Idris Elba Says Racist Backlash Put Him Off Becoming The Next 007
Idris Elba recently opened up about the racial backlash he experienced due to rumors surrounding his potential casting as James Bond, calling the situation “disgusting and off-putting.”
In a candid discussion on the SmartLess podcast, Elba remarked, “I was super complimented for a long time about this. We’re all actors and we understand that role is one of those coveted [roles] … Being asked to be James Bond [would be] like: ‘OK, you’ve sort of reached the pinnacle’. That’s one of those things the whole world has a vote in.”
“It was a huge compliment that every corner of the world except for some corners, which we will not talk about,” said Elba alluding to the racist backlash he received on social media, but more concerning from people in the media.
“Those that weren’t happy about the idea made the whole thing disgusting and off-putting, because it became about race. And it became about nonsense and I got the brunt of it,” said Elba.
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Historical Controversy over Bond’s Race
The possibility of Idris Elba playing Bond has been a topic of discussion since the early 2010s, particularly after Daniel Craig showed reluctance to continue as 007. Controversy arose from various quarters:
In 2014, US radio host Rush Limbaugh controversially said, “[They are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland. But that’s not who James Bond is and I know it’s racist to probably point this out.”
Former Bond actor Roger Moore came under fire in 2015 when media outlets claimed he stated that Bond should be “English-English”.
Meanwhile, Yaphet Kotto, who played Bond villain Dr. Kananga in the 1973 movie Live and Let Die, added his voice, saying, “Black men should stop trying to play roles created by whites. These roles are not written for black men.”
In the same year, Anthony Horowitz, an author, faced backlash and later apologized for suggesting that Elba was “too street” to play Bond.
Should Bond’s Role Be Limited by Race?
Given Bond’s legacy as a British spy, it’s essential to remember that the character’s nationality has been the core constant, while other aspects have evolved over the years. Though traditionally penned as English, Ian Fleming rewrote Bond’s ancestry to include Scottish lineage after being impressed by the first Bond actor, Sean Connery.
Yaphet Kotto’s sentiment, suggesting that unique roles should be crafted specifically for black heroes, holds merit. There’s an undeniable power in creating stories and characters that resonate authentically with diverse backgrounds, offering richer tales and representation.
However, this doesn’t negate the possibility of a black James Bond. Characters, especially ones as dynamic and timeless as Bond, can and should adapt to the evolving cultural landscapes of the times they are portrayed in.
And if the debate revolves around merit, then Idris Elba fits the bill. He’s a splendid actor with the suaveness, charm, and charisma that the role demands. And he’s got a natural British accent.
The only issue with Elba, should be his age. The producers will not want a Bond for one or two movies, which Barbara Broccoli commented on last year.
“When we cast Bond, it’s a 10, 12-year commitment,” said Broccoli. “A lot of people think: ‘Oh yeah, it would be fun to do one.’ Well, that ain’t gonna work,” ultimately ruling out a 51-year-old Elba.