If Bardem backs out, who should play next Bond villain?

Update: A day later it was reported that Ralph Fiennes, my #2 pick, was also in talks with director Sam Mendes for a role in Bond #23.

Javier Bardem says that director Sam Mendes has asked him to play the next Bond villain.


Bardem is intrigued but undecided.

The actor told the Los Angeles Times' Glenn Whipp, "I'm a huge fan of the James Bond saga. When I was little, I went watching Mr. Connery doing James Bond with my father."


In addition, Bardem likes Mendes' approach: "They're changing the whole thing, the whole dynamic. I'd be playing Bond's nemesis, yes, but it's not that obvious. Everything is more nuanced. It's very intriguing."

But Bardem has not said yes. If Bardem backs out, who should Mendes pick instead? Who can do menace and evil with mystery and nuance?

Here are my top three:

1. Idris Elba. He would match up well against Daniel Craig in gravity, intelligence and force, and bring some real contemporary tang to the franchise.

2. Ralph Fiennes. He's been nailing the otherworldly evil of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Think what he could do as a villain with a complete face!

3. Clive Owen. He's the guy I wanted to see as Bond before Craig made the role his own. Now, casting him against Craig would be, in a good way, like a comic-book superhero match-up.

Photo of Javier Bardem in his Oscar-nominated performance in 'Biutiful'