Some people spend a lot of time thinking about what British actor or actress should be the next to play James Bond. That’s fine. I understand the impulse. James Bond is an iconic film character who has been played by a series of handsome men in tuxedos who used the role to launch themselves into an A-list level of fame. Good for them. I choose to spend my time on a similar-in-some-ways but mostly different dreamcasting hobby: trying to figure out who should play the villains in future films of the Paddington franchise. I do it all the time, borderline constantly, in large part because the Paddington movies rule and in part because the villains in the first two — played by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, respectively, the former of which opens up the dreamcasting possibilities beyond the United Kingdom — were such scenery-devouring delights. I have learned two important things while doing this mental exercise:
It is way more fun than dreamcasting the next Bond because no one gets angry about it
I have kind of a lot of opinions about it, some of which I hold very strongly
I’ve put together some of my findings below, in the form of a ranking. The ranking isn’t so much definitive as it is sorted by my preference, but it is close enough to definitive when you factor in how much time I spend thinking about it. I suspect no one thinks about it more. Not even the people in charge of the Paddington franchise. I feel okay about it.
Let’s go. This is important.
20. Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons has some truly legendary Bad Guy Energy. He’s going on his fourth or fifth decade of it, too, between your various Die Hards and Lion Kings, the latter of which is especially important here as it locks in his bona fides as a cinematic villain opposite cute animated creatures. Would I watch a Paddington movie where our sweet fuzzy hero goes up against an actual cartoon lion who sings songs about the importance of preparation? My friends, I would. I would also happily watch a live-action Jeremy Irons snarl at an adorable bear. It would work, guaranteed, which is why we start here. Simple, straightforward, serviceable. But we can do better.
19. Christian Bale
Christian Bale would be a good Paddington villain because he is not afraid to go huge, bubbling with intensity and rage, which is the perfect complement to a friendly bear who loves marmalade. We saw this with Hugh Grant. You can’t possibly go too big as a bad guy opposite a character as innocent as Paddington. I like to picture Christian Bale heaving things around the set as he devolves into his character. It would be a good movie.
18. Vanessa Kirby
There are a lot of reasons Vanessa Kirby would make a good Paddington villain, but mostly I want to add her to the franchise because she’s also joined the Fast & Furious and Mission: Impossible franchises recently and I think this would make for a neat trifecta. Book it.
17. Emilia Clarke
It’s perfect. Emilia Clarke needs a post-Game of Thrones role to springboard into the next phase of her career. We’ve seen her go mad with power before. It could work. And even if it doesn’t, we can always have her hop on a dragon and start torching London while Paddington attempts to reason with the fire-breathing beast.
16. Colin Farrell
Colin Farrell cussing up a storm, dropping f-bombs left and right, singlehandedly dragging the film to the franchise’s first R-rating as Paddington covers his ears with his tiny little paws. Probable? Well, no. Fine. I understand that. But take a few minutes today to picture it and tell me I don’t have a point here.
15. Karen Gillan
Karen Gillian is awesome and has been awesome for a while and I think attempting to torment my fluffy little prince is exactly the thing she needs to prove it to the masses yet again. I picture her as like the corrupt mayor of London who wants to put Paddington in the zoo as a tourist attraction.
14. Daniel Radcliffe
The thing I like about Daniel Radcliffe is that he took all that sweet sweet Harry Potter money and proceeded to take all sorts of weirdo roles that struck his fancy. This is exactly what you are supposed to do. I love it. He should continue this trend by playing the weirdest Paddington villain you can imagine. Give him an eyepatch and a maniacal laugh and have him threaten to poison the city’s water supply. Or give him a mohawk and a motorcycle and have him threaten to poison the city’s water supply. I’m flexible here, but only up to a point.
13. Margot Robbie
This is a good idea. Margot Robbie has never been bad in anything. She’s been a good villain before, too, to whatever degree her turn as Harley Quinn can be considered villainous. Some of the entries on this list are a little joke-y but this one is not. It should happen. It would be great. Listen to me.
12. Thandie Newton
Westworld is kind of a mess and has been since a few episodes into its first season, but it did shine a spotlight on an important point that I think we overlook sometimes: Thandie Newton rules. She is so good at delivering badass lines of dialogue with a straight face, which is an important quality in any villain. For some reason I see her fully dressed like Carmen Sandiego, trench coat and floppy hat and all of it, telling Paddington that the two of them are not so different, after all. You can see it, too. Do not lie to me.
11. Liam and Noel Gallagher
The key thing to note here is that I am very serious about this. Liam and Noel Gallagher, as themselves, feuding like angry children, with Paddington attempting to stitch up their decades-long feud. Or we could have both of them as evil lunatics who hijack a blimp. Or maybe Noel steals Liam’s tambourine collection —Liam Gallagher owns over 2,000 tambourines, which I mention a lot because it makes me laugh every time — and Paddington assists with the retrieval. I do not care. I just want it to happen. We know Liam is a fan.
10. Emily Blunt
I don’t know why but I have this vision in my head right now of Emily Blunt holding a sword and Paddington saying “Oh, dear.” That’s all I need. I’m in.
9. Cillian Murphy
Do you guys watch Peaky Blinders? You should, if not. It’s good and wild and filled with people saying things in fantastic British accents thicker than a bowl of chowder. Cillian Murphy plays the head of a crime family and he is so freaking intense. He’ll just sit there and stare at someone through his glasses and chain smoke cigarettes and drink gallons of whiskey and it is a ton of fun to think about him doing all of that across the table from a wee little bear whose face is barely visible as he sinks into a huge chair. Something to consider.
8. Daniel Kaluuya
Daniel Kaluuya was absolutely terrifying in Widows. I still think about the scene where he forces the guy to rap for him and then… no. I will not spoil it. Go watch Widows. Then get back to me on this. Just know that I am correct again.
7. Helen Mirren
This one is obvious but that does not make it wrong. Helen Mirren is so perfect as a Paddington villain that the fact that it hasn’t happened already is the biggest surprise of all. It should have happened already. Cast her as the queen and have one of the other options on this list brainwash her and then have Paddington show up to save the day. It’s so easy. Come on.
6. Jason Statham
My brain is hopelessly warped and mangled from many years of watching action movies on basic cable but I cannot think of a single thing this morning that is funnier to me than Paddington and a shirtless Jason Statham engaged in hand-to-hand combat in an abandoned warehouse filled with drums of stolen petroleum. Please just let me have this one. I know it’s the least realistic option on the list. Just… let me have it. I need it.
5. Helena Bonham Carter
No person living or dead is better suited to play a Paddington villain than Helena Bonham Carter. She would be perfect. Tease her hair way out into a tangled and curly eagle’s nest, give her the full-on Bellatrix Lestrange makeup, let her do the whole unhinged thing she does so well. It almost doesn’t matter who her character is or what her character does. Make her an evil banker who is trying to foreclose on the family’s home. Make her a witch who hates bears for an unexplained reason. Doesn’t matter. She’ll be great no matter what. She was born to do this.
4. Tilda Swinton
3. Idris Elba
I don’t know that any person alive on this planet — or any other, I suppose — looks better in a suit than Idris Elba. And we know he can play a complicated baddish guy from seeing him as Stringer Bell in The Wire. I think this plays. I think we should do it. It can go a lot of different ways but right now I’m thinking something along the lines of like “real estate magnate who says he wants to turn Paddington’s favorite park into a strip mall but secretly just wants the land because he suspects there are priceless jewels from the 1400s buried underneath it.” I’m open to suggestions though.
2. Olivia Colman
Olivia Colman is a terrific actress and a delightful human. I don’t have much in the way of reasoning here beyond that, nor do I have a great suggestion for her character. I just think she would like being a Paddington villain and I think she would do a good job and I think we should let her try. I also think she would be a blast on the press tour while promoting the film, which is admittedly a tangential reason for doing this but still one I think we should consider. Think about her on The Graham Norton Show with about two or three glasses of champagne in her as she tells stories about filming a movie opposite an adorable CGI bear. That alone is worth making this happen.
1. Tom Hardy
I kind of painted myself into a corner a few weeks ago by declaring, in writing, that Tom Hardy would be the best possible Paddington villain. The nice part is that it’s still true and undeniable. Let Tom Hardy do whatever barely intelligible accent he wants and let him make whatever Big Acting Choices he thinks of and let me watch it on the biggest screen you can find. Again, a movie where the hero is a friendly little bear who just wants everyone to be happy is the perfect opportunity to go huge with your villainous performance, and no one loves doing huge villainous performances more than Tom Hardy. Do this. Do it next. Do it now. We can work through the rest of this list later. First things first, though.