Has Barack Obama Opened the Door for a Black James Bond?

Daniel Craig has come out in favor of a Bond of color, saying this week’s historic presidential election signals an opportunity: “After Barack Obama‘s victory I think we might have reached the moment for a colored 007 [editor's note - Um, what?] . I think the role could easily be played by a black actor because the character created by Ian Fleming in the ’50s has undergone a great deal of evolution and continues to be updated.”

I remember rumors back in the day that Denzel Washington was up for the part, which engendered incredulous responses from my friends in college. “A black James Bond?” they scoffed. “That would be like having a white Shaft?!” That argument doesn’t quite fly, of course – Shaft was an explicitly political figure, a response to the John Waynes and Clint Eastwoods, and his blackness was an integral part of his identity. James Bond being white is something we’ve always simply taken for granted. OK, British is a given, but does he have to be white? It may have been unrealistic in Sean Connery‘s era for a black man to be an international spy gallivanting with the mega-rich, but since when has Bond been realistic? The 007 series, with its lubed-up Bond babes, silly gadgets, and tuxedos, defines movie fantasy.

And the character itself has been undefined enough for various actors to slip into the role and bring distinctly different takes. (You can’t get much different than the rugged Connery and the dandyish Roger Moore.) Of course, fans have often resisted the casting; hell, even Daniel Craig’s blondness caused an uproar with purists. But Craig’s Bond was a new Bond for a new era; moviegoers have come to accept the evolution of the character. Wouldn’t the natural next step for a 21st century Bond be to cast an actor of color in the role? (After all, the makers of the series have had no problems repeatedly casting black, Latino, and Asian actors as maniacal villains and sexually available Bond girls.)

Hex‘s Colin Salmon is a name often tossed about as a possible black Bond (he’d make a better Doctor Who frankly). But I have a better idea: Idris Elba (above right), the British actor who convincingly played American as Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire. He’s sexy as hell, he’s fit enough to pull off any of Daniel Craig’s stunts, and he’s a fine actor who can play witty. He’d be a marvelously modern Bond. Are you listening Barbara Broccoli?

In other news:

  • Prince William offers a fan an unorthodox cure for anxiety: just imagine him naked.(Daily Mail)
  • Madonna dissed London and welcomed a special guest at her LA concert last night.(The Sun)
  • Sir Winston Churchill‘s mum put the “mama” in “hoochiemama.”(Daily Mail)
  • Is it 1988 all over again?: Billy Ocean is back and Rick Astley is winning MTV awards.
  • A run in Lily Allen‘s stockings gets a close-up from The Daily Mail.
  • The final Evening Standard Theatre Award nominations have been announced. Kenneth Branagh and Chiwetel Ejiofor survived; Kevin Spacey and Simon Russell Beale did not.(The Stage)
  • Gordon Ramsay to stop swearing? WTF, man?(Mirror)

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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