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He's Been Tipped As The Next 007, But Who Exactly Is James Norton?

He's Been Tipped As The Next 007, But Who Exactly Is James Norton?

From his school nativity play to his most recent role in 'McMafia' - James Norton has always had a passion for stage and screen

Paddy Maddison

Paddy Maddison

When he first came to widespread attention as the despicable Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that James Norton was built to play the villain.

However, in the years since, we've seen the 32-year-old Londoner flexing his thespian muscles in an extremely mixed bag of roles, proving that he's so much more than just the token bad guy.


Most recently, Norton graced our screens in BBC One's ongoing mini-series, McMafia - an organised crime thriller which has seen him wearing his fair share of slick suits and tuxedos, while mingling with the criminal elite. Naturally, because of this, some James Bond comparisons have been drawn, leaving many asking the question: could this guy really be the next 007?

Well, yes is the answer. In fact, Norton is being tipped as one of the most-likely candidates for the role, alongside Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Hardy, even if he is dismissive of the rumours. But what's he all about?


Born in London and raised in North Yorkshire, Norton describes his rural upbringing as 'idyllic' and it didn't take long for him to develop an interest in acting.

At the age of four, a young Norton got his first taste of the stage when he was in a school nativity play and he hasn't looked back since, although his acting career did get off to a bit of a shaky start and his parents - both teachers - were at times puzzled by his chosen path.

"Because none of them is anything to do with the industry, they've always been slightly bemused by the fact that I wanted to act ever since I played Joseph in the nativity play," he told the Telegraph.

"After that, I'm sure I was an annoying, precocious little kid who just wanted to dress up and get all the attention. I'd write all these weird little plays and force all my friends to act in them, when they probably just wanted to play football. But, amazingly, everyone has always been incredibly supportive. "

Columbia Pictures

To make ends meet in the early days, Norton worked as a children's entertainer.

"People think clowns - I wasn't a clown," the Flatliners star told GQ Magazine. "I would run parties. I basically ran around for two hours and ate massive piles of Haribo."

After studying theology at Cambridge, Norton went on to attend prestigious drama school RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) for three years, but left shortly before his graduation to take an acting assignment.

His decision paid off and his first big screen break came in the shape of An Education, in which he played the role of Jenny's boyfriend.

After several TV and film appearances, Norton was acclaimed for his portrayal of Tommy Lee Royce, villain of the hit crime drama Happy Valley. In fact, he played the part so well that his character's legacy spilled over into the real world on occasions.

"Playing Tommy Lee Royce, I'd get death threats buying milk in my local shop," he told the Guardian.


After various roles in the likes of Black Mirror, War & Peace and Hampstead, Norton landed on his most recent TV project, McMafia.

The star plays the straight-laced British-raised son of a Russian Mafia exile, who gets tied up in the criminal underworld. The role has increased the Bond speculation, which was already high. Norton told GQ magazine that he hadn't had an interview in two years where he hadn't been asked about a potential 007 role.

"The truth is that it's total speculation," he told the Guardian.

"It's really humbling and flattering, but to have my name next to the likes of Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender is just mad.

"If you're thinking of putting a bet on me, keep your money in your pocket."

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: Entertainment, TV and Film, Celebrity, James Bond