August is slow news time in Britain as the major institutions close and everyone takes a vacation, starting the traditional Summer Silly Season in the dead tree press as tabloid journalists find the most sensational angle on any story in an effort to drive sales: clickbait isn’t a new thing, and only amplified by the tabloid papers’ websites.
Hence another round of breathless “Idris Elba is the next James Bond!” headlines is in full flow, based off a report in the Daily Star of comments made by Equalizer 2 director Antoine Fuqua.
"Antoine, 52, revealed Barbara [Broccoli, Bond producer] feels “it is time” for an ethnic minority actor to star as 007 and she is certain “it will happen eventually”. He added: “Idris could do it if he was in shape. You need a guy with physically strong presence. Idris has that.”
From this we get directly to “Bond producers want Idris for Bond!”, which feels like a 2+2=5 leap ignoring that train of “eventually, could, if”. Now, while we haven’t heard his name in the context of the Bond gig it would be surprising if Fuqua hadn’t met with Broccoli purely from a standpoint of EON Productions doing due diligence on potential future directors, and it would be astonishing if EON wasn’t thinking about casting an actor of colour, given the public conversation around the subject. At the same time, it’s worth noting three things: Fuqua made these comments at the launch of an immersive 3D sound app for cinemagoers, and Equalizer 2 is released in the UK next week, while Idris Elba’s unfavourably-reviewed directorial debut, Yardie, follows at the end of the month. One might say that’s a useful confluence of promotion…
Anyway, we’ve been down this road before, and none of the arguments for or against Elba as 007 have changed much in the meantime, besides the march of time and extended gap between SPECTRE and Bond 25 making it likely we won’t see a new actor cast as James Bond before 2021, by which time Elba will be 49. Daniel Craig will be 51 by the time he bows out, so while age doesn’t immediately rule Elba out it might mitigate against an extended run in the tuxedo. Idris Elba, Action Hero was the standout element of James Watkins’ 2016 Euro heist turkey Bastille Day (eventually released in the US as The Take), leaving no doubt that he could handle the action aspects of a Bond movie, while his dramatic chops and physical appeal are beyond doubt. He just needs to stay in shape.
Whether the wider world is ready for a black Bond is yet to be seen. Noel Clarke (writer/director of Brotherhood and Parenthood) has his doubts, believing we’ll get one more white guy before John Boyega is awarded a licence to kill, and certainly there’s a whole raft of young black British actors who would be just as ready to step into the role in another 10 years, such as Damson Idris, Ashley Walters or Aml Ameen, star of Yardie, or even someone not even on the radar right now. Going further, the phrase “ethnic minority” Fuqua attributes to Broccoli doesn’t just have to mean a black actor: how about an Indian or Asian actor? Once the door is open, all possibilities are admitted, even before we return to the entirely separate question of a female 00 agent.
Over to you: do you have much faith in Fuqua’s pronouncement, or even the chances of seeing a Bond of colour anytime soon? Who would be your choice? Chime in below.