Forget who the new James Bond should be, Who will be the new Felix Leiter?

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With Daniel Craig’s years-in-the-making exit from playing James Bond, all the speculation has been about “Who will replace him?”

It’s focused, mainly, on Idris Elba (cool enough, an interesting choice in these inclusive times, but a bit old — 44 in Sept. — to be taking on this franchise) and Tom Hiddleston, who is auditioning for the part by holding his own in a marvelous John LeCarre adaptation on the BBC, and “dating” America’s newest 40 year old virgin, Taylor Swift, to stay in the headlines.

Really.

Jamie Bell, Damian Lewis, Aidan Turner, James Norton and a couple of even more obscure Brit-hunks have turned up in the list of candidates. They’re steering clear of more testosterony choices like Tom Hardy or Joel Edgerton. The fools.

Whoever gets the job, the first Post-Brexit Bond will waltz into a shifting political landscape that could be less welcoming to this most iconic British hero of them all. Depending on whether Europe holds a grudge.

But there are other nuts to crack in that evergreen series. And the Craig Bonds got these supporting roles right, fleshing out the “good guy” side of the cast even when they cast weak villains (three out of four films). So we might as well start mulling those over as well, as a new Bond is as inevitable as another season of “Top Gear.”

The retirement of Judi Dench, a smart holdover from the Pierce Brosnan Bonds, put Ralph Fiennes in the Big Chair as the spy chief “M.” Might they keep him? I’m totally down with that. He’s aging into the part nicely, and properly grumpy when called for.

There was and is but one “Q,” and that was the wizened, out-of-quips-to-give Desmond Llewelyn from the original films. I was watching his turn in “Goldfinger” the other night and figuring out why the sexually ambiguous waif/tech-nerd version of “Q” in the Daniel Craig films never quite did it for me. If we’re going “inclusive,” Ben Whishaw may come back in the part.

But Llewelyn’s “Q” played on the English tinkerer stereotype, and did so delightfully. The character’s comic relief nature is built on Old School pluck and can-do invention, a relic of “their Finest Hour” Britain. Recast “Q” with that in mind, and I’d suggest Hugh Laurie for that part. He’s droll, world-weary and a perfect foil.

Gillian Anderson jokingly pitched herself as the first female Bond. She’d make a helluva “Q.” Or “M.” Sexy, too.

I’d love to see Naomie Harris return as Moneypenny. She was a delight in the part — sexy, tempting, as cool as Bond himself.

And any red-blooded American-born Bond fan has to lament the potential loss of Jeffrey Wright as Bond’s CIA alter ego, Felix Leiter.

It’s a key role, not as important as “M” or “Q” or Moneypenny. But when you get it right, the movie sings. When you don’t bother to try, you feel the lack of weight in the part.

Jack Lord was Felix in “Dr. No,” and frankly, Connery’s lucky he chose not to return (or wasn’t invited back) to the part and found his future on American TV. Lord had just as much simmering screen presence as Connery and took just the right “Who IS this Brit interloper?” tone in their scenes. Lord was the best Leiter, and it took half a century for Cubby Broccoli and his heirs to find one with even a hint of his charisma.

Felix2Wright has that, and I could see him returning, bringing a seen-it-all weariness to scenes with the younger Bond (Hiddleston, et al). Not sure they’ll go for a black Bond and black Leiter in the same movie, but he’d almost certainly click with Elba, too.

But he’ll be 51 this year, a bit long in the tooth for a field agent (he looks about…49).

Best of all possible worlds? Cast Elba as the first Bond villain with weight since Javier Bardem.  He was the Craig films’ only bad guy worth fearing.

Bring back Harris as Moneypenny and Fiennes as M for continuity’s sake.

And give us a Felix Leiter at least as famous and charismatic as Jeffrey Wright. Big stars like Chris Pine, Ryan Gosling or Chadwick Boseman might not opt for a bit-part lark in the role. But John Cho is fresh out of “Star Treks,” as is Zachary Quinto. Oscar Isaac?

 

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