David Oyelowo To Play 007

A controversial, historical moment in the franchise's history.

A milestone is happening in James Bond history, and it’s sure to be a divisive issue among you and your racist friends: According to the Guardian, the Ian Fleming Estate has hand-picked the first black actor to ever play 007.

Trigger Mortis (oof) is the title of the new James Bond continuation novel (written by Anthony Horowitz), and for the audiobook version of the novel the Ian Fleming estate has selected actor David Oyelowo (Selma) to portray Bond. I discovered 007 audiobooks last year, and they’re a great way to get through these old chestnuts. As the series' continuation novels are, in my experience, sort of chores to get through, this audiobook might be just what the doctor ordered, but Oyelowo's hiring is sure to make this release appointment listening.

It's significant that Oyelowo's invitation came directly from the Fleming estate. As Fleming initially thought Sean Connery was too earthy and rough to play 007, this will no doubt result in rigid fanboys insisting that Fleming is rolling in his grave or some such over the hiring. Change is a difficult thing, and when I made a satirical case last year that Idris Elba could not play James Bond, my hidden point was that in a very real sense Elba would not be playing the 007 we knew, as that particular 20th century icon is steeped in - and defined by - a kind of xenophobic imperialism. The casting of a black man as 007 - even in an ancillary property like an audiobook - would signal to me a turning point, a sign that maybe we're ready to move past the rigid historical adherence to a whites-only sandbox. It seems like someone at the Ian Fleming estate agrees, and that's the really huge news here.

UPDATE: My pal Davis McArdle points out that in my own piece on the 007 audiobooks last year, I mention that Dr. No was read by Hugh Quarshie. I was heretofore unfamiliar with Mr. Quarshie, and did not realize he was, in fact, black. So the "first black 007" honors must go to him - and he deserves it after reading passage upon passage about "Chigroes" in that book. My apologies to our readers, and to Mr. Quarshie.

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