Idris Elba Doesn’t Want To Play James Bond Because Of Racism

Idris Elba says the racist backlash to the fan-casting of him as James Bond turned him off to the possibility.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

idris elba

Idris Elba recently shared his reservations about playing James Bond after encountering “disgusting” racism amid rumors of his potential casting. Known for his talent and charisma, Elba has long been considered a strong contender to succeed Daniel Craig as the next 007. However, he says discussions surrounding the role have been marred by individuals who believe that a black actor is unfit for the part.

Speaking to the SmartLess Podcast hosted by actors Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett, Idris Elba said he was honored to be considered at first. “The truth is, I was super complimented for a long time about this,” he said via the Telegraph. “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.”

However, not everyone was pleased with a person of color portraying the super spy. “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,” Idris Elba continued. While he was a favored choice among fans, the prejudice significantly dampened his enthusiasm for the role.

Despite the actor’s disinterest in the role, a survey conducted by Showcase Cinemas in October 2022 named Idris Elba as the UK’s top pick to succeed Daniel Craig, surpassing Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, James Norton, and Henry Cavill. However, Elba has previously distanced himself from the idea of playing James Bond, stating that it was not a personal career goal.

Speaking to The Shop Podcast, he said: “It will satisfy the will of a nation. I’m not gonna lie; every corner of the world I go to, and I’m talking about different cultures, they always go ‘Bond,’ and I feel it is beyond me at this junction. You know, it’s not a question of should I, do I, will I. It is what the will of the nation dictates sometimes.”

The future of the James Bond franchise remains a hot topic of discussion, with some fans considering the possibility of a female agent taking on the 007 mantle. In the latest installment, No Time to Die, Bond’s love interest, Madeleine Swann, is revealed to have a daughter with the iconic spy. This has led to theories that Bond’s daughter could become the next 007.

Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson responded to these ideas, stating that all suggestions for the future of James Bond are considered valid. They also responded to claims that Idris Elba is still in the running for 007. However, they understand that various reasons could contribute to the actor turning down the role.

“We love Idris [Elba]. The thing is, [the new James Bond movie] going to be a couple of years off,” Broccoli previously told Variety. “And when we cast Bond, it’s a 10, 12-year commitment. So Elba’s probably thinking, ‘Do I really want that thing?’ Not everybody wants to do that. It was hard enough getting Daniel Craig to do it.”

Meanwhile, Idris Elba’s candid revelations about racism shed light on the persistent biases and challenges faced by actors of color in the entertainment industry. While many fans continue to champion inclusivity, a small minority leave actors disillusioned with their careers.

As the James Bond franchise evolves, striving for a more diverse representation of one of cinema’s most iconic characters is vital.

idris elba
Idris Elba in Hijack

Idris Elba is currently starring in Hijack, a thrilling British miniseries co-created by George Kay and Jim Field Smith. The story follows Sam Nelson, a highly skilled corporate negotiator who becomes embroiled in a tense situation when a ruthless gang of criminals hijacks the airplane he is aboard. Presented in real-time, each episode chronicles the plane’s harrowing journey to London.

Led by Idris Elba as Sam Nelson, the series boasts a talented cast that includes Archie Panjabi as Zahra Gahfoor, Max Beesley, Mohamed Elsandel as Jaden, Holly Aird as Amanda, Aimée Kelly as Jamie Constantinou, Antonia Salib as Leesha, Zora Bishop as Deevia, Fatima Adoum as Rashida, Ananya Chadha, and Nebras Jamali. The series is available on Apple TV+.