The Sony Pictures hack revealed a lot of things about Sony and Hollywood in general. Okay, maybe it didn’t so much reveal things as confirm them. Women get paid less than men. Adam Sandler makes bad movies. We already knew these things. But it also revealed that Amy Pascal, Co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, considers Idris Elba to portray James Bond. Around a year ago, Pascal sent an email to Elizabeth Cantillon, former executive vice president of production for Columbia Pictures, in which she wrote “Idris should be the next bond”. Elba himself already stated in 2012 that, if asked, he’d absolutely play the part. What are we waiting for? Daniel Craig has already said he doesn’t want to play Bond anymore! Maybe they can re-shoot SPECTRE with Elba! Let’s do this!
Okay, maybe my excitement got the best of me. I’m probably still high after watching all ten Luther episodes back-to-back. In the BBC-produced show,1 Idris Elba plays John Luther, a conflicted, ambiguous cop. He struggles with the balance between his personal life and work -just like you and me-, but also with what’s right and wrong. It’s a divide that looks easy on paper, but gets complicated once you have to deal with serial killers and people threatening -and following up to the threats- to kill your loved ones. Elba plays John Luther like no other: he’s great at displaying the array of emotions and always looks admirably cool while doing so. Yes, just like that other British, conflicted hero.
Idris Elba has been acting since 1994, but he didn’t get his first break until 2002. David Simon casted the Englishman as the now legendary Stringer Bell on HBO’s beloved show The Wire. But his part on a critically acclaimed show didn’t translate to other good parts. Elba bounced around TV and film, often playing small parts in not-so-great movies. Slowly but surely the movies and shows got better. He played a short stint on the US version of The Office and played in bigger motion pictures like Thor and Prometheus. Those parts helped landing him Pacific Rim, where he canceled the apocalypse and simultaneously raked in millions of dollars in profit world wide.
When playing Luther, Idris Elba shows his potential as the next James Bond. While Luther is far from the slick, womanizer 007 is, he has that spark2 that’s necessary to be a good MI6 agent. Where the rugged handsomeness of Daniel Craig brought some much needed realism to the Bond-franchise, Elba has the English charm that Craig lacks and he’s shown he can handle the action scenes in Pacific Rim. Right now, there’s only one other actor that could be named in a conversation about Craig’s successor: Christian Bale.
Bale is finished with Christopher Nolan’s Batman, where he played Bruce Wayne like an American version of James Bond. He’s a smooth lady killer with rock hard abs. He’s British and probably available. I’m not sure if Bale is ready to be part of another huge franchise, but if he is, he’s a serious contender.
When this really comes down to a battle between Elba and Bale, the latter would probably win. Not because he’s a better actor, a better fit or more famous, but because he’s white. As much as you and I want it to be, Hollywood isn’t colorblind. How many black superstar actors are out there headlining the biggest movie of the year? None, since Will Smith killed his career with Men In Black III and After Earth. I could write thousands of words about the inequality in Hollywood, but they are already written better by Chris Rock. In his “blistering” essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Rock points out the absence of black people in Hollywood-movies:
You can go to whole movies and not see one black woman. They’ll throw a black guy a bone. OK, here’s a black guy. But is there a single black woman in Interstellar? Or Gone Girl? Birdman? The Purge? Neighbors? I’m not sure there are. I don’t remember them. I go to the movies almost every week, and I can go a month and not see a black woman having an actual speaking part in a movie. That’s the truth.
And it’s definitely the truth. Having Idris Elba on the list to be considered the next Bond, is already a step in the right direction. Chris Rock has something to say about “being in the mix”, too:3
We’re never on the “short list.” We’re never “in the mix.” When there’s a hot part in town and the guys are reading for it, that’s just what happens. It was never like, “Is it going to be Ryan Gosling or Chiwetel Ejiofor for Fifty Shades of Grey?” And you know, black people f—, too. White women actually want to f— black guys, sometimes more than white guys. More women want to f— Tyrese4 than Jamie Dornan, and it’s not even close. It’s not a contest.
I’m not black. I’m not an actor, either. I also don’t have any knowledge on the casting process for Hollywood films. But I do watch a lot of movies and I know Chris Rock is right. Having Idris Elba in the race to suit up and drive an Aston Martin across some frozen land is already a great accomplishment. But it’s not enough. It’s 2015 and we don’t want movies with token black guys. The world is ready for a black James Bond. I know I am. Especially when that guy is Idris Elba.
- Fox has ordered a pilot for a US remake, though I don’t think it could come close to the quality of the original. Writer Neil Cross will write the US show, Idris Elba will take on production duties. The original will return, with Elba as Luther, for a limited run in 2015. ↩
- Or that smile. ↩
- The whole article is one long quotable. You should really read it. I’m serious, read it. Go ahead, leave this page and read the damn thing. Still here? READ IT! ↩
- You could switch Tyrese for Idris Elba and it would still be true. ↩