UPDATE: Hours after his comments went ultra-viral, James Bond author Anthony Horowitz has issued an apology in response to the onslaught of criticism he’s received for saying in a Daily Mail interview, that Idris Elba is “too street” to play 007. Horowitz’s apology, posted via his Twitter account, is embedded below (beneath it, you’ll find my original post on the matter):
No response from Elba yet; although, as I argued below, he really ought to just ignore all of this entirely.
My original post follows…
My email inbox has been flooded with messages alerting me to an interview Anthony Horowitz, author of the latest James Bond novel – “Trigger Mortis” (which hits bookshelves Sept. 8) – gave to the UK’s Daily Mail, in which he chimed in on the “Idris Elba as 007” conversation that I actually thought was dead and buried, but apparently still lives on.
Earlier this year, speaking to an audience at London’s British Film Institute, Elba seemed to want to put the entire idea to bed, when he shared his thoughts on all chatter that began a couple of years ago, culminating at that time with former Bond star, Roger Moore’s comments on 007 being played by an English actor – comments that traveled far and wide, and which Moore had to essentially retract.
“It’s a rumor that’s really started to eat itself,” said Elba, adding, “If there was a chance of me getting Bond, it’s gone.”
Essentially, we’ve all ruined his chances, because we’ve been talking about it too much – so much that there was commentary not only on the actual possibility of him playing Bond, but also on the hype itself, which got its own headlines.
That was in April.
Five months later, it’s in the air again, as author Horowitz shares with the Daily Mail that he also doesn’t think Idris is the right man for the job; but not because he’s black, or not “English-English” as Moore implied a few months ago; but that Elba is not polished enough.
“Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better,” said Horowitz, who went on to name another Black British actor in Adrian Lester, as his favorite. “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.”
I think many would beg to differ, including Elba himself.
But even if Horowitz were correct, as I recall, when Daniel Craig was first brought on board as the new Bond, after Pierce Brosnan’s reign, the talk was of a new kind of Bond – a muscled man-of-action, with plenty of rough-around-the-edges charm, and a much-needed touch of brutality. I don’t know about you, but that sounds very “street”-like to me, to use Horowitz’s words. Craig was supposed to usher in a new kind of Bond, one that was much more rugged, and less debonair.
Idris can certainly pull off a similar kind of rugged charm that Craig has used to carry the franchise over the last decade. And if I had to choose between Elba and Adrian Lester – the black actor Horowitz recommends – I’d go with Elba. I like Lester as an actor as well, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think he’d be a good fit for Bond, based on the work that I’ve seen.
But frankly, I think this entire conversation has run its course, and it’s time to move on. I’d guess that Elba certainly has at this point, although I’m sure he’ll be asked to respond to Horowitz’s comment. If I were him, I’d just ignore it all and even laugh it off entirely.
Instead, I’d like to remind everyone that there are a number of black authors with novels that could become film franchises for black actors – the most obvious being Walter Mosley – if only because his work has been adapted already (“Devil in a Blue Dress” to start), and since then, there has been interest in adapting more of his work for the big and small screens, but, thus far, nothing has been produced, despite deals here and there.
Most recently, a couple of months ago, Spike TV announced its slate of upcoming projects in development, which included a collaboration with Mosley, titled “Mr. In Between,” which will be based on a short story by the acclaimed novelist that follows the adventures of a high-stakes courier who traffics sensitive information. Mosley, along with business partner Diane Houslin, will serve as producers.
“Mr In Between” is just the latest in a line of Mosley projects that have been announced, but have yet to be realized.
Follow the bouncing ball…
First, recall that, in 2012, Mosley teamed up with TV series and documentary producer Diane Houslin to launch a new production company called B.O.B. Filmhouse (Best of Brooklyn Filmhouse), with the goal being to play an “active role” in the adaptation of his novels into films and TV series.
The pair have a history together – specifically, they met while Houslin worked at HBO, when the network adapted Mosley’s novel “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned,” starring Laurence Fishburne.
B.O.B. Filmhouse has had several projects in development, which we’ve covered on S&A, that either never found permanent studio homes or that we just haven’t heard anything about since they were initially announced, like:
– A series for NBC centered on Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins which the network eventually passed on.
– Mosley also had a deal in place with HBO, for his Leonid McGill series – the New York City private investigator – starting with the first book in the series titled, “The Long Fall.” No word on where that stands; it’s been 3 years since the initial revelation.
– TNT once ordered a pilot episode of Mosley’s Fearless Jones series of novels, with plans for an eventual TV series; that was also at least 3 years ago, but no word on what happened. TNT likely passed on it as well.
– There was also news of Mosley’s B.O.B. Filmhouse being in “active talks” to develop a project with Don Cheadle’s Crescendo Productions. But we never learned what that project was, and haven’t heard anything about it further.
– And lastly, B.O.B. Filmhouse, in association with Carol Polakoff Productions (CPPI), was said to be developing a feature film based on Mosley’s psychological thriller “Man In My Basement,” with Anthony Mackie in talks to star at the time of the announcement (2 to 3 years ago). Mosley was said to be co-writing the screenplay with Cheo Hodari Coker (“Southland”). No word on where that currently stands.
So clearly there’s interest in Mosley’s work, given all of the above; but, for some reason, it’s apparently been a struggle getting each project to the screen. Although some of them might still be in development, and we’ll know more in time.
Let’s hope the new Spike TV project doesn’t get stuck in Limbo like all the opthers.
But, ultimately, my point here is that there are original characters created by black authors, starring in their very own action/adventure/mystery/detective/etc novel series that could very well become movie franchises for black actors like Elba (and others) to star in. Enough with the “Idris Elba for James Bond” chatter. I’d much rather see him in something wholly original anyway, than as the “black version of [insert fictional white hero here].”
Or just as he took “Luther” (a character not originally written as a black man) and made it his own after 3 seasons, if Luther was suddenly played by some other actor, it just wouldn’t be the same anymore. Idris IS Luther. He could do the exact same thing with some other original character (whether written specifically as a black man or not).