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WHAT springs to mind when you think of James Bond? Spy. 007. Aston Martin. Gadgets. Martini. Smart. Sophisticated. Suave. Tuxedo. I could go on. But at no point does “white” enter my brain.
So the continuing debate as to why Idris Elba cannot play a fictional character because of the colour of his skin seems senseless.
I first encountered Elba’s acting ability on the BBC’s detective show Luther. As DCI John Luther, he was brilliant — angry, savvy, athletic, vulnerable and with a wide emotional range that came across as authentic — everything you'd want out of a lead character.
It seemed like what you were watching wasn't fiction and it wasn’t until I came across The Wire that I realised how amazing Elba is as an actor. In it, Elba plays a hardened West Baltimore street drug-dealer who has ambitions of going legitimate as a business owner — or as legitimate as one can be while still running a drug cartel selling large quantities of cocaine.
But, while watching it, you forget that the London-born actor is British. Had you never seen him in anything else, you would believe Elba is from the US.
That's why the outrage over a black Bond is comical. Ian Fleming based the 007 character on people he met during the second world war but, over time, why has it become a necessity that the character must be a middle to upper-class white man?
Bond’s background is half-Scottish, half-Swiss, yet no actor who has played the role has come from that heritage. No-one seems bothered about that, though Sean Connery was at least 100 per cent Scottish.
There were some gasps when Daniel Craig, a blond male, was cast a few years back but once Casino Royale came out, many agreed he was the perfect choice. Yet where were the protests around Judi Dench’s portrayal of M, a role played by men from 1962 up until 1995? I fail to remember the column inches and debates then.
But the thought of a person of colour being the hero? Nope. Never.
An ignorant soul on Twitter the other day told me that they would rather have a white, sexist Bond than a black, gentleman-like Bond. All because that’s the way he was written. But what's incontrovertible about time is that things change and what was acceptable in 1953 when the Bond persona was born is no longer so in 2018.
It was the same story when news broke that Will Smith was a possibility to play Neo in the Matrix and some disagreed because the character, then played by Keanu Reeves, is white. But he isn’t. He’s portrayed by a white man but that isn’t written in stone and the same applies to Bond.
With the right scripts, directors and producers, Bonds could be multi-coloured and be a smashing success.
I’ve never quite understood exactly who Bond is. Here’s a man who has been played by different actors, all putting their own spin on 007, and the only thing they have in common is their skin tone.
I’ve always understood it to be MI6 recruiting spies and the one taking the 007 moniker is given the name James Bond. Craig changed everything by being blond so why not go one step further and make him a person of colour? Or a woman. It wouldn’t be difficult to script. The next spy to work as 007 is black. See, that wasn’t so difficult.
From the moment Katie Hopkins joined the debate and took the side of Bond remaining white, I knew I stood on the right side of this argument. And following the news of Danny Boyle quitting “Bond 25,” possibly due to the idea of killing off 007, now is the perfect time to usher in a new Bond era.
Have Craig reprise the role one final time, have him die at the end of the film and, after the credits, show an army training base of young recruits being put through their paces. Have Ralph Fiennes, the current M, walk among the recruits as he searches for the next Bond, eliminating them for being too tall, too small, too slow, too fast — whatever reason he can think of for saying no.
Then someone catches his eye. One recruit is running an assault course. There’s a certain gravitas to the way he leaps over obstacles — he’s a natural. He gets to the end, pulls out a Walther and fires a clip into the shooting target.
You never see the recruit fully, catching only various parts of his body as the camera jumps from shot to shot. Fiennes opens a file and reads the man’s background. He flips through the pages, closes the document and hands it to a nearby sergeant.
“Guess we found a suitable replacement,” he says, before walking off.
The camera zooms in on the bewildered sergeant, who takes a look at the picture of the recruit and the audience is made aware of the actor playing the next James Bond.
The name's Elba. Idris Elba.
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