Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Crime Beat Column: Should A Black Actor Be The Next James Bond?

A remake of Shaft is in the works. The black private detective character was originally portrayed in the 1971 film by a black actor, Richard Roundtree, and by another black actor, Samuel L. Jackson, in a 2000 remake.

Should a white actor now be cast as John Shaft in the newest remake?


No more ridiculous, it seems to me, than the calls for a black actor to portray James Bond.

Back in December, Rush Limbaugh caused a controversy with his comments that the next actor to portray Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond should certainly not be Idris Elba, a British black actor being touted by liberal commentators.

Limbaugh noted on his popular radio program and web site that the hacked Sony emails revealed that Amy Pascal, the then-cochairman of Sony, wrote that when Daniel Craig's run as James Bond was over, Elba should play the iconic secret agent character.

"James Bond is a fictional character, obviously," Limbaugh said. "James Bond was invented, created by Ian Fleming, a former spy, MI6, and James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish, period. That is who James Bond is. But now Sony is suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton rather than a white from Scotland."

Limbaugh went on to suggest that any future film about President Obama should have George Clooney as Barrack Obama and Kate Hudson as Michelle Obama. He further suggested that Kelsey Grammer portray Nelson Mandela.

Perhaps this was not a good comparison, as President Obama and Nelson Mandela are real people, historical figures, while James Bond is a fictional character. (And Ian Fleming served in British naval intelligence during WWII, not MI6).

The controversy lives on. Many liberals are all for Elba or another black actor to be cast as the next Bond, even if they are not truly Bond fans, as they believe that a black actor portraying the beloved character would signify a social and cultural milestone.

Sony's Amy Pascal is a notorious liberal and financial backer of President Obama, although the hacked Sony emails revealed her mocking Obama, stating in what she believed was a private email that Obama probably only likes films with black actors.

Perhaps that's why she was suggesting that Elba play Bond.

And now David Oyelowo, a fine black actor who has announced that he will narrate the audio book for Anthony Horowitz's James Bond continuation novel, Trigger Mortis, has also called for Elba to be the next James Bond. He suggests that Elba portraying Bond would be a cultural event, a cultural statement that goes beyond entertainment.

Well, call me a traditionalist, but like many true Bond fans, I believe James Bond should be portrayed by a white Brit, as the late, great thriller writer envisioned him.

And to be frank, I, like many Bond fans, have had trouble accepting anyone other than Sean Connery as James Bond.  

I first saw Sean Connery as Bond in Dr No in 1963. I went on to read Fleming’s Bond thrillers and was pleased to discover that the novels were darker and more complex than the films. I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado ever since. 

If there were multiple TV and film productions of Ian Fleming's stories featuring James Bond, as there are with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, few would care if one or more of the productions offered a black actor as Bond. But the character of James Bond is the exclusive property of Eon Productions, so the actor playing Bond for them is the one and only screen representation of Ian Fleming's iconic character.
Now I think Elba is a fine actor and I liked him in The Wire and Luther, but I don't think he should be the next Bond. Is this racist? I don't think so.

Would a black person who objected to the idea of a white actor being cast as Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins be a racist?

Rawlins, a fictional character created by black crime novelist Walter Mosley, is a black, street-wise, hard-boiled private detective and WWII veteran. Rawlins was portrayed very well on screen by black actor Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress in 1995.

I suggest that if another film is made featuring Mosley's Easy Rawlins, the film makers should cast Washington again or another black actor.

Idris Elba comes to mind.


  1. Yeats was right: Things (will) fall apart, and the centre cannot hold.
    Ian Fleming would be appalled.
    But of course I am a dinosaur who is bogged down in the past.
    Let's next have a remake of Gone With the Wind. I'm seeing Denzel Washington as Rhett Butler and Brittany Spears as Scarlet Ohara.
    So what the hell do I know?

  2. Yeah, I'm kinda of a dinosaur myself...