The Simple Explanation: Why can’t Idris be James Bond?

Superstar Actor Idris Elba was rumoured to play James Bond in upcoming movies. Then the rumour was met with tirades of ire. Why, but why? Here is the simple explanation.

James Bond is a fictitious government worker. A very fictitious one, in that he is wasteful, reckless, insubordinate, disregards all protocol and yet, still always manages to get the job done.

This is something very few Africans can relate to. Zimbabwe’s immigration department doesn’t even have enough passports to let people run away to a place without power shortages. How will they charge their phones?

James Bond is the main protagonist in a series of movies that have been made since the 1960s. Though the character himself is a half-Scottish half-Swiss Briton, he has been played by several actors including an Irishman (Pierce Brosnan), a Scotsman (Sean Connery), an Australian (George Lazenby) and Englishman (Roger Moore) and if you want to split hairs, Timothy Dalton was born in Wales to an Englishman and an American. In fact, let’s split the already split hair again: he has even been played by a Canadian. He was played in parody form by comedian Mike Meyers in the Austin Powers series, a parody that skewered the classic James Bond tropes so ruthlessly that it effectively did what decades of villains couldn’t do. It killed James Bond.

But nothing stays dead in the game of profitable movie franchises, so James Bond was rebooted as a more “realistic” character. They gave him more grit and more darkness and more misery. In Western movies reality is misery.

Now, every so often the actor who plays Bond is fired and replaced. It is not a tenured position. And the current fellow, Daniel Craig is about to be let go and is set to be replaced.

There are options for the new one, which rumours say, include Idris Elba.

If you follow the news (e.g. this series of columns) you will have heard it authoritatively proven that Idris Elba is the greatest, best, most absolutely, ultimately, incomparably excellent actor alive, due to what he did in the TV series ‘The Wire’ and ‘Luther’.

Idris Elba would be the perfect choice to play any character in cinema. If it calls for an intense, brooding, conflicted character with a dark past that haunts him every day, a strong, but ultimately flawed person who just wants to make it through another day, but has to fight incredible battles at every turn, which the rebooted James Bond tries to be, then Idris is your man.

Idris Elba played a Rwandan in the film ‘Sometimes in April’. Some of us objected to the casting of a British actor and not a African one, feeling that there was plenty of talent in Rwanda itself that could ably handle the role, but then they said it was Idris. We thought about it for a moment. Then said, “Okay, but next time get an African actor.”

However, even though this is the case, there has been some — what do they call it when bitter twitter flares up with bigoted tantrums disguised as opinions? Blacklash! Yes. There has been some backlash about the choice of a black man (Idris Elba is of African descent and is still black) to play Bond.

Now, we could issue a litany of rebuttals, e.g.: not only has James Bond been played by non-English actors before, the franchise is full of people playing other nationalities. Englishmen playing Spanish baddies (Christopher Lee as Scaramanga), Famke Jannsenn is Dutch, but she ably played Soviet agent Onatopp, Ernst Blofeld has been played by everyone.

Are we going to get fixated on this here? This year alone is full of Australians playing Americans, Brits playing Americans, Canadians playing Americans, Americans playing Africans, Britons playing Africans… ‘The Lion King’ remake comes out this month, in which the character of Zazu is played by John Oliver.

Zazu is a red-tailed Hornbill. We are the only continent that has them. How much more African can you get?

Mr Elba has not actually been offered the role, even though he admits he would say yes if asked, but he told Vanity Fair magazine, “You just get disheartened when you get people ...going, ‘It can’t be.’ And it really turns out to be the colour of my skin.

“Of course, if someone said to me ‘Do you want to play James Bond?,’ I’d be like, Yeah! That’s fascinating to me. But it’s not something I’ve expressed, like, yeah, I wanna be the black James Bond.”

So he may play Bond, or he may not. But even if he doesn’t, the bellyaching hordes will have to settle for whining about how they let a woman take on the role of Bond’s boss, simply called “M”. Jokes on you. There was no Twitter when Judi Dench took on the role so you couldn’t even whine about it then.

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