‘Too Street’ Sounds Like a Racist Reason Why Idris Elba Shouldn’t Play James Bond

By  · Published on September 1st, 2015


On the whole, The Internet seems pretty convinced that Idris Elba, known for his roles in Luther, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Thor, Prometheus, and The Wire, would make a great choice should the producers of the James Bond film decide to diverge from the character’s rich history of being portrayed by white men. This is not simply an Internet crusade for social justice. Elba, as it turns out, is also a fantastic actor.

This opinion is not shared by author Anthony Horowitz, author of the upcoming James Bond novel “Trigger Mortis,” due on bookshelves next week. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Horowitz had this to say about Elba as Bond:

“Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better. 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.”

Leading with “Idris Elba is a terrific actor” is the equivalent of leading with “I’m not a racist, but…”

In all fairness, even though fairness might not entirely be due in this instance, Horowitz might only be familiar with Elba from his role as Stringer Bell on The Wire, in which he quite literally ruled the streets of Baltimore. It’s also entirely possible that Horowitz favors actor David Oyelowo (Selma), who is voicing the “Trigger Mortis” audiobook. Even if that’s the case, this comment still doesn’t pass the smell test.

Anyone familiar with Elba’s other work knows that he’s quite suave, extremely posh and looks fantastic in James Bond signature tuxedo. As a connoisseur of his work, I can say with confidence that there’s nothing about Elba that wouldn’t be just right for James Bond. Other than the fact that he’s black and they only seem interested in having James Bond be played by a white man.

Perhaps its time we open our collective hearts to something new.

Similar feelings awoke within me a few weeks back when Agent Carter star Hayley Atwell mentioned that she’d love to play the titular character on Doctor Who. Who wouldn’t love that? Hayley Atwell is fantastic and to be honest, even with Peter Capaldi and guest appearances from your favorite little Game of Thrones murderer, Doctor Who is beginning to stagnate. As Vivian Kane pointed out over at Pajiba, there are many reasons why Hayley Atwell should be Doctor Who.

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Update: Horowitz has released a statement via Twitter apologizing for and clarifying his statement about Elba:

I’m really sorry my comments about Idris Elba have caused offence [full statement attached] pic.twitter.com/UD6ouA45Uv

— Anthony Horowitz (@AnthonyHorowitz) September 1, 2015

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)