James Bond is an iconic figure embedded in the very culture of society itself. The name exemplifies cool and sophisticated. Created in 1953 by Ian Fleming, the character has been around for almost sixty years and is now as popular as ever. Recently celebrating his fiftieth anniversary in film with the twenty-third Bond film Skyfall, James Bond has reached a level of popularity that seems to know no bounds.
Since the first Bond film in 1962, white male British actors have obviously portrayed the suave MI6 spy; most notably Sean Connery, who was the first and somewhat most revered. Recently, Daniel Craig has taken the mantle. Craig, who’s already appeared in three Bond films, is contracted to star in at least two more, though at some point he will give up his license to kill. When Craig was originally cast as Bond, audiences and critics were skeptical of the fact that he was “blonde” and didn’t match Fleming’s original description of the character of a black haired blue eyed white male. However, once viewers saw Casino Royale in 2006, the skepticism dwindled. Craig was outstanding as the secret service spy. However, seeing as how his time as Bond will likely end this decade, Eon Productions, the production company behind every Bond film in history, is already seeking a replacement.
Rumoured actors up for the role have been regularly cited; Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Newly, a name has come up that has sparked a lot of attention. Idris Elba, a black British actor, has been revealed to have met with Eon Productions about possibly taking over the role. It’s obvious to see why this would garner such attention.
Bond is and always has been a suave, good-looking, and charming white British male. His been portrayed by actors that accurately fit this description. Bond is considered the quintessential attractive and seemingly perfect male. Veering away from what society and fans have been used to would seem troubling; especially when it comes to race. There are two aspects to consider here: the topic of race and the character and the aspect of the cinematic factor, the acting. Let’s first address the cinematic influence.
Idris Elba is one of the most popular, well-rounded, and talented actors present today. His work speaks for itself. Appearing in films such as RocknRolla, Thor, Prometheus, and Takers, Elba is a hot commodity in Hollywood. Additionally, he’s widely known for his work on the crime procedural The Wire as well. However, most remarkably his work on the BBC crime drama Luther has garnered his supreme praise and admiration. Overall he’s an extremely brilliant actor. Elba is British and has expressed interest in portraying James Bond. Elba has formerly specified that he’d be “honored to play the part if it comes my way.” There’s no doubt he could portray Bond. He fits all of the characteristics. He’s brooding, tall, suave, charming, and urbane. He is the prototypical cool Brit. Especially regarding his role on Luther, he could bring a force to the role of Bond that can be seen on the show; a powerful dynamism. With all this talent there’s still that one matter going through everyone’s minds: race.
Idris Elba is a black man clear as day. I too, the author of this article am black. I believe I have no bias towards this topic. I can see the positives and negatives of the situation. Society is used to what it’s been exposed to for a long time. For example, Superman is an all-American Caucasian farm boy form Kansas. Batman is a brooding white playboy billionaire. There are many examples of fictional figures in culture who are solely and can only be a certain race. There was a time when Will Smith was offered the role of Superman and Captain America. He turned it down feeling that if the characters were portrayed by him it would ruin the history and allure of the characters. I can somehow see where he was coming from. However, where we are as a society and the time that we are in, with a black President, I feel that change is welcoming; especially in the realm of cinema.
Elba isn’t one of those black actors who shy away from taking part in black cinema, even though he is successful in what I’d call “White Hollywood”. I’m not being biased but that’s how it is. There is a difference. He’s been in such black films as Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, This Christmas, and Obsessed. He’s not foreign to such movies. Elba isn’t blind to such racial skepticism either. When taking the role of Heimdall in Thor, there was outrage that there would be a “black” god in a film. The gods in Thor are of Norse mythology, which is native to such countries as Scandinavia. It’s understandable why some people would feel some type of way about this. But, the producers and contributors stated that the gods in the film are also of a cosmic variety and “alien”. They’re not necessarily “white” or “Caucasian” but of all races. For example, one of Thor’s friends in the film is an Asian deity. Elba is used to this. His remarks to the Heimdall situation were pretty much in the realm if finding it all ridiculous.
If, Elba portrayed Bond, it could change Hollywood. The fact that the production company meeting with Elba, confirms that they have no problem displaying something a little different. If they have no problem, then why should society? We are at a time where a black man holds the most powerful position in the world. If we can be accustomed to that then why not to a black man playing James Bind? It could change cinema. It would open the door for a host of different interpretations of characters; imagine the story lines a black Bond could have. He may face racism while working for MI6. It would be an intricate factor that could greatly enhance the character. With any new actor comes a new interpretation and depth added to the role. Idris Elba knows all about depth when it comes to his acting.
In conclusion, if this comes to pass, Elba playing Bond, it would have a great affect on the future of Hollywood and how characters are interpreted and portrayed. Hopefully, race would no longer be a factor as society could be introduced to something new. There will always be bias and racism, but maybe it can be demoted in cinema. We’ve seen it happen in other facets of culture already relating to the President. It could be for the best.
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