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A New Era for James Bond – The Idris Elba Debate

Being a big James Bond fan and potentially an even BIGGER Idris Elba fan, I was more than a little bit excited when I heard that the man himself is rumoured to be next in line to take on the world’s most iconic film role. However, it seems, not everyone reacted to this particular Sony leak with as much joy.

Idris Elba James Bond PHA Media

‘Image courtesy of DFID on Flickr’

The debate began when American talk show host Rush Limbaugh sparked furore when he stated that Idris Elba ‘could not’ play Bond ‘because he is black.

Taking his comment a step further he then expressed that the idea of casting Elba in the iconic 007 role, was as ridiculous as a white actor playing a black historical figure.

‘James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is, was,’ said Limbaugh as he began his diatribe.

‘But now [they are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland.’ A farcical statement considering George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig albeit White, were not Scottish.


Interestingly it was Kanye West who contributed, what I see as, the strongest argument against Limbaugh – “Artists should be visionaries… A black James Bond would be visionary no doubt. Something that 30 years ago would have seemed crazy should now be something that is a real possibility.”

Kanye is right, Fleming wrote Bond as white – correct. However, he is NOT a historical figure (ignoring Limbaugh’s comparison) but a fictional character which, as with many fictional characters, can be changed however the filmmaker see’s fit whilst being in keeping with the current time.

Equally as controversial was the decision to make Daniel Craig James Bond. Craig was hardly the archetypal Bond with his blue eyes and blond hair and ‘harder’ exterior. His ‘reformed’ character was created to fit with the times and suited what we would see as the Bond of today as opposed to a Sean Connery type character who, although legendary, may be a little out of date in today’s world. Like Kanye said, fiction is visionary and therefore it is only right that it should adapt with time.

Dnaiel Craig, James Bond PHA

‘Image courtesy of discutivo on Flickr’

It is not just the character of Bond that has changed over time – in recent years the character of M, originally written by Fleming as a man, has been portrayed as a woman played by Judi Dench. Even more recently (introduced in Skyfall) the classic character of Miss Moneypenny was introduced as black actress Naomi Harris who portrayed a beautiful and courageous secret agent – although extremely different to Fleming’s original character more suited to the portrayal of women at this time.

In my personal opinion, it is not the actor’s race or nationality that is important to play the character of Bond, but the following attributes – charisma, good looks, a ‘rough and ready’ demeanour, a penchant for alcohol (and the ladies) and, of course, the ability to wear a suit well! Idris Elba possesses all of these characteristics and therefore, in my humble opinion, PERFECTLY suited to play 007.

What do you think?

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  1. Great blog, Katie! Also interesting to note that Ridley Scott’s film recent film Exodus -based on historical events in Africa – features no black actors in lead roles. Nobody in the West seemed to object to white actors Christian Bale or Sigourney Weaver playing the roles of black, African characters in a story set in Egypt… The fact that the Idris objectors have caused such a stink about 007 yet didn’t bat an eyelid at the white actors playing historically black roles illuminates that their issue has nothing to do with “accuracy” and everything to do with racial prejudice.

  2. I am a huuuuge James Bond fan and would be thrilled for Idris Elba to play 007!!! He is an amazing talent and one of the most versatile British actors we have. Personally, I don’t see ‘colour’ in any actor or actress’s performance unless it’s relevant to the show or film I’m watching, so it makes no difference to me whether Idris is black, white, brown, green or pink. He’s a fine actor more than capable of taking on the role and Rush Limbaugh does not know what he’s talking about!!

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