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Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM/Eon Productions

How do you pick a new 007? Bond's casting director on why it'll be 'very very hard' to find the next one

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Sep 17, 2021, 11:43 AM EDT

At this point, we all know that we're headed for the end of an era in the world of James Bond. After several theatrical release delays, next month the 25th film in the Eon Productions series, No Time to Die, will finally hit theaters, and with its arrival comes the final curtain on the Daniel Craig age of 007's adventures. That means we can expect Craig and director Cary Joji Fukunaga to pull out all the stops on their way to the credits, but it also means that before long the always exciting search for a new James Bond will begin.

The internet's been making their feelings known about who should and shouldn't replace Craig for years now, particularly amid speculation that the star might be bowing out with the 24th Bond film, Spectre, six years ago. Ultimately, though, the final decisions on the next Bond begin with Debbie McWilliams, the casting director for the Bond series who's been helping select heroes, villains, and Bond girls for 007 movies since For Your Eyes Only in 1981.

For McWilliams, who's had a hand in selecting three different Bonds at this point, finding the perfect 007 is no easy task, even if it does boil down to a few key essential qualities.

"It's somebody who can hold their own, who is attractive, physical, capable of taking on not just the part but all the razzmatazz that goes with it," McWilliams told Entertainment Weekly in an interview about the Bond casting process. "It's quite a tall order and it can live on with somebody for long after they've played the part, although I think it's not so defining now as it used to be. I think some people got very much stuck with it and others have managed, particularly if they've chosen good projects other than Bond, where they're seen as just a very good actor rather than just being James Bond."

That "razzmatazz," as McWilliams puts it, is key to finding the next actor to fill Bond's tuxedo, because there will arguably more attention on this particular casting than on any previous one. Bond predictions and wish lists are all over social media, and fan speculation and scrutiny is already high even in light of what happened with Craig's casting nearly 20 years ago. When he was selected as the actor to replace Pierce Brosnan in 2005, some fans immediately revolted based on his look alone. For McWilliams, what happened next as Craig won the world over with his work was a key to his Bond portrayal.

"It was unbelievably negative, I have to say. The press response was awful and I felt so sorry for him, but in a funny kind of a way I think it almost spurred him on to do his damndest to prove everybody wrong," she said. "The whole way through the film, stuff would come out about he couldn't walk and talk, he couldn't run, he couldn't drive a car properly, so much stuff which was completely and utterly untrue. And he just kept his head down, got on with the job, and then the film came out and everybody went, 'Oh wow, I think we quite like him after all.' He's going to be a tough act to follow."

McWilliams is understandably tight-lipped about who exactly could follow Craig at this point, particularly since No Time to Die hasn't even made its way to audiences just yet. She is keeping an eye on various actors, though, even if she hasn't officially been called into work yet.

"Obviously, one's keeping one's eyes open all the time," she said. "That's part of the job, just being aware of who's who and where they are in their career. It's going to be very, very hard I must say [to cast the next one]."

No Time to Die is in theaters Oct. 22.