Christian Bale: Armando Gallo/Retna
Clarissa Cruz
November 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Though he’s the most bankable Bond ever, Pierce Brosnan’s days as 007 are (cue maniacal laughter) numbered. While Brosnan’s three Bond outings to date have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, the 48-year-old Irishman has suggested that ”Die Another Day,” opening Nov. 22, will be his last installment.

So who replaces him? Rumors are swirling faster than a well-shaken martini. Russell Crowe, pop singer Robbie Williams, and Scottish hunk Gerard Butler (”Dracula 2000”) are a few of the names mentioned. Problem is, all this speculation is premature. ”We’re not even thinking about it, not until January 2003,” says Anne Bennett, rep for franchise owners Eon Productions. And despite tabloid reports, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli hasn’t met with any potential subs. Even the manager of most-mentioned candidate Butler admits, ”There’s been a lot of talk, but nothing’s actually happened.”

Still, that won’t stop us from tabulating young Hollywood’s Bond ratings. So what does it take to fill our favorite spy’s tux? ”Bond would probably be a type A personality, mildly manipulative,” says British intelligence historian Nigel West (”The Crown Jewels”). Consistent with Bond, he notes, ”both intelligence officers and agents tend to have quite a high libido.”

Former Bond girl Maud Adams (”Octopussy”) has her own wish list: ”He has to be strong, unpredictable — somebody a woman can’t really quite control.” Herewith, we rate candidates for the next 007.

KEY
Tux-ability Savoir faire for pulling off a Savile Row suit
Babe-ability Capacity to conquer more than just villains
Gadget-ability Aptitude for operating heavy machinery on Q
Bond-ability Power to make us forget Sean Connery

CHRISTIAN BALE After his pumped-up, chain-saw-wielding ”American Psycho” turn, Bale, 27, has shed his title as prince of corset films (see ”Little Women”). His sexiness (and accent) would be perfect. But is he ready to exchange indie cred for a mega-franchise? ”One part of him is really tickled, and the other part is like, ‘Will that typecast me forever?”’ says his rep, adding that Bale is a Bond fan.
Tux-ability? Yes
Babe-ability? Yes
Gadget-ability? Yes
Bond-ability? Yes

RUSSELL CROWE Sure, he can woo half of Hollywood and defeat a coliseum full of foes, but Bond requires subtlety. ”He’s got the presence, but can he wear the clothes?” says Alastair Dougall, author of ”James Bond: The Secret World of 007.” ”He sometimes looks a bit dim and splobby.” Then there’s the 37-year-old Oscar winner’s offscreen high jinks. Says Nathan Cooper of Style.com: ”He’d be more likely to hit somebody over the head with a chair than shoot him with a laser pen.”
Tux-ability? No
Babe-ability? Yes (duh!)
Gadget-ability? No
Bond-ability? No

RUPERT EVERETT Fashion savvy? Hell, yeah. Accent? Yup. Everett, 42, has even been working on a script featuring a gay secret agent. ”He would add a new level of camp,” says Cooper. ”But that might make it too much of a spoof.” If he can channel his sparkle in ”My Best Friend’s Wedding,” we’d line up faster than Denise Richards strips in ”The World Is Not Enough.” The hitch? Bond girls.
Tux-ability? Yes
Babe-ability? No
Gadget-ability? No
Bond-ability? No

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