We’re just about two months out from the release of Spectre, the latest volume in the James Bond series and the last one that will star the great Daniel Craig as the seductive super-spy. So, of course, the discussion over who will take up the mantle of 007 has flared up once again and, encouragingly, the name at the top of most fans lists is Idris Elba, who came to prominence playing “Stringer” Bell in David Simon‘s The Wire and broke out as the titular, grim detective of BBC’s superb Luther. There haven’t been many credible naysayers to his taking over for Craig when all is said and done, but now, James Bond author Anthony Horowitz has come out publicly as against the casting of Elba in the role, citing that the actor comes off as too “rough” and “street.”
Reading over the recent comments made by Horowitz in The Daily Mail, in which he also condemns Sam Mendes‘ Skyfall, it’s pretty clear that Horowitz is both trolling for publicity — his new Bond novel comes out Sept. 8th — and that he has a dangerously rigid view of a series that he purports to love. While he expresses a fondness for Casino Royale, his comments about Skyfall reveal a belief that there are, and should be, rules to the world of 007. This is what he said about Skyfall:
“Bond is weak in it. He has doubts. That’s not Bond … Secondly, the villain wins. The villain sets out to kill M. The film finishes with the villain killing M. So why have I watched it?“
Horowitz clearly only believes in Bond as the ultimate man’s man and not as a genuine character that can be molded and recreated in a variety of perspectives. Most great characters have weaknesses, quite cumbersome ones in fact, and to claim that James Bond should be the exception here teases out a want to confine the character to an escapist figure. Over the last three films, Craig has made the most convincing Bond because he has evoked shades of hurt, weakness, and emotional devastation in the character. And to be clear, is Horowitz saying that the only reason he could have for watching Skyfall is to see the villain lose? For a published writer, that’s an awfully unoriginal and deeply stiff perspective on storytelling. At the very least, we can be thankful that Horowitz hasn’t been in spitting distance of writing any 007 screenplays … yet.
And as for his comments on Elba, Horowitz may be insisting that they’re not racially motivated, but the terminology is not one you’d likely hear about Bruce Willis, Hugh Jackman, or Mark Wahlberg, all of whom play characters similar to those Elba plays. If it’s meant simply as another word for “rough,” well, okay then, but even that seems spurious: One would think an international killer of men and women employed loosely by the government would, at the very least, be a bit rough, even in a tailored suit and with a taste for martinis. Horowitz goes onto say that the character of Bond must be “suave,” which he assumedly doesn’t think Elba is, putting him in direct opposition to every woman I’ve ever met in my life. I’d agree that the character should be suave, and that Elba is about as suave a performer as I’ve seen in the last two decades.
Ultimately, however, all of these delineations about what James Bond should be are meaningless, based in an absurd fear of change or reinvention. Like all great characters, Bond must incrementally grow and change in depiction, at the very least, to keep the veneer of the franchise fresh, even if the mechanics of the stories seem to be essentially the same every time.
Update: Here’s Horowitz’s response to the criticism of his comments:
I’m really sorry my comments about Idris Elba have caused offence [full statement attached] pic.twitter.com/UD6ouA45Uv
— Anthony Horowitz (@AnthonyHorowitz) September 1, 2015
Spectre will be released in theaters worldwide on November 6th.