Idris Elba opens up about race-related James Bond casting controversytext_fields
Idris Elba, the esteemed actor known for his powerful performances, recently discussed his interest in playing the iconic role of James Bond and shed light on how the issue of race impacted the casting discussions.
Speaking on the SmartLess podcast hosted by Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes, Elba shared his initial excitement about the possibility of playing James Bond and subsequent disappointment as the focus shifted to racial controversies. He said he considered it a highly coveted role in the acting world.
"Being asked to be James Bond [would be] like: ‘OK, you’ve sort of reached the pinnacle’. That’s one of those things the whole world has a vote in," he said.
Drawing a parallel to being named "Sexiest Man Alive" in 2018, he acknowledged the sense of achievement that came with being considered for such an iconic character. However, the situation took an unfortunate turn when the discussions became mired in racial debates, resulting in negative responses from certain quarters. Elba said, "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."
The conversations surrounding Elba as the next James Bond have been ongoing for several years.
In 2014, leaked emails from Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal revealed her support for Elba in the role. Barbara Broccoli, a prominent producer of the Bond franchise, confirmed Elba's involvement in these discussions during an appearance on Deadline's Crew Call podcast. While acknowledging Elba's talent and the ongoing talks, Broccoli emphasised the need to prioritise Daniel Craig's final performance in No Time To Die before considering any potential successors.
Elba himself clarified in an interview with The Guardian that the rumours were mere speculation, highlighting that there was no truth to them. Nevertheless, he expressed gratitude for the compliments he received.
In 2014, US radio host Rush Limbaugh said: "[They are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland. But that’s not who James Bond is and I know it’s racist to probably point this out."
Former Bond star Roger Moore said Bond should be "English-English" but denied being racist. The same year, author Anthony Horowitz apologised after saying that Elba was "too street" to play Bond. Yaphet Kotto, who played Mr Big in the 1973 Bond film Live and Let Die, said: "Black men should stop trying to play roles created by whites. These roles are not written for black men."
However, in 2022 producer Barbara Broccoli said Elba will not be a good fit because of his age. "When we cast Bond, it’s a 10, 12-year commitment … A lot of people think: ‘Oh yeah, it would be fun to do one.’ Well, that ain’t gonna work." Elba is 50 years old and will have to commit to making action films in his 60s.