Could a man born to a factory worker and a cleaner, a man who spent his formative years in the Navy picking up tattoos before working as a milkman and a labourer, a man who was a bodybuilder and (almost) a professional footballer be trusted to play James Bond, the archetypal sophisticated, suave British man?
Well yes, if his name is Sean Connery. Which is just one of the reasons the author Anthony Horowitz’s claim this week that Idris Elba is ‘a bit too rough’ to play the part is patently ridiculous. As Twitter users pointed out far quicker than any hastily written opinion piece could, it’s called ‘acting’. If you’re good at it, you can pretend to be a person with a background and personality traits you don’t necessarily share - although in the case of being ‘suave’, anyone who has met Elba or seem him in, I don’t know, any of his roles to date could tell you he has more than enough of that to pull off a smirking quip or look shit hot in a tux.
The question over whether Elba will be the next Bond has been rumbling on for the best part of a decade now – the 42-year-old has been trying to find new ways to answer the question in almost every interview he has given in that time – and the appeal and significance of him becoming the first black man to play the most famous (and successful) movie character of all time is obvious. But the question of whether he’d actually be any good or not has been less hotly debated. In a fist-chewing way, Horowitz has brought that discussion about at a time when Daniel Craig has all-but confirmed he won’t play 007 again.
It’s a no-brainer though, isn’t it? This is the guy who played Stringer Bell, a thinking man trapped in a world of brutes, at once menacing and vulnerable, an Icarcus trying to fly from his own past. ‘String’ was the most complex and believable of all the show’s criminals and his death its most upsetting moment – and Elba did it all while putting on an American accent that fooled 100% of people who heard it.
The idea he couldn’t pull off James Bond - even at one of the ‘brooding’ phases of the character’s perpetual brooding (Connery, Dalton, Craig) / smirking cartoon (Moore, Lazenby, Brosnan) lifecycle - is laughable. He could deliver the gravitas and inner pain Bond requires in his sleep. Let’s face it, there is less depth to Bond as a character than there is Luther, the other TV role Elba has already pulled off to widespread appeal.
Then there is the matter of his strongest – for which we can read ‘most likely’ – competitors.
According to William Hill that means Damian Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Henry Cavil and Jamie Dornan, a wetter gaggle of charisma-less luvvies you’d struggle to find huddled outside the Rada common room on a November afternoon. Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender would be interesting choices, but they know becoming Bond will eclipse all their considerable onscreen achievements to date and probably mean they never get offered another challenging role again.
Elba, on the other hand, has a string of mainly forgettable blockbusters he’d be better off burying. Couple that with the fact he is cool enough, talented enough and fits the bill in terms of age (early 40s) and physicality (brick shithouse-enough to beat up some henchmen, not so big he couldn’t leap off a building or squeeze into a DB5 ), and really, what else is there left to say? Once our October cover star steps down, get the man measured up for a tuxedo, Sony, and let’s end the longest running saga in film casting history.