There was a time when everyone’s top choice to play the next James Bond was Idris Elba.
The Bond team may still be unsure who will replace Daniel Craig, who wrapped his last day in the role nearly four years ago. But for years and years, a large number of people know who they want: They want Idris Elba. Alas, Elba has long said he doesn’t want the gig, though he’s never really given an answer explaining why. Now he’s finally supplied one reason, and it’s a good one.
As per Variety, Elba recently appeared on the podcast SmartLess, where he started by saying he was at least initially into being 007.
“The truth is, I was super complimented for a long time about this,” Elba admitted. “I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ James Bond…We’re all actors and we understand that role. It’s one of those coveted [roles]. Being asked to be James Bond was like, ‘Ok, you’ve sort of reached the pinnacle’. That’s one of those things the whole world has a vote in.”
Sadly, not everyone was into it, and by “not everyone” we mean the usual suspects. “Essentially, it was a huge compliment that every corner of the world except from some corners, which we will not talk about, were really happy about the idea that I could be considered,” Elba explained. “Those that weren’t happy about the idea made the whole thing disgusting and off-putting, because it became about race. It became about nonsense and I got the brunt of it.”
It’s not uncommon for non-white performers to be trashed by bigots when they land key roles in big IP. Just ask John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, and Moses Ingram, all of whom were plagued with abuse when they joined the Star Wars-verse.
Elba has spoken in the past about not wanting to be thought of as a “Black actor.” He told Esquire U.K. in February that as humans, we are obsessed with race and that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be.”
As such, he “stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box,” adding, “We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over.”
So if you were one of many who wanted Idris Elba drinking shaken martinis and driving an Aston Martin, you know who to blame.