With Daniel Craig set to only star in one more James Bond film after Spectre, rumors have been swirling about who could replace him when the times comes. One name that constantly floats to the top is Pacific Rim and Prometheus star Idris Elba. These rumors were further inflamed during the Sony hacks last week when Sony VP Amy Pascal was noted as bluntly stating “Idris should be the next Bond,” in an email. Is there any real argument as to why Idris Elba should not be the next James Bond? Short answer is nope. The long answer is still nope.
As conservative radio host and well-known culture professional Rush Limbaugh stated on radio show that he still manages to have, Bond has always been “white and Scottish.” You could point your finger to racism and say it is the reason why there hasn’t been a black Bond yet, but to the credit of all those who have worked on the Bond films, the character in the original novels was white and Irish – there is absolutely nothing wrong with a long string of similar James Bonds. The thing is though, we have this magical power called television where it’s ok to change an iconic character’s race and appearance on screen. You know what else Bond wasn’t, besides black? An ageless time-traveler who somehow has existed from the 1960’s to the 2010’s and not aged a bit. To say that the film version of James Bond is untouched and perfect to the original Ian Flemming novels is ludicrous.
Idris Elba is definitely aware of the attention he is receiving for the Bond as well. Taking to Twitter yesterday, the 42-year-old actor jokingly tweeted “Isn’t 007 supposed to [be] handsome? Glad you think I’ve got a shot,” along with a scruffy-looking picture of himself complete with salt-and-pepper beard.
He is also very willing to take the role if offered. In an AMA on reddit back in September, Idris responded to someone asking if he’d take the role with simply “Yes, if it was offered to me, absolutely.”
The only real issue with Elba might be his age, but even that isn’t much of a stretch. While true that James Bond is “supposed” to be in his mid- to late-30’s and Elba is already 42, other older actors have played 007 in the past as well. Pierce Brosnan and the current Bond Daniel Craig both played the role well into their 40’s. Roger Moore may not have been everyone’s favorite Bond, but he held down the role admirably after Connery’s iconic portrayal of the secret agent in the decades prior. When Moore took over the role in 1973 he was already 46, and went on to play Bond until he was well into his 50s, making him the oldest actor to play the part. Assuming Spectre and the next Bond film after that take five or six years to come out, that would make Elba the new oldest actor to play the part, but it is still not too terribly long of a stretch.
If Idris Elba is slowing down due to age, he certainly isn’t taking roles to prove it. He has made his mark in the world of film in big budget action movies in the past, usually playing a boisterous and imposing leader type in films such as the aforementioned Pacific Rim and Prometheus as well as his roles in Thor, American Gangster, The Wire, and even The Losers. Those roles have always been a little louder and aggressive than a true portrayal of Bond would require, but there’s always been a hint of the suave secret agent in all his performances, let alone how he carries himself in real life. Also, oddly enough, his role on The Office was pretty similar to what a Bond character could be. Completely stoic, mostly no-nonsense, and gets the job done despite having never worked a day in paper in his life.
In general, Bond or no Bond, Idris Elba or no Idris Elba, 2014 and beyond is beginning to look like a time for true adversity in Hollywood and popular media in general. Star Wars cast a black lead with John Boyega (which of course attracted the typical racist riff-raff from “fans”), a re-telling of Annie starred Quvenzhane Wallis, and Marvel has a Black Panther movie slated for a 2017 release. There are plenty more examples of course, and these small examples don’t prove that racism is over by any stretch, but that’s also not what I’m trying to say. If you’re movie is, say, a historical-fiction film set in the past retelling (potentially) true events, such as Exodus, maybe sticking to the right ethnicity is a good idea. But when you’re talking about completely fictional characters in a completely fictional setting, going with the best performer should be job number one: no matter their race, age, sexual orientation, preference of Android or Apple products, or any other arbitrary factor.
If another actor is chosen and legitimately works better as Bond, that’s perfectly fine, but if someone else is chosen over Elba simply because he’s black? That’s total B.S., and may Heimdall have mercy on your soul.
Correction: Rush Limbaugh correctly said that Bond is “white and Scottish,” not “white and Irish.” Thanks Jason Falter for the tip.
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