The spy who won me over: I was nearly Idris Elba's Bond girl

Ideas

The spy who won me over: I was nearly Idris Elba's Bond girl

The voice, the smile, the flirtiness - trust me, he would be the best Bond we've had in 30 years

Celia Walden

“My name’s Elba, Idris Elba.”
Twenty-seven characters were all it took to send the Twittersphere into meltdown on Sunday. That and a 007-tastic selfie of the Hackney-born Luther star, cropped to the point of inscrutability.
After four years’ conjecture that Elba was to be the first black Bond, was this confirmation? Or was it (the time on the tweet reads 1.02am, after all) just a titillating “dweet” (drunk tweet)? Either way, the retweets came in their thousands: jubilant, virulent and often plain moronic thoughts on race, new dawns, cultural appropriation, artistic integrity, Martin Luther King, the importance of British identity, bigoted extremists (from both the left and right), the British Empire and Hollywood misogyny (how could Scarlett Johansson be overlooked for the role again?).
Debates raged over whether Ian Fleming wrote some of his books in Jamaica, and if so, did that really matter given Elba’s father is from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana?Should Tom Cruise now be cast in the Black Panther sequel, people demanded to know? And the logical sequitur: “Will Abu Hamza now play the queen?”
As entertaining as the enduring hysteria has been, it does seem to have detracted from the only issue at hand: Would Elba make a good Bond?
Yes.
Making Elba the world’s eighth Bond may be a politically correct choice, but it would also be the correct choice. He’s an extraordinary actor, with just the right menace-to-vulnerability ratio and who can rock a Tom Ford suit better than any catwalk model. Women and men crush on him (a crucial 007 requirement that’s absent from most actors’ CVs), and I, for one, want to hear that silky voice stipulating “shaken, not stirred”.
And that’s not a racial thing, but a smoothness thing. He even managed to make a sea lion in Finding Dory sound sexy.
So if his tweet does turn out to be a teaser to his formal anointment, then I wouldn’t just say Barbara Broccoli had made the right choice, but that Elba could end up being the best Bond in more than 30 years.I shouldn’t like the guy as much as I do. When I sat down with him in a New York hotel years ago, he made me wait 90 minutes (something on-the-up actors tend to do when they’re still at the pistol fingers in the bathroom mirror stage) before sauntering in with a bottle of Bud in his hand. The great acting I knew about, from his portrayal of Stringer Bell in The Wire, but within minutes Elba had won me over with the voice, the smile and the flirtiness.
And if I hadn't been going out with my husband at the time, I would’ve agreed to have dinner with him when he asked me. That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being a Bond girl.
Perhaps the most charming thing about him was his lack of pomposity about everything from his first role in Crimewatch (playing a guy who chopped his girlfriend up and put her in the freezer, shot at the actual crime scene) to what he called “the elephant in the room”.
“There are only so many roles for black actors in England. People get all excited,” he went on, adopting a hysterical voice. “That’s racist, they say. It’s not racist. If you go to Africa and you’re white, you’re probably not going to get that much work either.”With Daniel Craig back next year in the 25th Bond film (his last) – believed to be based on Raymond Benson’s Never Dream of Dying – Elba’s spy stint may still be a way off. But, to swing back to the haters for a moment: he’s not too old at 45, it wouldn’t be “PC gone fucking mad”, and the movie wouldn’t have to involve Bond being subjected to a series of micro-aggressions that would include “being pulled over in his Aston Martin” and ID’d by racist cops.
We’ve gone from 1.8-metre Scots and dimple-chinned Welsh and Irishmen to diminutive blonde thespians without anyone, aside their on-screen female conquests, batting an eyelid. It’s fiction, folks, and as long as Bond doesn’t start wearing “this is what a feminist looks like” T-shirts and identifying as anything other than an amoral macho dinosaur with a dual specialisation in wince-inducing puns and ghastly double entendres, I for one will keep watching.
– © The Daily Telegraph

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