Yes, in an upcoming sequel Jason Statham will be taking over a role originally played by Daniel Craig; no, it’s not James Bond. The sequel in question is Viva La Madness, the follow up to the 2004 British-gangster flick Layer Cake. Based on a novel of the same name by J. J. Connolly, Layer Cake was one of the more popular films of Craig’s pre-007 career and director Matthew Vaughn’s pre-Kickass/X-Men: First Class career.
The role in question is Layer Cake and Viva La Madness‘s unnamed protagonist – though he’s identified in the first film’s credits as XXXX . In Layer Cake, XXXX is a career criminal who desperately wants to retire from his drug-dealing business, but a series of mix-ups and betrayals make retirement very difficult. In the follow-up, according to Deadline, “[XXXX] is looking for a beach to land on in retirement, but instead he gets involved with trans-Atlantic drug deals, money laundering, high-tech electronic fraud, London lowlifes and Venezuelan drug cartels.” Connolly adapted the screenplay of Layer Cake from his own book and is doing the same with the adaptation of Viva La Madness.
If the sequel is as faithful to its source material as the first film, the role of XXXX won’t require Statham to utilize the martial-arts prowess he’s known for (thanks to film series like The Transporter and The Expendables). Layer Cake was less an action-extravaganza and more akin to a Guy Richie film: heavy in quick dialogue, with a few brief – but important – moments of violence sprinkled throughout. Interesting (perhaps prophetically), Statham has acted in a few Richie films, including Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), and Snatch (2000), both of which Matthew Vaughn produced. There’s no word yet on whether or not Vaughn will return for Viva La Madness, as another film, The Secret Service is currently on his schedule.
Replacing an actor as famous as Daniel Craig in a sequel may seem like and odd choice, but it’s certainly not unheard of, as Craig himself can attest – he is the sixth person to play Bond in the official 007 film series. Though the role of James Bond being replaced is a little more acceptable considering how loose the series plays with continuity, consider a more recent example: last year Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/the Hulk in The Avengers, which is a direct follow-up to (amongst other movies) 2008’s The Incredible Hulk; audiences didn’t seem to have a problem with that.
One important thing to note though is Layer Cake‘s ending – which differed from the book. (SPOILERS ahead, obviously) the film ended with XXXX shot and possibly dying. Would it be strange to open the next film a short time after (if that’s the route they go) with XXXX lying in a hospital bed with a new face? Or perhaps even a bit of meta-humor – unable to remember what he looks like?