What did 007 scribe Anthony Horowitz say about potentially casting Idris Elba (The Wire, Pacific Rim, Luther) as the next Bond that has everyone in such a tizzy?
‘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.
‘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.’
Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series, doesn't seem very up on his literary history. He claims to be a lifelong Bond fan, yet conveniently disregards the fact Ian Fleming's Bond was not the refined dilettante of the Roger Moore era but a brutal killer with official sanction. Daniel Craig has come closest to capturing this vision of the character (with Timothy Dalton a close second), so how "street" the actor who portrays him is should be a non-issue. Indeed, considering Fleming himself referred to Bond as a "blunt instrument wielded by the government," it should be regarded as a requirement.
But people are still freaking about it, because this is 2015 and Donald Trump hasn't said anything stupid in the past few days. Some are even cleverly using it to tie into last Sunday's VMAs (the most desperate of these: the Los Angeles Times calling it "moviedom's Nicki-Miley beef"). Horowitz has tried to clarify that his words have nothing to do with Elba being black, which may or may not be true. And to his credit, Horowitz does discuss the limitations put on him by Fleming's estate, which owns the rights to the books (specifically, no gay sex, which seems ludicrous for the kind of work Bond does), and about trying to work around that.
Another theory (mine) is that Horowitz, who complains repeatedly in the Daily Mail interview how he was passed over *three times* as the next 007 author (in favor of Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd), is trying to sabotage the franchise from within.
Which, you know, would be a neat trick if he had any say whatsoever in the movies. Eon Productions hasn't used the Bond novels as source material for decades, and given the more serious trend of recent films, is unlikely to break this streak any time soon.
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And certainly not with Horowitz's upcoming novel, the atrociously titled Trigger Mortis, which apparently reintroduces Pussy Galore.
I'm on record as being pro-Elba for James Bond. Now that the NHL and the U.S. Presidency have admitted black people, there's no reason Western civilization's last great bastion of white supremacy can't open its doors as well. Horowitz may not have been explicitly referring to Elba's race when he made his "street" remarks, but he certainly demonstrated ignorance — not only of Bond's personality but of Elba's filmography. Stringer Bell may have been one of the most dangerous criminals in Baltimore, but was also clearly the least "street" of any character in The Wire not named Roland Pryzbylewski.
So, yeah; it was a stupid comment. But who cares? Eon isn't even taking this guy's calls. The Bond books have been crap since Raymond Benson stopped writing them, and now we're suddenly up in arms about what the third runner-up thinks about potential film casting? Especially when that same guy actually named another black actor as an alternative?
I think the more troubling takeaway is how Horowitz actually *prefers* the Moore-style 007 to Craig (and it should be noted that Horowitz has since apologized for his "choice of word"). This means the guy honestly wants to take us back to the days of the judo chop and the teletype watch. I don't know that all this makes him a racist, but he is definitely wrong. Tragically, laughably wrong.