With No Time To Die (opens in new tab) marking Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, a variety of candidates have been rumoured and suggested as his replacement: Richard Madden, Idris Elba, Dev Patel, James Norton…
But one name has been conspicuously absent from the conversation so far – one that could transform the James Bond franchise: Sacha Baron Cohen.
“What? The man responsible for Borat (opens in new tab), Bruno (opens in new tab), Ali G (opens in new tab) and [deep gasp] Grimsby (opens in new tab)?” I hear you howling. Yes, him. And no, I don’t hate James Bond, or Baron Cohen, or your eyes and ears, and wish to destroy them. I genuinely believe he would be an excellent 007.
In the last decade, he has patiently pivoted from variations on his patented pantomime act into more challenging and dynamic roles. In 2011’s Hugo (opens in new tab), he turned heads with an empathetic performance – one he swiftly followed up with an impressive turn in Les Misérables (opens in new tab) (2012).
However, what eventually convinced me of his superspy credentials was his role as a different Mr. Cohen. In Netflix’s thriller series The Spy, he plays Eli Cohen, a real-life Israeli spy who in the 1960s managed to infiltrate the highest levels of Syrian government in true super-spy fashion.
Yes, it takes a few minutes to get used to the sight of Cohen in an entirely straight-faced, dramatic role; but with his comedic crutch removed, he is a revelation. Carrying a quality six-episode series full of classic spy-thriller intrigue with ease on his tall, capable shoulders, Baron Cohen oozes charm and flaunts his action chops.
He even musters a fair bit of menace as Eli becomes an increasingly hardened spy who is so immersed in his mission that he begins to question his real identity and loyalties. The star received a Golden Globe nomination for the role, and deservedly so.
Like many Bonds before him (Moore, Brosnan, almost Sam Neill), Baron Cohen could take skills acquired on TV, and add double-O-sized bombast to them. Plus, if a Moore-like comic touch were needed, Cohen could do that in his sleep.
Yes I know, someone like Richard Madden is probably getting the role anyway. But I can’t help feeling Baron Cohen would bring something truly refreshing to Bond. Or is it just me?
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