Bond 23 Cast Beginning to Shape Up

Back in the winter, it was reported that Oscar-winner Javier Bardem had been offered a "starring role" in the next James Bond movie, and that Ralph Fiennes could be close behind for a role as well, both likely as villains.

But whether either actor would accept the roles was unknown. Javier Bardem was also offered the starring role in Ron Howard's adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower novels, which would of course be a massive undertaking as a set trilogy. But it finally seems as if we might have some news out of the Bond camp.

The highly anticipated upcoming spy thriller is simply known as Bond 23 at the moment, and is set to be directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty). Everyone involved seems to be keeping a tight lip about the plot of the film, but the cast is finally starting to round itself out. We already knew that Judi Dench would be returning as M, and of course that Daniel Craig would be portraying the iconic super spy. And while we can't really decipher much from the latest casting news, it is looking like Bond 23 is heading in the right direction, and with an awesome cast.

For starters, Ralph Fiennes seems to be set to play a role in the film, and we can't see him as anything other than a criminal mastermind in the film. The British method actor is coming off playing Hades and Lord Voldermort in the last two year, and he's definitely comfortable with the role of the easy-talking villain. The rumor that won't go away is that Fiennes will play the head of Quantum -- the antagonistic organization in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace -- a role previously rumored to go to Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Next, the rumors of the abovementioned Javier Bardem set to play a villain in the film simply won't go away. Little is known outside of the name-dropping instances, but one would imagine Bardem would pose a more physical, thug/henchman-like threat to 007, likely as an agent of Quantum and a subordinate of Fiennes' character.

Also, Rhys Ifans, who will play Curt Connors / The Lizard in the upcoming Spider-Man Reboot has also been cast in the film, likely as another henchman/villain.

Finally, the role of the iconic Miss Moneypenny has been cast, with Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Pirates 2 and 3) rumored to play M's secretary. Many fans will likely be uncomfortable with the decision to change the character's race, but of course, the Bond series has never shied away from tweaking with its characters physical features, so let's leave that argument at that. Harris is an underrated actress and could very well have great chemistry with the rest of the cast.

It's hard to call the last three Bonds a "trilogy", due to the fact that each film had different directors and writers -- the least of which was Marc Foster on Quantum of Solace -- but it's interesting to look at it as such. Casino Royale explains the originals of James Bond, while Quantum of Solace takes a look at his darker side. It seems as if Bond 23 will focus on Bond trying to take down the Quantum organization, and go afters its head.

How it will all play out is anyone's guess, but with a credible director in Mendes at the helm, with Craig playing the character for the third time, and a solid cast surrounding him, by the looks of it.

Bond 23 is set to film in South Africa later this year, with an announced release date of 26 October 2012.

Sources: The Telegraph, IGN.