Idris Elba’s candidacy as the top contender to play legendary movie spy James Bond is one of those undisputed things like the fact that the sky is blue, or that humans need air to breathe. There are other actors who could play Bond well in a reboot, but not many of them are men of color with as much buzz as Elba.
Despite a slew of changing faces over secret agent 007’s illustrious 50 year career as Britain’s greatest onscreen spy and playboy, the actors portraying him–and the source material, in general–haven’t really kept up with the changing times. Like the United States, the Britain of today is very diverse and multicultural. Sir Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond spy novels, was born just 8 years into the 20th century, and died in 1964. Clearly, the world he lived in is very different from the world of today, but the series will only become out of touch if the films (and books) don’t get with the times. Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan are some of the best actors to ever do it–Sean Connery’s supreme reign remains undisputable–but it may be time for a change. Hence, everybody talking about why ‘Dris–a Brit–should carry the mantle.
I agree, but I think Idris Elba should play another bad mother–whoops, let me shut my mouth–badass: John Shaft. People forget, and don’t seem to care that Shaft was actually the all-American version/counterpart to 007. Based on the novels by Ernest Tidyman (and his screenplays), the Shaft movie franchise shares much in common with the Bond movie franchise, even if there are some very obvious differences. While James was aristocratic and very British, Shaft was from the streets of the inner city (unapologetically so), and very American. Both were smart, handsome, refined (in their own unique ways), ultra masculine, and skilled in the art of whoop ass and seduction. However, Bond for a number of reasons I won’t get into, gets all the love, and Shaft only gets his due with Blaxploitation and cult film fans like myself. While everyone is campaigning for Idris Elba as Bond, I’m campaigning for Elba as the new and improved Shaft.
There is a ton of material at a prospective screenwriter or director’s disposal for a Shaft reboot. Black culture is suddenly all the rage these days, and the cheesiness of the 70s is long gone–unless that’s what one is going for–which means a better script and better plots. What can, and should remain are all the aforementioned qualities of the original Shaft as expertly played by Richard Roundtree in the 70s. The Vietnam war might be long over, and Harlem might be a gentrified paradise, but the more some things change, the more others stay the same. There’s still rampant discrimination, warmongers would throw American troops by the thousands into a war in the Middle East (again!!!) under the guise of fighting against ISIL, and minorities don’t really feel safe on American streets, especially after last August.
There’s something about Idris Elba as an actor that makes people feel safe. Maybe it’s his troubled, yet unabashedly human portrayal of a British detective in the BBC’s critically acclaimed Luther series. Or maybe it was his inspiring speech, and god-like portrayal of a former jaeger-pilot turned savior of humanity in Pacific Rim… He’s also extremely attractive, a bona fide heartthrob, and he’s versatile. Who else could have played Heimdall that well in the Thor films while simultaneously shutting down racist fanboys bitching about the color of his skin?
It’s great to think about knocking down certain barriers, but I’d rather see Idris bring back a staple of black, aye, American cinema first. I’m okay with some barriers staying up if it means a greater investment in diverse characters that matter. Ultimately, it wouldn’t really be too much of an issue if Bond remained portrayed by a litany of white actors, if there were more black characters doing the same thing–in their own way, of course. In reality, this is the crux of the issue.
Maybe one day Idris could do both a Bond film and a Shaft film… I mean, Ben Affleck played Daredevil before heading to Batman V Superman. I just think that with a dearth of minority superheroes and badasses on TV and in movies, it would be better to reestablish good characters that were left at the wayside. And yes, I remember Samuel L. Jackson in the Shaft reboot of the 90s. No, it wasn’t recent enough to matter.
Shaft was just as awesome as Bond, but he was more relatable to audiences. Average women could be with him, whether they were Park Avenue types, or around the way girls; and guys could drink a beer with him as long as they kept the bullshit to a minimum. No need for fancy martinis (although those are good too). I can dig it.
It might be wishful thinking, but with movies featuring talking raccoons killing it at the box office, I don’t think it’s such a bad idea.