Photo illustration. Photo of Henry Golding for GQ by Pari Dukovic, publicity image of Sean Connery as James Bond

This article has been burning a hole in my soul for while now, since the idea behind this article is fascinating to me.

A few weeks ago–coincidentally, around the same time as Henry Golding’s historic GQ cover–people started thinking about if Golding was made the successor to the James Bond mantle.

Even Jimmy Fallon sees James Bond in Golding’s future, telling him during his August visit to The Tonight Show, “I’m telling you, this [Crazy Rich Asians] is first, James Bond is next!”

Seeing how Idris Elba has officially shot down any interest in being the next James Bond, people’s imaginations have to start going somewhere. Seeing how Golding is an It Guy, right now, naturally people will start conferring their James Bond hopes and dreams onto him.

But is it just random hopes and dreams, or could there be a real chance that Golding could be the next James Bond? If we look at his style alone, Golding’s got the midcentury/Camelot-esque early 1960s look down to a science. In many of his magazine and red carpet photos, Golding looks like he’s just stepped out of a stylish Hitchcock movie. If you’re a classic movie fan, like me, his looks might remind you James Shigeta or, even further back, Sessue Hayakawa, one of the first silent film heartthrobs.

(L-R) James Shigeta, Henry Golding, Sessue Hayakawa

Golding also has tons of debonair style in terms of his persona and personality. Golding is a Jack of all trades. As Wikipedia states, long before getting into acting, he was a television presenter in Britain, hosting the BBC’s The Travel Show. He even completed his bejalai–the rite of passage into manhood undertaken by the men of his mother’s Iban people–on Discovery Channel Asia’s Surviving Borneo. According to Vulture, the bejalai took seven weeks, traversing southern Thailand to his Malaysian birthplace of Sarawak, culminating in Golding getting a tattoo done with traditional Iban methods and marrying his girlfriend, Italian-Taiwanese TV presenter and yoga instructor Liv Lo. Before getting work at the BBC and the Discovery Channel, Golding also worked at ESPN, making me wonder if I’d seen him on TV and didn’t realize I was watching a star in the making.

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But even before his stint as a TV host, Golding had another love: hairdressing. He told GQ that his original goals for his life were to “work in London, be a notorious and famous hairdresser and such…[a]nd that’s what I did.” According to the article, Golding dropped out of school at 16 to learn the craft of hairstyling from Richard Ward, who has styled not only celebrities, but English royalty.

It makes sense that GQ, a magazine that lives for the fantasy of the self-made Renaissance Man, would profile Golding, since many of his adventures in life, such as becoming a presenter, learning the craft of hairdressing, etc.–just happen because Golding willed it. As the article states, Golding had no experience in presenting; all he did was make a film reel and send it out, hoping to get a job. His stint as a hairdresser happened just because he felt he could do it, even at the risk of his own schooling. The self-belief is strong with him.

This self-assurance is palpable in Crazy Rich Asians. I’ll be honest and say that as much as I like Crazy Rich Asians for its historic quality and I do find the film likeable and charming, I find the rom-com aspect boring. I think that’s mostly because rom-coms are not my most favorite genre, even if I like vicariously living through rich people when I watch them. But regardless of all of that, I could tell that Golding had the certain something that Hollywood looks for in leading men–that calm confidence and simmering masculinity, while being approachable and relatable enough for women to fantasize about being with him.

To me, I haven’t seen a star have this type of charming magnetism since the days of Cary Grant. Of course, I didn’t live in those times, but I’ve seen tons of Cary Grant movies and other films starring the leading men of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and I can say as a classic movie fan that Golding has that Golden Age quality in spades. It’s also this quality that would make him the perfect James Bond.

Cary Grant and Janet Blair in Once Upon a Time. Henry Golding and Constance Wu on the Entertainment Weekly cover for Crazy Rich Asians
Cary Grant and Janet Blair in Once Upon a Time. Henry Golding and Constance Wu on the Entertainment Weekly cover for Crazy Rich Asians

Part of what made James Bond so alluring as a character for women as well as for men is that James Bond–someone who should technically be a villain with how much he kills in the name of the Queen–is still someone you feel like you should root for. It all comes down to his charm, his style, his wit, and his delightfully rogueish quality. He gets away with a lot–too much, especially in these #MeToo times–but even with all of the womanizing and killing, you still feel like James Bond is that guy you either want to be or want to be around. James Bond is a fantasy. For men, he’s the ultimate in masculine cool. For women, he’s the ultimate partner in life, the man who will protect you to no end and make it all look effortless and seductive.

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However, if Golding was the next James Bond, he’d make the character even more attractive. First things first, he seems like a genuine guy who isn’t a chauvinist, abusive pig like Sean Connery. Yes, Connery got the James Bond roguishness down for the film role, but his real life is a completely different story. Golding, on the other hand, seems to embody only the best parts of the GQ male fantasy.

Secondly, there’s of course that “diversity” issue. It might surprise you, but even though I’m in the “representation space” of entertainment writing, as it were, I actually get tired of talking about race and diversity and representation. Not because it’s not important, but because sometimes it feels like speaking into the void, even when you know you might be heard. One of the reasons folks are clamoring behind the idea of an actor of color as James Bond is because for so long, the character has embodied white male ideals. He’s been a symbol of white male superiority over women of all races and men of color. If the role was given to a man of color (or heck, even a woman of color), the film could start to investigate the character more and break down some of the character’s latent white superiority. The campaign for Elba (and for others, like Riz Ahmed) has been strong because of this reason (among other, thirstier reasons).

But as of right now, it feels like those campaigns have just been relegated to fandom fodder. But I hope Hollywood takes those campaigns seriously. There’s a big goldmine here by casting someone not traditionally thought of as James Bond. Golding is someone, among the other actors of color out there, that Hollywood should seriously consider if Daniel Craig ever follows through with his yearly threats to vacate the role. If you need your James Bond, there are several contenders for the role out there, with Golding being high among the mix.

Photograph of Henry Golding for GQ Magazine by Pari Dukovic. Still of Sean Connery from Goldfinger
Photograph of Henry Golding for GQ Magazine by Pari Dukovic. Still of Sean Connery from Goldfinger

I feel like people have varying opinions about Golding’s time in the sun in Hollywood. But I think that for Golding, the sky is the limit. If he can have such a wild career trajectory and seemingly come out of nowhere on the Hollywood stage, then why not imagine that he could take the mantle of James Bond, too? If anyone can do it, it might as well be him.

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