Remember when Ian Botham was set to be "the next James Bond"? Of course you don't. There was, in 1985, as much chance of Roland the Rat becoming 007 as there was of the vegetable-headed cricketer stepping into the part, but, for a day or two, the tabloids pretended to take the notion seriously.
Botham's publicist, convinced his client had crossover potential, had transported the Hero of Headingly to LA for meetings with the cigar-chompers. Menahem Golan, busy Israeli producer, apparently said Beefy "had the looks, build and accent to be the next James Bond". Eon Productions, Bond's parent firm since 1962, somehow resisted Botham's blonde mullet and settled for Timothy Dalton instead.
For most of the last 60 years we have been living with Next James Bond speculation. Like all unfounded gibberish, such stories became even more prevalent in the internet era, but the interest is not confined to monkeyjazz.com and bondstans.co.uk. The heritage media continue to run with evidence that could scarcely be dignified with the word “flimsy”.
Wasn't it just 10 minutes ago that we learned Tom Hardy was as good as bolted into the Aston Martin? It was actually last September
Remember when Paudie Coughlan told you he'd seen the maths teacher riding the school dinner lady behind the bike shed? That's the level of reliability we are dealing with here.
The latest Next James Bond is the British actor Regé-Jean Page. "Will Regé-Jean Page play the next James Bond?" the Sun asked before noting that "nothing has been confirmed". The paper later puzzlingly claimed that "Bridgerton's Regé-Jean Page fuels rumours he will be the next James Bond". What Mr Page had done to "fuel" the gossip was not explained. Getting off a plane hardly meets the definition. The Daily Express blared "Next James Bond betting suspended" and so on.
All this chatter began when it was announced that Page, breakout star of Bridgerton, was not to appear in the second season of that hit period drama. The only reasonable explanation was that he had been signed up for a film that would probably not be shooting for another two years. Right?
Wasn't it just 10 minutes ago that we learned Tom Hardy was as good as bolted into the Aston Martin? It was actually last September. "How old is Tom Hardy and what else has the next James Bond starred in?" the Sun asked its readers without bothering to place inverted commas around the key three words. This was a particularly bizarre episode in the Next James Bond Misinformation Wars. The origin seemed to be a story in an obscure Star Trek blog named The Vulcan Reporter.
The editor, who then had fewer than 6,000 Twitter followers, posted a report saying: “Today I’ve learned that [the next James Bond] is none other than Mad Max and Venom actor Tom Hardy.” The Daily Express (founded 1900) and the Evening Standard (founded 1827) did, to be fair, pull out quotation marks for their “Tom Hardy ‘cast as next James Bond’” stories.
Even in the years when no Bond film emerges, the character reigns like an unofficial figurehead of the entertainment industry
All this was happening around two years after vague remarks from director Antoine Fuqua caused the media to conclude that Idris Elba was a shoo-in for the role.
Allow The Irish Times its own period of mindless speculation. We have no inside knowledge. Barbara Broccoli, veteran producer of the Bond series, has not been round for socially distanced martinis. Unlike Vulcan News, we have not "learned" anything specific about the fates of the actors listed above. But I am as sure as I have ever been of anything that Regé-Jean Page has not yet been cast as the Next James Bond. This is not to suggest he will never secure the role. Broccoli has intimated she is open to a person of colour playing 007 and, though still a tad young at 31, Page has the right blend of charm and determination to convince as the immortal establishment thug.
It seems, however, enormously unlikely that Eon Productions will be making even the vaguest decision before No Time to Die, the incoming 007 film, has finally made its way before eager punters. They will not want any Next James Bond detracting attention from a still tentatively upright Daniel Craig. The notion that an imminent Bridgerton shoot could clash with the 26th Bond film is close to absurd. If Eon gets the next production up and running before the summer of 2022 they will deserve a medal from the International Logistics Agency (presuming such a thing exists).
In short, any rumour you hear about the casting of the Next James Bond can – until some months after October, when No Time to Die is scheduled for release – be automatically dismissed as prime-cut baloney. The stories belong with reports on the Abominable Snowman and The Bermuda Triangle.
Yet they will keep coming. Even in the years when no Bond film emerges, the character reigns like an unofficial figurehead of the entertainment industry. Maybe you were born under the House of Connery. This young fellow looks like a House of Brosnan baby. We may as well try and quell speculation about next week’s weather. Live with it.