By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com July 8, 2011 at 11:34AM
For the most part, the Daniel Craig-era of Bond has left behind many of the franchise's most familiar tropes; aside from Judi Dench as MI6 head honcho M, and the CIA agent Felix Leiter played by Jeffrey Wright, it's a been a fresh start: no Q, no Blofeld, no SPECTRE, no gadgets. It worked out nicely in "Casino Royale," not so well in "Quantum of Solace," and now it appears that at least one classic Ian Fleming-created character is going to appear in the latest, Sam Mendes-directed entry in the series, currently known only as "Bond 23."
It's been rumored for some weeks now that actress Naomie Harris, who came to fame in Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" before going on to "Miami Vice" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and its sequel, was circling a role in Mendes' film, and the actress confirmed that discussions had taken place. Now, Baz Bamigboye reports that Harris is in the very final stages of talks, and that she'll be playing a familiar figure: Moneypenny, M's assistant at MI6, who's flirted with Bond across twenty separate films.
Lois Maxwell, Caroline Bliss and Samantha Bond have all officially played Moneypenny over the years (with Barbara Bouchet and Pamela Salem taking the mantle on in unofficial Bond flicks, 1967's "Casino Royale" and 1983's "Never Say Never Again"), but Harris is certainly a strong choice -- indeed, we hope that casting such a terrific actress means that the character will have more to do than sit behind a desk and drop innuendo. Considering that the character tends to span multiple films, it's likely that Harris will be tied to a multi-film contract: perhaps the reason negotiations have been so protracted.
Bamigboye also suggests that the film has locked two other top actors in: both Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes were said to be circling parts earlier in the year, Bardem confirming that his was the villain, and Fiennes' said to be "darkly complex," and Bamigboye suggests that the pair are both officially set. It presumably helps matters that Bardem's other big-budget suitor, "The Dark Tower," collapsed, as there likely would have been a scheduling conflict. All in all, things are shaping up nicely here: it's certainly the starriest, most credible Bond flick in years. We'll find out if Mendes can handle the thrills as well as the actors when the film, which will shoot later in the year, hits theaters on November 9th, 2012.