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Let’s be honest, we should already know who will be the next James Bond by now. The scene was set at the end of Spectre for Daniel Craig to ride off into the sunset, and for a new Bond to earn their license to kill. But here we are, six years later and still no closer to knowing who the next 007 will be.
All we seem to know right now is what the next James Bond can’t be. Bond can’t be gay; Bond can’t be a woman; Bond can’t be this; Bond can’t be that. Why is it that when we’re discussing the next Bond people get so wrapped up in what they don’t want the character to be?
Remember the shitstorm when Daniel Craig was cast in the role? A blonde Bond was unthinkable to the tabloids, bloggers and some Bond aficionados, but that didn't work out too bad – a (money) penny for their thoughts right now. If Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, had got his way, Sean Connery would never have played the role after the writer described him as an “over-developed stunt man”. That casting choice turned out not too shabby either.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the course of 25 movies and 58 years it’s that Bond is a malleable character that can be anything we want it to be. And yes, that means Bond can be Black.
Let’s leave behind the ludicrousness that says it would too much for a fictional character who’s jumped out of a plane without a parachute, walked away unscathed from a head-on car crash and survived being literally drilled in the head (all during Craig’s tenure) to be played by a Black man, and let’s just for a second focus on what Bond can and should be. Bond should be tough, he should be cool, he should be confident, stylish and charming. Bond is the quintessential man who other men want to be and women want to be with. If that’s what Bond should be, then it’s as obvious to me as it was to former head of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal, when she had her email hacked back in 2014: Idris Elba should be the next James Bond.
Why Idris Elba Has All the Qualities To Be Bond
People magazine’s ‘sexiest man alive’ for 2018, Elba has the looks, the charm and the charisma to pull off the role. Having seen him train to become a professional kickboxer for his documentary series Idris Elba: Fighter, he certainly has the physicality too. Ultimately though, playing Bond is an acting gig, and sometimes Elba’s acting credentials get ignored when he’s linked with playing 007. Let’s not forget, he’s a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award-winning actor who has shined in roles as disparate as consigliere Stringer Bell in The Wire and vice president of Dunder Mifflin’s Northeast Region, Charles Miner, in the US version of The Office.
There are normally two reasons why people say Elba shouldn’t be the next Bond, both of which are easily dismantled. The first of which is that Elba doesn’t have the right ‘look’ for the role, which is code for Bond can’t be Black.
The man that Fleming first wrote about was described as tall, dark haired and handsome and was said to look a little like the American jazz musician Hoagy Carmichael. Beyond the fact that they too are white, none of the previous six actors to have officially played Bond really match up to Fleming’s ideal. Sean Connery and Daniel Craig certainly don’t, and let’s face it nobody did it better than those two.
Not that the character Fleming imagined is what we see on screen these days. At the very least Bond is less toxic now and No Time to Die promises to deliver the most aware version of the character yet. Could Idris Elba’s interpretation of the role not exist within this world? Of course it could.
The other reason Elba naysayers aren’t keen on him getting the role is because of his age, and, to be fair, there’s some validity to that argument. Elba is 49 years old now so will be gone 50 by the time he’s been fitted for his tux. For reference, Daniel Craig was 36 when he was cast as James Bond and Piers Brosnan was 41. Roger Moore was 45 when he began playing the character in 1973’s Live and Let Die, so, by some distance, Elba would be the oldest 007.
Admittedly, his casting would have made a lot more sense had it have come directly after Spectre was released in 2015, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t still work. After all, unlike when Daniel Craig was cast, Bond doesn’t need to be rebooted. We want to see more of the world weary and experienced interpretation of the character. As M says in Skyfall, our Bond is one who has been “made weak by time and fate,” but is still “strong in will.” Have you seen Luther? Elba can deliver that.
In fact, the only reason that I can see not to cast Idris Elba as the next Bond is that he, seemingly, doesn’t want the role. And who could blame him? All the way back in 2011, he told NPR: “I just don’t want to be called the first black James Bond. Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond.”
Then in 2017, in an interview with the New York Times, he doubled down on his thinking. “I think it’s more about, ‘We just want to have a black guy play James Bond’ rather than, Idris Elba, the actor, play James Bond. That’s the part I’m like, ugh, come on,” he said.
He’s completely right. But Elba shouldn’t be the next in line to play Bond just because he’s Black. He’s right for the role because he has the perfect mix of masculinity and vulnerability, because he can be fearsome as well as funny. The fact that he’s a Black man may be the thing that stops him from taking the role, and that would be to our, and the franchise’s, detriment.
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