Why I hope Idris Elba is the next Bond
With Daniel Craig reportedly turning down around $100m to continue his role for two films, and bookies apparently no longer taking bets on Tom Hiddlestone for the next Bond, the 'undemocratic primaries' for who shall next pick up a tux and treat women badly, has hit full fever pitch.
I was fascinated to read recently about my grandmother's sister-in-law Una Trueblood, who was Ian Flemming's secretary, typing up all his hand-penned Bond books. Adam Thorpe, who wrote the piece, had gotten to know Una through his wife, my aunt Jo, her god-daughter. Una confided that they 'weren't my sort of book', being a faithful church-goer, but typed them up nevertheless and in his inscription on Goldfinger to her Flemming wrote 'to Una, who wrote all the books'. In Dr No, she was made an MI5 secretary and quickly killed off, and some ask if she was his Miss Moneypenny muse. The passage about her namesake's death makes quite unpleasant reading:
"“Mary Trueblood opened her mouth to scream. The man smiled broadly. Slowly, lovingly, he lifted the gun and shot her three times in and around the left breast. The girl slumped sideways off her chair. The earphones slipped off her golden hair on to the floor”."
Anyway I drop what looks like a humblebrag in here because in reading Adam's account I learnt that Fleming would spend three months a year in Jamaica, where he wrote the books; indeed it was apparently because he read such a bad airport novel on the plane there one time that he decided to write his own - Casino Royale. So he wrote Bond in a mostly black country, doubtless getting far more black cultural influences than most British writers at that time. I've not read any of his books – I've not even read all of Adam Thorpe's! – indeed I struggle with many of the cultural aspects of Bond, tho dearly loved Roger Moore's Bond as a kid. But I can't help wonder how much the setting must have influenced the ambiance or essence of the writing, not least Bond himself. Which is why Idris Elba seems an interesting Bond (I was previously hoping for Adrian Lester, after Tom interviewed him here in 2000).
There are many reasons why a Bond decried by Judi Dench's M back in Goldeneye as a 'sexist misogynist dinosaur', and who's barely changed since, could benefit from trying on a different tux to the white, public-schoolboy background, which Daniel Craig began to an extent, having proven his brilliance as Geordie in Our Friends in the North. Not least as contemporary mainstream cinema struggles to catch-up with over century of under-representation in both gender and race. 007 remains the leading 'spy sex symbol' in the media's eyes, the archetype against which Arnie in True Lies or countless spy spoofs are measured against. Yet, to date, Bond seems to have an unspoken 'white-only' entry requirement. It would be great to see Idris break that, not least because he's a brilliant actor, but also as he may reacquaint the universe with some of the roots that must have influenced the books' creation.