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Why Care About Idris Elba Playing James Bond, When Luther Exists?

Why Care About Idris Elba Playing James Bond, When Luther Exists?

Idris Elba appeared on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah last night, during which he talked about playing morally complex characters in the film “Beasts of No Nation” and on the BBC America series “Luther,” which returns in less than 2 weeks for what will be a 2-hour special. 

During the brief conversation with Noah, Elba was asked – once again – about taking over for Daniel Craig to become the next James Bond. And, humble as usual, he said he was honored by the fact that he’s even in the conversation; however, he’s no longer interested in talking about it. And I can’t say I blame him. Essentially, if it happens, so be it. It’s not something that’s in his control. But maybe more importantly, as Elba seems to suggest to Noah, he’s more interested in making Luther a James Bond-style franchise, which I think audiences may even prefer. 

As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a fan of reimagining existing characters for the sake of some kind of racial novelty. There are existing black literary figures that could very well become film franchises themselves; we’ve talked about a few of them on this blog over the years, like any one of Walter Mosley’s literary heroes – Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones, or Leonid McGill, for example. Even Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” collection is one that’s begging to be adapted. But beyond existing works, I’m quite sure that there are enough black screenwriters with imaginations who can conjure up an original black action hero that could become a franchise like 007.

We don’t need to make James Bond black. And, based on his comments, I’d like to believe that Idris Elba would agree with that. 

So instead of campaigning for an Idris Elba toplined 007 franchise, let’s transfer all that energy (all the *think* pieces that have been written on why Elba should play Bond, all the debates and social media conversations that have been had, and continue to be had on the subject, all the interviews he’s done and continues to do, in which he’s asked about playing James Bond, etc, etc, etc) into pushing hard for a “Luther” film franchise. I’d much prefer that!

Elba jokes a bit with Noah, when he talks about the series getting shorter from one season to the next, with this *season* (if we can even call it that) reduced to just a 2-hour special, which, in effect, acts almost as a film. About 3 weeks ago, Elba shared, during a London press junket for “Luther,” that: “In our heads this [two-parter] was the film. It’s two hours.” 

Although he did add that he and series creator Neil Cross would still like to make an official “Luther” film, but, as he said: “It takes time, and it’s really about when Neil and I are ready to pull that off.” And he echoed similar thoughts on “The Daily Show” last night, when Noah asked about the potential for a “Luther” film, made for the big screen, saying that it was definitely something that they still want to do, adding to what he said earlier in the show, about wanting to shift the conversation away from him playing James Bond to making Luther a feature film franchise player like Bond. 

Much earlier this year, speaking to an audience at London’s British Film Institute, Elba shared his thoughts on all the “Idris Elba for James Bond” chatter that began a couple of years ago, culminating with former Bond star, Roger Moore’s challenged comments on 007 being played by an English actor.

“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.”

The actor also took the opportunity to clear up rumors that he had actually met with with Bond producers, saying it “never happened,” maybe speaking to 007 co-star Naomie Harris’ revelation in a 2012 interview with Huffington Post (during a press tour for “Skyfall”), that Elba told her he’d met with Barbara Broccoli (producer of the Bond movies), adding that “it does seem like there is a possibility in the future that there could very well be a black James Bond. And I would have to vote for Idris because I just finished working with him and he’s a great guy.”

Elba added that it was actually current Bond, Daniel Craig, who originally sparked the idea: “Daniel Craig actually set the rumor off. About 4 years ago he said Idris Elba would be a great Bond and then it started to creep. I blame Daniel.” 

So that’s that! Forget Bond; we want Luther!

All that said, “Luther” returns to BBC America for a one-night 2-hour special event on Thursday, December 17, 9pm ET.

Here’s the story breakdown for those who haven’t kept up with the series, courtesy of the press release: Struggling to cope with his own demons after losing so much, it seemed normalcy would always elude the emotionally impulsive detective. Teflon tough, even the strongest couldn’t endure what Luther has seen and been through. Hunting London’s most depraved criminals forced him to tap into the dark recesses of his mind, revealing sides of himself that would horrify most. The heartbreaking loss of his wife to a brutal murderer and his inner-circle of colleagues turning on him in a witch hunt weren’t enough to keep him away from the job. But watching his most trusted colleague and friend, Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley, die in his arms after getting caught in the crossfires of a case, finally pushed him over the slippery slope he’s always towed. A forbidden connection with serial-killer, Alice Morgan, offered him a somewhat skewed version of a happy ending and he took it.

And here’s what’s coming in the December 17 special: This time we find Luther on a leave of absence from the police force, laying low in a rundown cottage. A visit from colleagues, Detective Chief Inspector Theo Bloom and Detective Sergeant Emma Lane, brings a shocking piece of news that draws him back to London in search of the truth. At the same time, a gruesome cannibalistic serial killer has struck the city, eating body parts as he goes. With a trail of clues leading from one crime scene to the next, Detective Superintendent Unit Martin Schenk and his team must work out the twisted logic that connects each victim. But this murdering mastermind is more than a match for Schenk’s police, outsmarting them at every step. It’s not long before Luther makes his triumphant return to the Bullpen, determined to capture the killer before another mutilated body joins the mounting pile.  But he’s dogged at every turn by ghosts from his past. Isolated and volatile, it will take every fiber of Luther’s being to keep it together.

“I think there were bigger challenges when he lost his wife and his best friend,” Elba says in a press statement. “That was a huge pinnacle and something that it took him a long time to get over. And in this [special] there is something similar that happens to him that is definitely traumatic. I think Luther goes back just because he can’t stay away from it for too long. Ultimately, because he’s a protector, [he] just wants to be able to fix what he can see other people won’t be able to…”

Elba has garnered both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his role as DCI John Luther, with a Golden Globe win in 2013.

Written and created by Neil Cross and directed by Sam Miller, the “Luther” special also stars Laura Haddock as Megan Cantor, a mysterious woman from Luther’s past, John Heffernan as the sadistic cannibal Steven Rose, Patrick Malahide as George Cornelius, an old school gangster, and Michael Smiley returning as computer whiz Benny Silver.

Watch Elba’s “Daily Show” appearance last night:

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