British actor Idris Elba is stoking speculation he may take over the role of James Bond when Daniel Craig steps aside, offering an enigmatic Twitter post that fueled the buzz about him becoming the first black Bond.
The star of shows such as “The Wire” and “Luther” on Sunday posted an artistic selfie under the words “my name’s Elba, Idris Elba,” echoing the spy’s famous catchphrase.
American film producer Antoine Fuqua stoked long-running speculation about Elba taking on the role last week, when he told Britain’s Daily Star that Bond movie boss Barbara Broccoli had said “it is time” for a non-white actor to play agent 007.
But before fans go overboard, Elba posted another tweet a few hours later saying, “Don’t believe the HYPE ….”
On the one hand, I find this constant clamour to make classic characters change their gender or ethnicity or sexuality quite tedious. Yes, it’s true that so many of them have been male, white and straight. This is a reflection of the cultural realities of the past few millennia of the Western civilisation, and is akin to saying that there is a glaring lack of strong Caucasian characters in Chinese opera. But society changes and so should its culture, say the critics. Sure, but why do the lazy thing and make James Bond black, Batgirl lesbian or Ghostbusters female – why not create new, original heroes to join the pantheon of popular culture? Black Panther shows it can be done and done extremely successfully, as does any number of non-white and/or non-male icons, from Blade and Shaft to Lara Croft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Personally, I find this a much greater and more fruitful contribution to popular culture than remaking Indiana Jones and Van Helsing with strong female leads.
On the other hand, I really don’t care very much. Elba is a great actor*; I loved him in “The Wire” and “Luther”, and he would make a great and stylish Bond. He certainly deserves greater Hollywood exposure.
Rather than getting exercised over who plays Bond, I’m more concerned that at some point in the future the script writers may change who he is rather than what he looks like. After all, I’m pretty sure that to many social critics out there what’s much more embarrassing than Bond’s boring whiteness is his patriotism in defending the Realm from terrorist, megalomaniacs and other assorted bad guys. I dread the prospect of one day seeing a woke 007 who realises that the real enemy are the war-mongers of the military-intelligence complex, carbon polluters and reactionary Tory politicians who say unkind things about burqa – a sort of “Tomorrow Never Dies If We Stop Climate Change” or “You’re Only Triggered Once”. That’s pretty much what we have John La Carre for, so hands off James Bond.
* even if I preferred Morgan Freeman’s Nelson Mandela