As the release of a new 007 film approaches, Roger Moore, an actor who has portrayed James Bond in the past, was asked in an interview about a certain Black British actor playing the role in the future. Suffice to say, his response was a little on the racist side. In reference to Idris Elba, he implied that the actor was not “English” enough to be Bond. Moore has already done some backpedaling on his statements, but the ball of fire known as controversy has already been lit.
Arguably one of the most prolific actors of the 2010’s, with film credits like Pacific Rim, Takers and Prometheus under his belt, many have suggested that Elba would be a great choice to play the iconic spy for quite some time. However, for as many as there are that thrilled with the idea, there are still others who are not as enthused. After all, there was already quite a bit of backlash in 2011 when he was cast as Norse god, Heimdall in Thor. Do the naysayers have an objection to on-screen ethnic diversity? Or are they just film purists? Likely, it is a combination of both, and Moore’s comments are an exemplification of that.
In the interview for French magazine, Paris Match, where Moore suggested that Elba was not “English” enough to play Bond, he voiced his beliefs that Bond is best portrayed by an “English-English” actor, further noting, “It is nevertheless an interesting idea, but unrealistic.” However, his statement is quite contradictory, as he noted himself that Bond has been played by Scottish, Welsh and Irish actors. Add this on to the facts that Sean Connery, the original and arguably most famous Bond actor of them all is Scottish, and that Elba, while of African ancestry, was born and raised in London which therefore would make him “English-English” going off of the logic presented here, and his statement makes even less sense.
In a Twitter post, Moore attempted to retract his statement by saying, “An interview I gave to Paris Match implies I said something racist about Idris Elba. That is simply untrue. #Lost in translation,” going for the tried and true out-of-context excuse. Many refused to believe the 87 year-old, who was subsequently reprimanded and mocked for both his comments in the magazine and his backtracking tweet all over social media.
Given Elba’s star power and success, there really is no reason he should be barred from playing 007. Most of the people who object to such an idea usually base their entire argument on a purist ideal of some sort, with Moore’s example in particular being quickly proven moot on the basis of Elba being born in London, England, which would make him more “English-English” than Connery or Pierce Brosnan, another actor who has played Bond in the past that is from Ireland.
Elba has yet to respond to the problematic comments made by Moore on whether he is “English” enough or not to play Bond. Regardless what people say, Elba has shown interest in playing the role, saying that he would “absolutely” take the role if it were offered to him in an ask-me-anything session on Reddit last year.
Opinion by Philip Cunningham
Photo by: Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Flickr License