This year will mark the 10th anniversary of English actor Daniel Craig first taking the reins of 007 in the hugely successful Casino Royale. Three more action-packed, spy flicks later and it appears the massive shoes of the most famous spy in literary & cinematic history will need a new wearer.
Craig has delivered four of the five James Bond movies his contract requires. Whether directly due to his acting, or to other flaws in the film-making process, his streak has been met with mixed success. Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012) hold a 95% and 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, Quantum of Solace (2008) and last year’s Spectre, didn’t quite hit the mark, with neither film managing to pass 65%.
In an interview with TimeOut Magazine, Craig clearly revealed his desire to hang up the Walter. In response to the idea of making another Bond film, Craig said, “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists…If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money.” According to multiple sources though, Craig will indeed honor his contract and make one final go at it. Presuming it will be his last, the debate over who his successor will be has been widely discussed for the better part of two years.
British actor and star of HBO’s The Wire, Idris Elba appeared to be the front-runner, with other prominent stars such as Michael Fassbender, Damien Lewis and Tom Hardy also in the conversation. After remarks from Anthony Horowitz, author of the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, and former Bond star Pierce Brosnan however, it appears Elba is no longer favored to land the role.
Horowitz stated, “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond.” The author later apologized for his use of words saying he didn’t mean to cause any offense. Brosnan was more straight-forward in his opinion saying, “He’ll be male, and he’ll be white.”
I’m not sure if there is a clear description of James Bond in the original Ian Fleming novels as being white, but whether or not there is, it shouldn’t matter. Films have been deviating from the course outlined in the literature they were adapted from for decades and there is no reason the status quo needs to be maintained in regards to Bond’s skin tone. He is a fictional character and the “he should be white because he always has been” argument just doesn’t cut it.
Elba could reinvent an entire franchise desperate for an eager new face to propel the icon forward. No, not just because he is not white. He is an experienced veteran of the screen and boasts an impressive resume, which above all, showcases the versatility needed to play such an important icon. In 2007 he was a street-smart drug king in American Gangster. In HBO’s The Wire he takes on a similar role. He can also effectively portray a noble, stoic character as displayed in both Thor movies, as well as in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The 43-year-old also makes a convincing leader. In Prometheus (2012), he commands a spaceship voyage and maintains crew morale in the midst of alien hostility. The following year he played commanding officer Stacker Pentecost in the robot-action movie, Pacific Rim. Elba is best known for his role as Detective John Luther in the British crime drama, Luther (2010-2015). His persona almost perfectly identifies with that of 007 in this show. Luther is described as having emotional demons, due to the difficulties of his job, a theme that repeatedly appears throughout the more recent Bond films. Additionally, he is known as a genius crime-solver, prone to using unorthodox and occasionally illegal methods to obtain information and make arrests. Any fan of James Bond knows the same holds true for him as well.
His performance in last year’s Beasts of No Nation was outstanding and thought by many to have been overlooked by the Academy during Oscar season.
Elba has the necessary physique, looks fantastic in a suit and possesses a very strong, easily identifiable voice. He has lent that voice to Zootopia and the upcoming live-action reboot of The Jungle Book and shows great dedication to maintaining a powerful vocal presence through studying speeches by politicians Barack Obama and David Cameron, as well as actors Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson. The combination of his size and voice makes him a dominant force on the screen, allowing him to steal any scene he appears in.
He has been nominated five times for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning once. He also has four Emmy nominations and won the 2015 Screen Actor’s Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Beasts of No Nation and for Luther. Let’s take a look at how some of his more memorable performances have fared on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Wire (2002-2008) – 96%
American Gangster (2007) – 80%
Luther (2010-2015) – 89%
Thor (2011) – 77%
Prometheus (2012) – 73%
Pacific Rim (2013) – 72%
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – 75%
Beasts of No Nation (2015) – 91%
Zootopia (2016) – 99%
Elba himself told Variety magazine that he’d be eager and willing to accept an offer to play Bond adding, “I’m not speaking to the James Bond people. They are not speaking to me. So if it was to happen, there you go — the will of the nation.” If he were to be given the role, Elba wouldn’t want the attention to be on the obvious change in skin tone. While interviewing with NPR in 2011 he said, “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.”
As of today, over 35,000 people have liked a Facebook page titled, “We Want Idris Elba For James Bond.” Other celebrities have voiced support for the idea also. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Welsh actor Christian Bale exclaimed, “Let’s have bloody Idris Elba as the next James Bond!” Chris Pine told E! Magazine, “I think he’d make an incredible James Bond.”
In a recently released trailer for the upcoming action-film Bastille Day, you can get a great feel for exactly what Elba could look like as Bond.
Elba’s powerful presence commands the audience’s attention. He can beat enemies to a pulp, manipulate adversaries with his words and charm ladies with his impeccable style and vibe. He would bring experience across many acting genres that could blend into exactly the sort of agent James Bond is, and then some. Though it would undeniably present a fresh change to the streak of white males portraying the legendary spy, the most important reason why Idris Elba should be 007 isn’t the color of his skin, but the talent and skill he has acquired over a long and successful career.