Nothing Wrong with a Black Bond, namely Idris Elba

Elliot Williams

Although the newest installment of the James Bond series, titled “Spectre,” is set to be released this November, it is hardly the biggest 007 news. Since the movie will be 47-year-old Daniel Craig’s fourth and final go as the suave double agent, countless rumors have surfaced about a worthy successor. Much of the public has spoken, and the overwhelming top choice is British actor Idris Elba.

What is it that makes Elba so perfect for the part? Well, for one, he is a Golden Globe winner for his 2012 lead performance in the drama-series “Luther,” has nine wins for other awards and an additional 38 nominations. 

He has portrayed everyone from Nelson Mandela to a drug kingpin in HBO’s critically acclaimed “The Wire.” 

He is even playing the voice of the tiger, Shere Khan, in Disney’s upcoming remake of “The Jungle Book.” It certainly doesn’t hurt that he was named one of People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People in the World in 2007. 

At the time the rumors of his Bond casting began, Sony’s ex-Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal listed Idris Elba as her top choice, according to her leaked emails.

And yet, what critics seem to notice most about Elba is his black skin–he is the only child of African immigrants living in the U.K. This has prompted a backlash among those who think that a change in race of the fictional spy is too much of a shift from the original Bond. 

In the same way that people cling to the whiteness of Santa Claus—also not a real person (sorry to dampen early holiday spirit), critics have maintained that Bond should continue to be portrayed by a white actor.

The problem with this logic is that the character James Bond was technically born in Zurich, according to the books written by creator Ian Fleming, and none of the eight actors who have portrayed Bond can say the same. 

In fact, Barry Nelson, the first actor to play Bond, was a California native. Thus, to say that the actor who takes on the lead role ought to be exactly the way Fleming envisioned him is just hot air. 

Even the author of the most recent Bond novels had something to say about a black Bond. Novelist Anthony Horowitz told London’s Daily Mail that Elba is “too street” for the spy role, but acknowledged that he is a “terrific actor.” He later apologized, saying, “I am mortified to have caused offense,” in a statement that expressed his regret at using such poor word choice. But it was far too late–the Internet, in typical Internet fashion, had already reacted.

Elba first responded with incredible witticism, tweeting on his birthday: “Thank you for my Born Day Shout outs!! Appreciated…Now…Back to the streets.” He closed the tweet with a sunglass-wearing emoji. Too cool, Idris. Too cool.

In the wake of Horowtiz comments, Elba’s fans backed him up even more aggressively. Taking to Twitter to unleash rage on the author, fans said that calling Elba “too street” was just a coded way of saying he is too black. 

Adding to the support was fellow British movie star, David Oyelowo, who is also of African decent. 

Oyelowo said recently, “I fantasize about a world in which someone like me or like Idris Elba has the opportunity to play that kind of role,” in reference to the Bond casting. There is even a Facebook group entitled “We Want Idris Elba for James Bond,” which has an impressive 33,722 likes. 

The more likely choice for Bond is “Inception” actor Tom Hardy, who has voiced his interest in the role, saying, “I think anybody would consider doing Bond, wouldn’t they?” Well, the answer is no, actually. 

The crazy part about all of this mess is that Idris Elba says he has missed his chance to play Bond, and that it is just a rumor, despite Daniel Craig himself saying that Elba would be a great fit for the role. 

Perhaps Elba is too busy winning awards, and filming movies like “Finding Dory” (voice actor), and “Star Trek Beyond,” to take on the role. Breaking the Bond color-barrier will just have to wait.

In a strange way, Hollywood tends to indicate where the public stands on serious issues, like race, for example. Sadly, in the world of motion pictures, nothing is picture perfect, and there are still plenty of underlying misconceptions, and biases used to sideline black actors worldwide. Elba’s case is just the most recent example of what some fear has become the norm in the film industry.