Idris Elba was “disheartened” by the pushback he received when he was first rumored to be taking over as the next James Bond because much of the criticism was centered on his race.
The Avengers: Infinity War star has been among the names linked to the coveted 007 role, once Daniel Craig steps down, ever since Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal expressed her support for the British actor in a leaked email back in 2014.
Rumors have continued to circulate about his potential casting in the superspy franchise, fuelled by the public backing of stars like Dame Judi Dench, who played MI6 chief ‘M’ in seven Bond films before her character was killed off in 2012’s Skyfall.
And while many fans are excited at the prospect of Idris becoming the first black Bond, some devout fans of the Ian Fleming books the movies are based on insist he just isn’t the right fit – because they are convinced the lead character should be white.
Idris, whose father hails from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana, admits the online backlash hurt, because it has nothing to do with his talent.
“You just get disheartened when you get people from a generational point of view going, ‘It can’t be.’ And it really turns out to be the color of my skin,” the 46-year-old tells Vanity Fair.
“And then if I get it and it didn’t work, or it did work, would it be because of the color of my skin? That’s a difficult position to put myself into when I don’t need to.”
Despite his concerns, Idris admits he would have to give the top gig some serious consideration if an official offer ever does come his way: “James Bond is a hugely coveted, iconic, beloved character, that takes audiences on this massive escapism journey,” he says.
“Of course, if someone said to me, ‘Do you want to play James Bond?,’ I’d be like, ‘Yeah!’ That’s fascinating to me. But it’s not something I’ve expressed, like, ‘Yeah, I wanna be the black James Bond.’ Because, by the way, we’re talking about a spy. If you really want to break it down, the more less-obvious it (race) is, the better.”
Idris, 46, previously explained his reluctance to tackle such a well-known character, because he knows it would truly take over his life.
“Bond is one of the biggest franchises in the world, and for that reason, whoever ends up playing it, lives it. You’re THAT character, and known as that character for many, many years,” he told the Daily Mail’s Event magazine earlier this year (2019).
“I’m creating characters now that can still live alongside Idris. Not ones that take over me and solely define me.”
Craig is expected to step down as Bond after the release of the next action blockbuster, which has the working title of Bond 25 and is currently in production.