Why Idris Elba can't play James Bond?

[Ian] Fleming described Bond as looking like musician Hoagy Carmichael. As such, we’ve never gotten a screen incarnation of 007 who matches Fleming’s description perfectly, and across 50+ years there has been quite a bit of variation. Black hair, brown hair, blonde hair. Blue eyes, brown eyes. Scottish, Welsh, Irish, even an Australian. The persona, too, tends to shift with each portrayal: Sean Connery’s earthy, predatory swagger; Roger Moore’s upper crust dandyism; Daniel Craig’s “blunt instrument” interpretation. But whatever the variations thus far, there’s a glaring commonality among these actors which - let’s just say it - clearly leaves Idris Elba out of the running. And I get it; it’s trendy to shake up formula, and change things just for the sake of change, but someone needs to be unafraid to point out the obvious here.

With apologies to Mr. Elba, James Bond simply cannot have a mustache.

Now that I’ve baited you in with a facetious headline, can we talk for a minute about how the idea of Idris Elba as James Bond is a way bigger deal than simply being an exciting, outside the box casting choice? On that criteria alone, I do think Elba would be a great and interesting pick. 

Apologies for borrowing the click-baity headline from here, but the whole piece is a worthwhile quick read.

Having never read the James Bond books by Ian Fleming, I had no idea they contained so much extreme racism. I'm glad most of that never made it into the movies.

Inasmuch as 007 was a drinking, fighting, screwing avatar through which aging white male readers could live vicariously, Bond was also a reassuring fiction that England was still a crucial player, secretly saving the world from non-British (and often mixed raced) villains and madmen who would plunge it into chaos and darkness. In the course of these missions, the literary James Bond looks down his nose at women, at homosexuals, and very much so at the “Orientals” and “Coloureds” with whom he’s thrust into conflict. In all of Fleming’s 007 stories, only one villain was an actual Brit; many had complex ethnic backgrounds described in exacting detail by the author. Quite often, underneath Fleming's fascination with foreign cultures lied a xenophobic streak that betrayed an ugly superiority complex.

While it’s true that the cinematic Bond has never been QUITE as racist as his printed counterpart, the residue is there: Connery snapping “Fetch my shoes!” at Quarrel in Doctor No is a rather gross moment, and Moore using Indian street beggars as obstacles during a tuk-tuk chase in Octopussy is a bit troublesome. But the films carved their own path away from the novels, doing their best approximation of “changing with the times.” 1962’s Doctor No, for example, has no mention of the “Chigroes” (you can figure that portmanteau out) described in its source novel. By 1973, the cinematic Bond was bedding African-American agents in Live And Let Die, a far cry from what passes for race relations in Fleming’s novel of the same name: “One used to go to the Savoy Ballroom (in Harlem) and watch the dancing. Perhaps pick up a high-yaller and risk the doctor's bills afterwards.”

That happens in chapter four. Chapter five is called “Nigger Heaven.”

If they named Elba as Bond, and I'd love to see it, can you imagine the number of articles to be written consisting entirely of a collection of outrageous racist posts from Twitter and Facebook? Someone has probably already pre-written the Buzzfeed listicle or Onion article.