Throughout the 2010s, Idris Elba was rumored to be in contention to take over the role of James Bond from Daniel Craig. The actor recently claimed that the idea of him becoming James Bond became “disgusting and off-putting because it became about race.”
Not only was Elba rumored to take on the role of James Bond, but Bond producer Barbara Broccoli admitted to Deadline that she had conversations with the actor.
Broccoli relayed, “Well, we know Idris. I am friends with him and he’s a magnificent actor. It’s been part of the conversation, but it’s always difficult to have the conversation when you have someone in the seat.”
“I think we have decided that until No Time To Die has kind of had his run and Daniel has been able to—well, we’ve all been able to savor the—reap the benefits of Daniel’s wonderful tenure, we’re not going to think about or talk about anybody else, actors to play the role, or storylines, or anything really. We just want to live in the moment, the present,” she asserted.
Broccoli had also previously indicated that she was open to changing the race of James Bond.
Speaking with Total Film in 2020 she said, “He doesn’t need to be a white man. Not as far as I’m concerned.”
Now, during an appearance on the Smartless podcast, Elba explained why he now finds the idea of playing the character disgusting and off-putting, “The truth is, I was super complimented for a long time about this. I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ James Bond… We’re all actors and we understand that role. It’s one of those coveted [roles]. Being asked to be James Bond was like, ‘Ok, you’ve sort of reached the pinnacle’. That’s kind of one of those things the whole world sort of has a vote in.”
“Essentially, it was a huge sort of compliment that every corner of the world except for some corners, which we will not talk about, were really happy about the idea that I could be considered,” he added. “Those that weren’t happy about the idea made the whole thing disgusting and off-putting, because it became about race. It became about nonsense and I got the brunt of it.”
Ironically, back in 2018 Elba advocated for radically changing James Bond when he told Variety, “There’s no such thing as a black Bond. Are we interested in having a Bond character other than being a male? It could be a woman, could be a black woman, could be a white woman. I think that character everybody would like to see it, you know? Do something different with it. Why not?”
Back in September 2022 during an appearance on The Shop, Elba also commented on the push to have him play James Bond saying, “I don’t think that playing Bond will satisfy some of my personal goals. It will definitely satisfy the will of a nation.”
He continued, “I’m not going to lie, every corner of the world I go, and I’m talking about different cultures, they always go, ‘Bond.’ And I feel it is beyond me at this junction. It’s beyond me.”
He continued, “It’s not a question of should I, do I, will I? It is what the will of the nation dictates sometimes. I’m not that guy. But in everyone’s world, I might be and that, job done. Because the truth is, you know, a lot of people are really seeing Idris playing Bond as the alternative Bond. And as long as that alternative is existing that’s great for the growth of f***ing casting. We open the conversations.”
“And so for that reason, I’m sitting here and say, ‘Great, talk about me all day long because it opens the blinkers that we all have,” he added.
What Elba seems to misunderstand is that the character of James Bond has a definitive look and the audience expects the character to look a certain way. Not only do audiences have expectations of what the character looks like, the character was also created by Ian Fleming with a specific look.
Fleming described Bond in Casino Royale, “As he tied his thin, double-ended, black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow.
“With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical. Not much of Hoagy Carmichael there, thought Bond, as he filled a flat, light gunmetal box with fifty of the Morland cigarettes with the triple gold band. Mathis had told him of the girl’s comment,” Fleming penned.
The character also has a clear depiction on the cover of the 1955 paperback edition of Casino Royale publish by Pan MacMillan.
What do you make of Idris Elba’s comments on why he’s no longer interested in the role of James Bond?