Idris Elba ‘Too Street’ to Play James Bond, 007 Author Says

Idris Elba James Bond
City Press/Elizabeth Sejake/REX

UPDATED: Although a fan and studio favorite to play James Bond, 007 author Anthony Horowitz thinks Variety cover star Idris Elba is “too street” for the role — remarks that touched off a social media furor that centered largely on race.

The English novelist, whose latest book in the Bond series, “Trigger Mortis,” hits stores on Sept. 8, told the Daily Mail that the actor is simply not suave enough to succeed Daniel Craig.

Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better,” he said. “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”

Horowitz released a statement on Twitter late Monday morning to apologize for his comments.

“I’m really sorry my comments about Idris Elba have caused offense,” he wrote. “That wasn’t my intention. I was asked in my interview if Idris Elba would make a good James Bond. In the article I expressed the opinion that to my mind Adrian Lester would be a better choice, but I’m a writer, not a casting director, so what do I know? Clumsily, I chose the word ‘street’ as Elba’s gritty portrayal of DCI John Luther was in my mind, but I admit it was a poor choice of word. I am mortified to have caused offense.”

Elba responded to the remarks on Tuesday afternoon by posting a screenshot of an article about the news on Instagram with the coy caption, “Always Keep Smiling!! It takes no energy and never hurts! Learned that from the Street.”

Elba’s fans strenuously objected to the writer’s remarks, saying that Horowitz was using coded language that actually signaled an objection to a black man playing the iconic British spy.

The debate is essentially moot at this point, given that Daniel Craig still has a grip on the role. “Skyfall,” the last iteration of the franchise, was the highest grossing of the Bond films. Expectations are high for “Spectre,” which is due in theaters on Nov. 6.

Those close to the franchise are said to be hopeful that Craig will re-up for at least one more sequel, before moving on. But the actor is not giving anything away. In a profile in Esquire that went online Tuesday morning, Craig sounded ambivalent about continuing as 007. “I really don’t know. Honestly. I’m not trying to be coy,” he told the magazine. “At the moment I can’t even conceive it.” Pressed about portraying Bond once more, he added: “At this moment, no. I have a life and I’ve got to get on with it a bit. But we’ll see.”

People who know Elba said he would like to play the iconic secret agent, if the role becomes available. But he has said he would not want the role as a racial type.

“I just don’t want to be the black James Bond,” Elba told NPR in 2011. “Sean Connery wan’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond.”

Horowitz’s opinions about the Bond film franchise were not limited to Elba. He also told the British newspaper that “Skyfall” is his “least favorite” movie from the franchise.

“Bond is weak in it. He has doubts. That’s not Bond,” Horowitz said. “Secondly, the villain wins. The villain sets out to kill M. The film finishes with the villain killing M. So why have I watched it?”

Roger Moore, who played Bond between 1973 and 1985, recently foreshadowed Horowitz’s sentiment in the French magazine Paris Match, but later said that his comments were taken out of context.

“I think [Bond] should be ‘English-English,'” Moore said. “Nevertheless, it’s an interesting idea, but unrealistic.”

Speculation that Elba would play Bond reached its peak following the release of a hacked email sent in early January of 2014 by Sony Pictures then-co-chair Amy Pascal. In the email, Pascal told Elizabeth Cantillon, former exec VP of production for Columbia Pictures, which distributes the Bond films, that “Idris should be the next bond.”

That was followed by Rush Limbaugh’s controversial comments that James Bond must be “white and Scottish.”

“James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is, was,” Limbaugh said last December. “But now [they are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland. But that’s not who James Bond is.”

“I know it’s racist to probably point this out,” he also acknowledged.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 39

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Sam says:

    I think Idris Elba is seriously a great actor, who is very transformable within his characters. He would be a wise choice as the next James Bond. Don´t Worry about the accents, i´m sure he´ll handle them :)

  2. Patrick says:

    Rush Limbaugh is pretty much the best example for a commercial redneck, that has mostly old and sag listeners in is radio-show. Why is his opinion even considered as worthy or precious in this issue? They should´ve better asked a cow or something..

  3. Sandra Fox says:

    I love Idris Elba, but James Bond is a caucasian Brit – I agree with those who say don’t change our iconic characters – create new ones! Idris Elba would make a great sophisticated spy – just not James Bond –

  4. diane says:

    Idris playing any role warms my heart amongst other things. This man is beautiful.

  5. Here is the deal….if someone embodies the essence of the James Bond character – suave, sexy, handsome, bad ass agent that kicks ass – then what does it matter what color his skin is or his race for that matter? I would absolutely love to see Idris Elba as James Bond! But I will raise the bar with the following…..Lee Byung Hun, Don Cheadle, Pierce Brosnan (always an excellent choice), Chris Hemsworth, Denzel Washington, Jesse Williams, Morris Chestnut, Michael Elay…the list can go on. Just my two cents and by the way, say what you mean when you say it, that way what you say won’t me taken out of context or have racial connotations! XOXO

  6. Debra says:

    007 is a designation. I am saying that to think of the color of the shin is throwing shade at the issue. Great Britain has many people and many races to make her strong and keep her safe. The office is and has always been to entertain with the subtlety required to keep the bad guys away. Why all the race talk. As an actor Elba would be phenomenal.

  7. Debra Avery says:

    Idris Elba is the next progression in the James Bond Legacy. He has been what ever was needed in every role. He is sweet, kind, a killer, devastatingly handsome. A great father, stand up brother, leader and soldier. Never afraid to take on a role especially if it calls for subterfuge. I believe that Mr. Elba would be an AWESOME JAMES BOND. As a long time fan of the series I feel like a perfect judge.

  8. bannerdress says:

    I think honestly, although it’s understandable Horowitz may certainly have had The Wire and Luther in mind when thinking of Idris as Bond, it’s I feel quite a lazy assumption of Idris’ acting ability, all the race furore aside. I think if Daniel Craig’s Bond has proven anything during his tenure, having a gritty persona with less focus on the toffee-nosed ‘Posh boy with Brioni suit and the finer things’ lifestyle is the way that the franchise is going. Horowitz nods I think too much to the past with his comments. Idris is a very good bet for the future – he can take what Craig has done and run with it.

  9. John Richards says:

    Idris played a working class cop in The Wire and Luther. That probably was the cause of the remarks about street – not meant to be offensive. As an actor, he would be perfectly capable of playing Bond: he could do “the accent”, or not. Tall and masculine, no problem as Bond.

  10. Robin White says:

    I watched Idris Elba in The Wire as well as in Luther where he played the main character. This man is incredibly attractive. I think he was in an Avenger movie as well. He is a fantastic actor, who I believe could transform any character he was given to play. Funny that suave is one of the exact words I would use to describe this man. He does not disappoint! His voice is commanding and his stature is intimidating. Idris Elba would be THE perfect choice for a new face for James Bond.

  11. Osman says:

    Idris Elba is the right black guy to play Bond. He is energetic, smart, aloof, and most importantly attractive.

  12. Richard Herb says:

    Bong is supposed to sophisticated and good looking. Elba has a bulging nose, and I just dont see him as attractive!! How about Rob Lowe? Justin Beiber?

  13. Ed says:

    lol, “Charlie” said Idris was hot, wtf

  14. Ed says:

    Bond is white and Scottish with all of the cultural identity of Aristocracy. That mean Royal blood. blacks so not have royal blood! As someone else put it, it would be like casting a white Shaft.

  15. charlie says:

    goddam.. he is sooooooo hot, he is a great actor, what are we in the 1800’s? that’s what all of this is really about, have him do a clipped British accent if that’s what you want…

    color shouldn’t matter.

  16. jerome says:

    make alba 002, or a he would make a good villian. He isnt “too black: though. Ive seen people much blacker than him. Its about making an english-english secret agent into an african-english person. please, no alba bond!

  17. Rance Lee says:

    Yes Bond is white and Scottish with all of the cultural identity of the British aristocracy. As someone else put it, it would be like casting a white Shaft. Also, Elba is too old to take over as Bond so why even entertain the thought. To make it worth a franchise you have to start Bond with an actor under or just at 40.

  18. SDF says:

    I get people’s arguments about the character being written a certain way and I respect that, BUT
    (1) it’s hard for me to take the importance of this character remaining white and Scottish seriously when there are REAL life people and stories being white-washed in film as if their race/culture means nothing and

    (2) to continue to label this entire franchise as a British institution, as if it’s for and representative of everyone in Great Britain, but then say only certain people can star in it, is just…ridiculous.

  19. Sally says:

    Ian Fleming described James Bond as being as close to a royal without actually being one. Although not my favorite Bond, I believe Roger Moore was as close to the way Fleming wrote Bond as anyone. Idris Elba is amazing and a grand actor. I hate the term “too street,” because he could certainly play Bond (although not Fleming’s vision of him). I think Elba is destined for greater things than James Bond. Just sayin’.

  20. Jim Harlow says:

    I think Idris Elba is awesome. I am a huge fan. He is a very talented actor. When he is onscreen, he’s the one to watch. But James Bond, as written by Ian Fleming, is white. Elba would make an incredible Bond-like character, and I would love to see him in an lead action role where is a suave leading man in an international setting. He’d probably be wonderful! They didn’t cast white actors for Dr. Dre or Ice Cube, did they? Um… Why is that? Or how about a white actress for the role of Celie in The Color Purple? Um… no… and Whoopie Goldberg was great. Casting is very specific. And sometimes it is not color blind. George Washington? Um… He was a white guy. Easy Rollins? Denzel Washington was phenomenal. That character is specifically black. Casting a white guy would have been wrong. And some characters can be any race. End of story. If you want a black James Bond-like character, create it. Maybe he could even surpass James Bond in popularity.

  21. lmao, hasn’t he heard? Acting means you are good at pretending to be something you’re not

  22. alan says:

    If anything I think Daniel Craig is “Too Street”. Have you seen the latest movies! Daniel Craig is beefed up and brutish. Idris Elba is as suave as it gets. When are we going to get over this color thing! We are all the same inside. People fear what they do not understand.

  23. Max says:

    Idris would be an inspired choice as Bond ! Maybe he’ll be a little bit too old when the part becomes available in 6 years, but he could be terrific in a supporting role or as the villain, too!

  24. Mortimer says:

    He is an ACTOR. He can assume different roles. He can be “street” if the role calls for it, or “unstreet” if the role calls for it. It’s ACTING. “Too street” is code for “too black.” Hollywood can be such a stupid-ass place sometimes.

  25. Cameron says:

    Too street? Good lord, white guys just don’t get it.

  26. Murica! says:

    Cry me a river!! James Bond is white!! Not black. Deal with it!!! Create a black spy instead of changing the race of James Bond!!

  27. Ben says:

    They’ll cast the new Bond in what 4 years, after Craig’s last go at it since that will be another 3. The new Bond movie will come out in say 6 years. Hate to say it but Elba may be too old and that’s a more realistic excuse if anything.

  28. Emmy Espinosa says:

    OMG! Give it a break. Can’t the man have an opinion on who he thinks would be a good fit for a role? Would anyone have blasted him if he had said Johnny Depp wouldn’t make a good James Bond? Is it just because he dared to say anything even a little negative about a black actor? HE should never have apologized for having an opinion.

    • I would have raised holy hell if he had said Depp couldn’t play the part, not because he’s white but because he’s a superb actor, as is Elba! No one protest when white’s play othello or any other role they played in black face; or historical persons whom we know to be black. So get off it, we’re talking about actors having the skills to play the roles.

  29. mattne says:

    If the character needs to be a Scot, have Elba do a scottish accent. Problem solved.

  30. jazz says:

    not that i am prejudice in the least, but…i am a writer…i know who my characters are, what they look like, how they act, etc…i know who should or shouldn’t be cast in the roles (roma maffia, call me…)…and frankly, when tom cruise got the lead in ‘interview with a vampire’, it was a joke…in the book, lastadt is tall, thin, blond…it should have been sting or julian sands, not cruise…and let’s also be serious about this…at least in america, we know that the reality is, no matter how good an actor idris is (and he really is great), but, he will definitely be looked upon as ‘the black bond’, just as the new ‘annie’ film was looked upon as the ‘black annie’…even on broadway, several recent long running, and very successful productions, changed their leads to black actors, finding their box office dwindle and having to close…it’s sad, but true…welcome to america…but…it would be interesting to see, with bond’s renewed interest in general, if casting a black actor would hurt their box office as well…

  31. Jason says:

    Too street, that’s funny. He’s a good actor, who has played a wide range of characters from Nelson Madela to a Norse god, neither those characters appeared too street to me.

    But now I am curious to see who the other black actors that he consider to be better for the role.

  32. Jacques Strappe says:

    Great choice, handsome dude and a fine actor. He’s got the Brit accent and looks good in a tux, too. Case closed.

  33. sammyglick says:

    Ian Fleming didn’t initially like Sean Connery as Bond, as he felt he wasn’t suave and posh enough.

    So first of all, who cares about the opinions of the 7th author authorized to write Bond novels.

    Second, based on the fact Bond’s creator (Fleming) didn’t like Connery, but grew to love him in the role (as the rest of the world did and still does to this very day, often citing him as the best out of all of the actors who have played the British spy), Idiris Elba could have the same effect on the doubters and skeptics.

  34. garibay says:

    We can have multicolored Batmans, thins, talls, dumbs, brights…why can´t we have a non whitish Bond??? Idris Elba would be a smart move, a very refreshing move.

  35. Sabby says:

    Come on, acting is acting. Idris would still make a great bond character. This has nothing to do with being too street/or rough. That’s why there adjustments that have to be made depending on the sort of roll one would play in a movie.

  36. Luis Archuindia says:

    David Beckham is the man to play Bond, James Bond

More Film News from Variety