Bond 26, the codename for the 26th film in the 60-year-old James Bond movie series, has not yet been officially announced, but its release is as inevitable as 007 enjoying his martini shaken and not stirred.
Bond's co-owner MGM was acquired by Amazon in 2022, and long time 007 producer Michael G Wilson assured fans that the character will return.
"It’s a whole new world," he said in 2022. "We’ve got to see what happens with Amazon. But there’ll always be a Bond.”
However, co-producer Barbara Broccoli poured cold water on fans' hopes that it might happen soon, telling the Guardian in October 2023 about Bond 26: "I think these movies reflect the time they are in, and there’s a big, big road ahead reinventing it for the next chapter and we haven’t even begun with that.”
Read more: The James Bond films ranked
Tabloid rumours about the next Bond movie are a time honoured tradition in the UK, and should always be read with a liberal pinch of salt, but they also speak volumes about the enduring global appeal of Ian Fleming's creation.
So here, to sort the fact from fiction, is everything we know about Bond 26 so far.
Who will be the next James Bond?
This is the big question. More men have walked on the moon (12) than have played Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 on the big screen (six), making it one of the most coveted and career-defining roles in Hollywood.
Daniel Craig — due to the events of No Time To Die — has been ruled out of making a sixth film as Bond, thus leaving the door open for a new actor to play the role, but who it will be remains unknown at this stage.
Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson, the decision makers behind the Bond films, have shared a few hints about what to expect from the seventh actor to play 007.
Talking about the type of actors they will consider to play Bond, Wilson told Variety in 2020: “You think of him as being from Britain or the Commonwealth, but Britain is a very diverse place.”
“He can be of any colour, but he is male,” added Broccoli.
“Nobody’s in the running,” Broccoli later told Deadline in June 2022. “We’re working out where to go with him, we’re talking that through. There isn’t a script and we can’t come up with one until we decide how we’re going to approach the next film because, really, it’s a reinvention of Bond.
"We’re reinventing who he is and that takes time."
Later that year, speaking again to Deadline, Wilson added: "We’ve tried looking at younger people in the past. But trying to visualise it doesn’t work. Remember, Bond’s already a veteran. He’s had some experience.
"He’s a person who has been through the wars, so to speak. He’s probably been in the SAS or something. He isn’t some kid out of high school that you can bring in and start off. That’s why it works for a 30-something.”
Bond casting director Debbie McWilliams explained to Radio Times why the next Bond won't be in his 20s after they toyed with the idea for Casino Royale: "We did look at a lot of younger actors. and 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."
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Many names have been bandied around by fans including Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, and Rege-Jean Page, but the most credible rumour to date is that Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson could be the next actor to play Bond.
Initial rumours published by The Sun were backed up by industry professional Matthew Belloni, who wrote for The Puck: "The Aaron Taylor-Johnson rumours are true — he sat with producer Barbara Broccoli, and the meeting went well, per sources. But while Taylor-Johnson fits the bill — great actor, British, fits the younger direction the Broccolis want to go, accomplished but not particularly famous — he’s about to be a much bigger star."
Responding to the rumours in August 2023, while promoting his upcoming Spider-Man spin-off Kraven The Hunter, the 33-year-old actor refused to confirm or deny he would be the next 007.
“It’s not really for me to say anything,” he told Esquire.
Read more: Who is Aaron Taylor-Johnson?
“I’ve spent two years making Kraven. So all that hard work we put into trying to get that to where it is—that’s where I’m at right now.”
“I just focus on the things I can have in my hands right now. What’s in front of me right now.”
Former Superman star Henry Cavill, 40, also seems a likely choice having come close to landing the role in 2006's Casino Royale. He lost out then for being too young (22), but could miss out this time around for being too old.
Regardless of which actors the rumour-mill decides to spotlight in the tabloids, we can only know for sure who the next James Bond will be when the producers are ready to confirm it.
Who will direct Bond 26?
Before we get a Bond actor in place, Eon will look to hire a director first, who will then assist in casting the next 007.
The conversation and speculation around who would direct the next James Bond film only really began during the Pierce Brosnan era. Prior to Michael Apted directing 1999's The World Is Not Enough, Bond films had traditionally been helmed by journeymen directors such as John Glen, who directed all five 007 films released in the 1980s, or Guy Hamilton (four Bond films) and Lewis Gilbert (three).
However, since then, the series has sought out increasingly more acclaimed directors as the series evolved into the prestigious, award-winning franchise it is now. Landing Sir Sam Mendes for 2012's Skyfall gave the series a new level of artistry previously unseen, and he returned for 2015's Spectre, before Oscar-winner Danny Boyle was hired to take on No Time To Die.
Read more: 16 actors who could be the next James Bond
Boyle left the production early on and was replaced by Emmy-winner Cary Joji Fukunaga who delivered the finished film, and later expressed an interest in directing another Bond film, telling Yahoo in 2021: "I would never say never."
Beyond Fukunaga (who seems unlikely to be asked back), it's worth looking back at the other directors linked with Bond 25 before Danny Boyle was signed up. Yann Demange ('71), Susanne Bier (The Night Manager), David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) and Denis Villeneuve (Dune) were all mooted as possible directors, so could be back in the frame for Bond 26.
The name most fans would like to see in the chair is Christopher Nolan who has previously stated an interest in directing a Bond reboot. In 2012, while promoting The Dark Knight Rises, he told Empire about directing a Bond film: "It would have to be the right situation and the right time in their cycle of things."
Then, talking to Playboy in 2017 while promoting Dunkirk, he cited Bond as one of his moviemaking white whales: "I’ve spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson over the years. I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it. Maybe one day that would work out. You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean.
"It has to need reinvention; it has to need you. And they’re getting along very well.”
While promoting his new film Oppenheimer, Nolan was put on the spot about Bond 26 by Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused Podcast, and he refused the rule out the possibility once again.
"It has to be the right moment in your creative life where you can express what you want to express and really burrow into something within the appropriate constraints, because you would never want to take on something like that and do it wrong," Nolan replied.
"You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean? It has to need reinvention; it has to need you."
Sadly, in November 2023, Nolan was asked outright if he would be directing Bond 26 and he issued a flat denial, telling AP: “No, sadly no — no truth to those rumours.”
If the Bond films were ever more in need of a reinvention, it's now.
When will Bond 26 be released?
Production on No Time To Die wrapped in 2019, but the film was delayed several times before it was finally released in November 2021. As such Daniel Craig remained the official Bond of record until the promotional circuit for the film was completed deep into 2022.
Despite Barbara Broccoli's recent claims that the reinvention of 007 'hasn't even begun', it's safe to assume Bond 26 is currently in development at EON Productions, the film company behind Bond, but there's been no official word on when we can expect to see it in cinemas yet.
The closest hint came in September 2022 when Broccoli told Variety about the next Bond film: "It’s going to be a couple of years off."
This points to 2024 or 2025 as the possible release window for Bond 26. 2024 seems less likely at this stage, but once things get moving, Bond movies can be made fairly quickly — 2006's Casino Royale was in cinemas in November that year, after shooting from January to July.
And once they pull the starting pistol, you can expect Bond 27 and beyond to follow.
"When we cast Bond, it’s a 10-, 12-year commitment," Broccoli said in the same interview "So he’s probably thinking, ‘Do I really want that thing? Not everybody wants to do that. It was hard enough getting [Daniel Craig to do it].”
Speaking on the Empire Podcast in 2022, Broccoli and Wilson said they would 'probably' get the ball rolling on Bond 26 by working with long time writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as a first port of call.
One thing we can be sure of: When Bond 26 hits cinemas, it will be released by Universal Pictures. Bond's co-owner MGM signed a two-film deal with the studio to distribute No Time To Die and Bond 26.
Despite MGM's acquisition by Amazon, producers say the Bond films will never go straight to streaming.
“We focussed on making the films for theatrical release and… I think that’s our position," Broccoli told Sky in 2021. "[Amazon] certainly have told us that the films will be theatrical films in the future. And we’ll see what happens.”
Will other cast members return for Bond 26?
Although Daniel Craig is out of the picture for Bond 26, question marks remain over the other recurring characters from his five Bond films.
Bond's secret service co-workers have traditionally continued in their roles even when the Bond actor changes (Desmond Llewellyn's Q appeared opposite the first five 007 actors from Sean Connery up to Pierce Brosnan, while Judi Dench made the leap from the Brosnan era to the Craig's), leaving the door open for Ralph Fiennes (M), Ben Whishaw (Q), and Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), and Rory Kinnear (Tanner) to reprise their roles in Bond 26.
It's thought that Fiennes, Whishaw, and Harris all inked three-picture deals when they signed up to appear in 2012's Skyfall, thus fulfilling their commitments in 2021's No Time To Die.
However, the actors and the studio has yet to confirm their involvement in Bond 26 either way.
In 2021, Fiennes told Total Film that he hoped to return as M to introduce the next 007. "If anyone from Eon Films is listening, I'm very keen to continue training the new Bond," Fiennes said. "I love playing M, and I love being part of that franchise. But who knows? Things have to change. But I love working with Daniel. He's a terrific Bond. I will treasure that experience."
Watch: Ben Whishaw on his return as Q in Bond 26
Talking to Yahoo to promote No Time To Die, Whishaw also expressed his desire to play Bond's quartermaster once again saying: "I was wondering if there is a future for me as Q, and I was wondering to myself how I felt about that. And today I woke up and thought 'ooh, maybe I kinda would like to continue'. So we'll see."
As time goes on though, the Paddington voice actor seems less hopeful of a return telling Radio Times in 2023: "I was only contracted to do three films, and they’re done. How many films have they made – 25 or something? I think they have to keep renewing it if they want to keep going!"
In 2021, Harris told Radio Times that she hoped to play Moneypenny again saying: "I would love to come back, because the franchise means so much to me."
"I've loved it – it's felt like reuniting with the family every time I've gone back to do a Bond movie, so I would hate to lose that in my life. But, you know, the franchise needs to go where it needs to go, so I don't know what the future holds."
Kinnear, who joined the Bond films in 2008's Quantum of Solace remained agnostic about his return, telling Looper in 2022: "They're fun things to do, o I wouldn't turn my back on it."
"I didn't even know, film to film, through Daniel's time, whether or not I'd be back," he added. "I can see both things potentially being appealing. With a new Bond, they can try and create an entirely new world around him, or — like with [Judi Dench playing M] from Pierce to Daniel — they can try and create a sense of continuity. ... I can totally see the options ahead of them, and I just don't know which way they'll go."
Bond 26 rumours
While who will be the next James Bond is the most persistent conversation around Bond 26, there have been a number of rumours around the movie that have generated headlines around the world.
Chris Nolan is negotiating to direct two Bond films 'in period settings'
Fresh from the success of his historical biopic Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan was rumoured to be in talks to write and direct not one, but two Bond films.
Movie rumour site World of Reel claims that their unnamed 'inside source' told them that Nolan is the number one (and also only) choice of Bond 26 director for Eon and Amazon, but his demands for 'creative freedom' could be a sticking point.
The filmmaker is also rumoured to be pushing for a period-set reboot and hopes to adapt Ian Fleming's original novels as the source material.
Nolan directing period-set Bond films seems like many fans' dream scenario (see the directors section below), but this rumour ignores the facts that: the 007 films have always been set '15 minutes into the future', they rely heavily on product placement for funding (goodbye multi-million Nokia and Sony deals), and period action films don't draw in punters (see 2021's The King's Man and 2015's The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and that all of Ian Fleming's Bond books have already been adapted for the screen.
Despite the online chatter, Nolan recently cleared things up by telling the Associated Press that there is "no truth" to the rumours.
Richard Madden 'drops hints' he is the next 007
In April 2023, Stanley Tucci shared a video on Instagram which showed him sipping vodka martinis with Citadel star Richard Madden.
Read more: James Bond fans think Richard Madden is the new 007 (Digital Spy, 2 min read)
The post was instantly flooded with comments saying that Madden should be the next 007, with some suggesting that this was the Scottish Game of Thrones star's way of letting fans know he was in contention for Bond 26.
But would any actor in the running for Bond 26 risk his chances for the sake of some likes on Instagram? Seems unlikely.
Denis Villeneuve is 'frontrunner' to direct Bond 26
Instagram rumour-mongerers Deux Moi claim "Denis Villeneuve is the #1 target for Bond producer Barbara Broccoli" which is not outside the realm of possibility.
In 2018, Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve was on the shortlist to direct No Time To Die. He ruled himself out in favour of making Dune, but has long admitted a desire to direct a Bond film one day. In 2021, he said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast: "I would deeply love to one day make a James Bond movie.
Read more: Denis Villeneuve would've loved to direct Bond 25 (Indiewire)
"It’s a character that I’ve been with — like everybody — since my childhood. I have massive affection for Bond. It would be a big challenge for people to try and reboot it after what Daniel did."
"It’s true that it would be a dream to do 007," the Sicario director added. "I don’t know if such a thing would happen, but it would be a privilege. At the end of the day, that would be pure cinematic joy.”
Villeneuve is currently in post-production on Dune: Part Two which will arrive in cinemas in November, 2023, so there's a chance the stars could align in time for production to begin on Bond 26.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is the 'first choice' to direct Bond 26 (debunked)
On 1 April, 2023 The Mail On Sunday published a story that claimed that the Fleabag creator had been in 'early discussions' with Bond producer Barbara Broccoli and was now her 'number one choice' to direct Bond 26.
"Barbara believes Phoebe is a huge talent and brings a fresh, modern take to Bond," an unnamed source reportedly told the tabloid. "They've already had very early discussions, but there are lots of variables in the equation, including Phoebe's increasingly packed schedule."
In June 2023, Waller-Bridge debunked the rumour while promoting Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny telling Vanity Fair: “My mum sent me that rumour too,” before denying the rumour flat out, pointing out that she'd only ever directed one music video before.
“So the obvious leap is James Bond,” she jokes.
Daisy May Cooper 'will be the new M' (debunked)
In March 2023, The Sun published a sensational scoop that claimed the Bafta-winning creator of This Country "is in talks to join the Bond franchise — as spy chief ‘M.’"
An unnamed insider claimed: "Bosses hope the 36-year-old would bring a comedic and quirky edge to the role," as the producers make the films "a bit lighter and more comedic going forwards". However, Cooper has already dismissed this claim saying "the only M I'll ever be is Mental."
Phoebe Waller-Bridge 'will write Bond 26'
In September 2019, when No Time To Die was in post-production, trusted Bond insider Baz Bamigboye wrote for the Daily Mail that the Fleabag creator — and co-writer of No Time To Die — was being 'wooed to help write a future James Bond film. "The award-winning writer and actress is being wooed to contribute to the script for Bond 26, which is still years away," he claimed.
"How much she’ll actually work on Bond 26 will depend on who directs it."
Bond 26 may not be filmed at Pinewood
In 2019, Disney signed a deal to lease Pinewood Studios — the home of Bond and the location of the fabled 007 Stage — in a years-long deal. With Disney's crowded production slate, this could mean the next Bond film may need to find a new home.
The BBC reported though that a deal could be made between EON and Disney to ensure Bond 26 still has a home at Pinewood: "Despite the Disney deal, it is believed that there is a possibility that, given its history, future James Bond films will still be filmed there."
Jacob Elordi might be in the running to play Bond
In March 2022, Instagram rumour-mongerers Deuxmoi claimed that Australian Euphoria actor Jacob Elordi was being considered as the next 007.
This was based on an anonymous tip sent to them that said "There has been interest in Jacob Elordi becoming the next James Bond. The franchise wants a younger leading man for the reboot. But it's very early days". You can probably chalk this one up to thirsty fans of the 25-year-old star of Netflix's Kissing Booth series.
Bond 26 does not yet have a release date.
Watch: The best Bond films ever