Idris Elba ‘Too Street’? Yes please.

Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series, has sent ripples through the entertainment community after his interview with The Daily Mail promoting his latest novel in the Bond canon, Trigger Mortis. Despite laying heavily into Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, it was his single comment about the possibility of Idris Elba taking over as Daniel Craig’s Bond successor that has angered many and provoked a huge online reaction, even from Elba himself.

Horowitz clearly shows his knowledge about, and passion for, the Bond series in the interview, justifying his concrete views on the franchise – including who should play Bond: “Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better.” (He names Adrian Lester, star of Hustle.) He continues: “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.” His choice of phrase: “too ‘street’”, has been interpreted as a racist comment by many. However, what I understood by it is someone who is tough, gritty, and edgy. And in my opinion: what is wrong with that?!

Idris Elba is not the Eton public school boy that Bond is. However, I think this would work for Bond’s character, whose biggest transformation over fifty years was his hair colour.

Throughout the interview, Horowitz details what he does and does not want from a Bond actor and film. He comments that Casino Royale is one of his favourites, as it is “A total return to the gritty seriousness of it.” Well if ‘gritty seriousness’ is what he wants, Idris Elba can more than deliver, as he’s showed us in  Luther, where he plays an uncompromising, dark, but ultimately good police inspector.

One of Horowitz’s reasons for disliking Skyfall is that “Bond is weak in it. He has doubts. That’s not Bond.” Yet if you take a quick scan through Idris Elba’s (very impressive and wide-ranging) profile on IMDB, you couldn’t accuse any of the characters he plays of being doubtful or weak. His roles as political legend Nelson Mandela, in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and Mumbles, a mobster, in RocknRolla, extensively highlight the diversity of Elba’s acting skills. He does justice to every role he inhabits, and demonstrates his ability to play leading, well-known, popular profiles to an intimidatingly high standard.

Horowitz does not appear impressed by the future release Spectre. He dislikes how the script appears to be transgressing back to Bond’s childhood. “I just want to see him act, kill, win.” Hello? Elba is a fantastically tough action actor who can act, to perfection, those three monosyllabic verbs – probably even in that order if you asked him nicely.

From what Horowitz has said, it appears as if Elba should be his ideal actor for Bond. So what is the sticking point? Class and charm.

Idris Elba is not the Eton public school boy that Bond is. However, I think this would work for Bond’s character, whose biggest transformation over fifty years was his hair colour. Bond was never meant to completely fit the polished mould at Eton, and Elba’s ‘street’ vibe could give a fresh twist to Bond’s lack of conformity to the upper class education system.

We all know that Bond is the ultimate womanizer, and there is no question that Elba can’t be suave and charming, but I think the producers should start to look at evolving Bond’s character to fit the 21st Century mould. In the franchise, the Bond girl’s primary purpose is to be admired and seduced by the martini-sipping Bond, James Bond. But why is such a popular – and in many ways modern – series stuck in the 60s? Just because certain conventions exist doesn’t mean they have to be rigid and unyielding – lets bend them for a modern audience.

The opportunity of a new Bond actor opens up dialogue for new interpretations and evolutions of the character, so why not Idris Elba? He’s fresh, charismatic, and would ultimately be a different Bond: not just another assembly line dark haired, blue eyed, neutral accented male actor that Horowitz wants to see. Elba ticks all the Bond boxes, and also gives hope for some changes to the (let’s face it) archaic and somewhat tired character.

Viva Elba, its your time.

Vickie Hesketh

Image: Huffington Post

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