Rowan Atkinson's sidekick.

Yep, Daniel Kaluuya plays Johnny's associate Agent Tucker in the 2011 Bond-spoof sequel. There they are in a classic secret-agent setting, casing an exotic casino, Tucker alerting English to the bloke they're after, English then winking at the wrong chap entirely - all knockabout cheesy fun. Who knew that one of those involved would go on to win an Oscar?

Bond was never supposed to be realistic, of course. Nowadays your everyday super-spy probably wouldn't bother going to a physical casino to find a contact, as most savvy gamblers do it from home: at an online casino real money can be played for without having to get suited and booted, so the modern spy-movie gambling scene could be very different; Atkinson and Kaluuya just turning up at the guy's house, maybe spending those tuxedo savings on a takeaway instead. Lovely evening.

That Johnny English sequel is surprisingly star-studded: also on board were Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, and several other household-name cameos. Kaluuya was just starting out back then, but has certainly gone in a different direction since, with some hugely successful and critically-acclaimed roles (Black Panther, Get Out, Nope) - but he apparently ruled himself out of the Bond role in an interview last year. Never say never, though.

Johnny English Reborn. Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson). Copyright: Working Title Films

So who will wield the famous Walther PPK - and will this next reboot swing back the other way and make 007 jolly again, like the Roger Moore days, where Bond films were basically action comedies? Although actually the crossover between Bond and comedy has been strong for several decades.

Atkinson himself turned up in the unofficial Sean Connery comeback movie Never Say Never Again, in 1983 - his character's name was, according to IMDB, Nigel Small-Fawcett - while John Cleese took over as a more comedic Q during Pierce Brosnan's increasingly daft run of films; they also featured Robbie Coltrane as the recurring Valentin Zukovsky.

Into the tougher Daniel Craig era and his emotional final outing, No Time To Die, also features Hugh Dennis, as a scientist whose facility gets invaded - yep, he's outnumbered - while Javone Prince pops up later too. Craig's Bond also starred in that famous sketch with the Queen for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, which she eventually followed up last year by taking lunch with Paddington - voiced by Ben Whishaw, the most recent Q. Small world.

Who they do eventually choose for the role might give us a hint one way or the other, about which way the franchise's tone is turning; or not. Idris Elba has been hotly tipped, and has dabbled with comedy before, notably In The Long Run. His old Asgardian colleague Tom Hiddlestone, as Loki, has often been the comic relief in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while Downton Abbey alumni Dan Stevens was funny in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga.

On the other hand, the rebooters may follow the Batman route, make it even grittier and go with a serious Shakesperian type, again. Timothy Dalton didn't last too long in the part, admittedly, but he did end up in Hot Fuzz, so swings and roundabouts. Bond is nice, but it's not the end of the world.

Published: Wednesday 25th October 2023

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