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'Spectre': James Bond looks ahead -- really far ahead

Damian Lewis and Idris Elba are among the rumored James Bonds--even though Daniel Craig has yet to go anywhere

Monday brought some notable news in the world of James Bond, the kind that sends the blog world into a tizzy.

It was the day that Sony dropped the first significant behind-the-scenes featurette (a vlog, in the studio’s coinage) for “Spectre.” “Spectre” is of course the new 007 installment — starring Daniel Craig and arriving three years to the weekend from earlier smash “Skyfall — and the vlog offered a glimpse into a key scene.

In the footage, director Sam Mendes explains how, for the colorful and mask-filled opening sequence, he and the crew re-created a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico, a production piece so elaborate that it featured a crew member with the job of “Crowd Hair Supervisor.”

This was not, however, the news  set the online Bond world a’fluttering. No, that would be a different nugget — that Damian Lewis could be taking over Craig’s role when he departs.

The former "Homeland" star, according to one of the many news outlets that covered the development, is “heavily tipped” to land the 007 part. And what is the source of such a tip?  Per England’s The Mirror: “Bookmakers have slashed their odds following the gamble, with William Hill offering just 6/4 that Damian will land the coveted role, while Ladbrokes make him their 2/1 favourite.”

“This could well be significant and might herald the end of Daniel Craig as the world’s most famous spy,” added no less a Bond authority than a spokesman for one of the betting services. Because if there are people Mendes and producers the Broccolis consult with before making any Bond casting decisions they are, naturally, London bookies and gamblers. Betting markets are useful in crowdsourcing a certain kind of wisdom. For an area in which only a few people know the truth, they’re less helpful.

Anyway, Lewis is now the front-runner for a role that is not even immediately available, taking over for Idris Elba, who was briefly the front-runner but has now fallen back, though he is still ahead of Tom Hardy, who is still ahead of Henry Cavill, who is still ahead of other people who have not, to anyone’s knowledge, ever been consulted about a James Bond role.

It should be noted that all of this speculation is not because people have tired of Daniel Craig as James Bond. Craig recently shot only his fourth 007 film — three fewer than either Sean Connery or Roger Moore, the most well-known actors to wear the tuxedo — and he is certainly welcome in Bondville. His Q rating, as it were, remains high.

What’s driving the new-Bond stories is what drives so many of these rumors, and the larger obsession with them. The film-news beast these days is a hyper, ADD-addled thing, reflexively searching for what’s somewhere else rather than what’s right in front it. So a teaser intended to stoke interest in a movie five months away has been trumped by speculative news about a casting that may not come to pass for years. It’s a bit like eagerly planning your next trip while on a plane ride to the current one. 

On its face there's nothing harmful in this — it's just the diverting fun of casting-news daydreams. But for a medium that asks for a suspension of disbelief as it seeks to transport us to another world, this can be an annoying and even undermining intrusion. It's hard to keep going to another world if part of your mind is worried about the next casting.

Like so many franchise movies, “Spectre” will face its share of obstacles, such as honoring a tradition without being mired in it. But it now must overcome an entirely new hurdle: the thought that people have while watching it of “when will we see another actor instead of this Craig guy?”

More broadly, it sets us up as a moviegoing audience for constant disappointment‎. If the most exciting development is always a movie away, are we ever satisfied with the film in front of us?

Lest one think this is the kind of development desired by those mostly likely to benefit from it, it’s not. Sounding audibly annoyed, Elba — who clearly wants the part — sighed recently. “It’s a rumor that’s really starting to eat itself." And, he might have added, an Internet that really likes to eat itself, or at least keep playing the anticipation game until there are no more pieces left on the board.

In Monday’s featurette, there was no sign of Craig. Some commentators wondered if he was lurking in the crowd behind one of the elaborate masks. It's only a matter of time before a few  wonder if Elba and Lewis are in there too.

@ZeitchikLAT

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