A Timeline Of The 'James Bond' Franchise’s Attempts At Diversity
To many fans, British secret agent James Bond is the epitome of masculinity, power, sophistication and class -- and unfortunately, to many that also means he has to be a straight white man, living a dapper life in a world full of other straight white men for him to kill and young, sexy women for him to flirt with.
Yup, despite the fact that this franchise has been going strong for six decades, the formula for Bond movies hasn't really changed all that much -- even with the recent films that star Daniel Craig as a guarded, more haunted 007 than previous incarnations. But the world is changing (albeit agonizingly slowly, especially when it comes to Hollywood) so it's no surprise that public opinion has turned towards the idea of a James Bond who represents a more 21st century way of thinking. You know, even if some people still think the idea of a female Bond is impossible.
But what steps has the Bond franchise taken to become more diverse, and how long has this conversation been going on, anyway? A very long time, if you trace it back:
1964 -- James Bond goes Scottish for the first time.
People often bring up Bond's Scottish heritage as a reason he has to be white, but the character was not actually envisioned as Scottish by Ian Fleming. In fact, the author originally hated the idea of Sean Connery taking on the role (he was too working class, Connery later said) until he saw "Dr. No" (which also, notably, has a mixed-raced Asian villain and a Dragon Lady-style Bond Girl -- not the best representation of East Asian characters, for sure) in 1962, and was so impressed that in his next novel, "You Only Live Twice," he gave his version of the character a Scottish father and a better sense of humor. And who says Bond's identity is set in stone?
1965 -- Bond turns a lesbian straight.
You know the iconic Bond girl Pussy Galore? In the 1964 novel "Goldfinger," she identifies as a lesbian until she's seduced by James Bond, telling him the reason she'd never been attracted to men in the past was that "I never met a man before." Woof. In the film, she's never even identified as a lesbian, instead vaguely telling Bond that she's "immune" to his charm. Luckily she gets a second chance to shine in the brand new James Bond novel, "Trigger Mortis" (more on that later).
1971 -- Bond meets his first gay couple.
Well, kind of but not really. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, two of the villain Blofield's henchmen in "Diamonds are Forever," are strongly implied to be a couple in both the book and the film adaptation -- they even hold hands together. "Diamonds are Forever" also technically features the first black Bond girl, Thumper (Trina Parks), although her position is debated among Bond purists because she never actually has a sexual encounter with him. Oh, Bond..
1973 -- Bond also meets some more black people, finally.
"Live And Let Die" became the first Bond movie to romantically link the secret agent (Roger Moore) to a black woman, Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), and to have him face off against a black villain, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). That's because the the film was released at the height of the "blaxploitation" movie trend, and took place predominantly in Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean Islands. In it, Bond gets called a honky. It's... well, it's something.
1995 -- M becomes a lady, schools Bond in old-school sexism.
Dame Judi Dench officially took over the role of M, Bond's commanding officer, in the movie "Goldeneye." Then she calls Pierce Brosnan's Bond "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur" in one of their first scenes together because Judi Dench calls it like it is, bro.
2005 -- Bond goes blond, mass panic erupts.
Can you believe that once upon a time, Daniel Craig was considered a diverse casting choice for Bond -- and even he got backlash?? He was the first blond actor ever to play 007, and many longtime fans immediately dismissed him as not looking right for the part. "I'm sure a blond could play James Bond, but not somebody who's so ugly and uncharismatic as Daniel Craig," one fan wrote into the aptly named website, Daniel Craig is Not Bond.
November 2008 -- Daniel Craig decides Bond should be black next.
Believe it or not, Idris Elba's rumored position as the next Bond isn't a new phenomenon; it's been going on for literally years, as far back as his days on "The Wire." And he has Obama and Daniel Craig to thank for it -- in 2008 just before he was elected, Daniel Craig suggested that Obama's presidential victory could lead to great things for the diversity of the franchise.
"I'm a real fan of Obama because I like his political ideas," he said. "And I think it's the right moment for a black James Bond. If we can have a black US President, I think we might have reached the moment for a new kind of 007."
September 2011 -- Idris Elba comments on the persistent "Black Bond" rumors.
And while he's down to play the role, he's kind of tired of being referred to as the next "Black Bond" already. "I just don't want to be the black James Bond," Idris Elba told NPR Morning Edition. "Sean Connery wasn't the Scottish James Bond, and Daniel Craig wasn't the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don't want to be called the black James Bond."
October 2012 -- ...Except he might be.
Naomie Harris, the first black actress to play Bond's associate Miss Moneypenny, in "Skyfall," told the HuffPost Black Voices that she'd heard firsthand from Elba that he'd spoken to a Bond producer about the role. "He said that he met [Bond Producer] Barbara Broccoli and that it does seem like there is a possibility in the future that there could very well be a black James Bond," she said. "And I would have to vote for Idris because I just finished working with him and he’s a great guy."
November 2012 -- "Skyfall" maybe almost has a gay person in it.
Around the same time, Javier Bardem's villainous character Raoul Silva was making headlines for reportedly being the Bond franchise's "first gay villain" -- and for being the first male character to directly challenge Bond's heterosexuality.
But was Silva actually gay? "You could read it that way," he told EW. "That option was there in the script. The word that [director Sam Mendes] kept using was 'uncomfortableness.' Beyond the sexuality, he wanted it to feel like you don’t know if Silva’s joking or not.” Either way, Bond called his bluff and seemed to suggest he was no stranger to sleeping with men, which sent the Internet in a delightful tizzy.
April 2013 -- Pierce Brosnan has his own pick for the next Bond.
Pierce Brosnan reveals that he's down for a black actor to lead the way next and nominates not Elba, but Colin Salmon, who played the character Charles Robinson in three Bond films. "He's somebody I have worked with closely over the years," he said to The Telegraph. "He would be outstanding and I think it would be absolutely essential."
November 2013 -- Idris Elba Says it's up to the fans.
Speaking to Huffington Post, Elba said that if he ever does become Bond, it will be thanks to "the will of a nation. That would be like, 'Wow, human beings are really powerful. They really made that happen, because Barbra Broccoli certainly didn't' ... it would be the will of a nation because everyone has been saying that to me."
December 4 2014 -- In other news, "Spectre" goes for some much-needed age diversity.
Finally breaking away from the "James Bond sleeps with a woman 20 years his junior" formula, "Spectre" casts Monica Bellucci, 50, as a Bond Girl. Heck yeah!
December 29 2014 -- Even movie executives think Idris Elba should be Bond!
After leaked emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment hit the Internet last Thanksgiving, people rifling through the aftermath discovered a curious email sent by then-Sony executive Amy Pascal to Elizabeth Cantillon, former executive Vice President of production at Columbia Pictures, saying that, “Idris should be the next Bond.” Naturally, Elba responded accordingly (above).
March 2015 -- Hey, what about a female Bond?
British Labor Party leader Ed Milibrand met former Bond Girl Rosamund Pike on the campaign trail and put her name in for the next secret agent. "I think she's a great British actress, she'd make a great Bond,” he said. "This is 2015, I think we can move with the times." Of course, people accused him of trying to ruin pop culture forever. Sigh.
April, 2015 -- A former Bond villain decidedly does not like the idea.
Remember Yaphet Kotto, the guy who played the first black villain in a Bond movie? While speaking to The Big Issue, he declared that James Bond could never be black. "Political correctness be damned, we have to stay with what is literally correct. He was established by Ian Fleming as a white character, played by white actors. It’s silly. Play 003 or 006 but you cannot be 007."
"A lot of people say we should be allowed to play everything," he added. "Don’t be ridiculous. If I say I want to play JFK I should be laughed out the room. Why should James Bond be black? It’s silly." I mean, tell that to the black and hispanic men and women currently rocking the heck out of the Broadway musical "Hamilton," but okay.
August 13, 2015 -- An actual real live black actor gets attached to play Bond.
Again, kind of -- "Selma" star David Oyelowo was officially invited by the Ian Fleming estate to read the audiobook of "Trigger Mortis," their latest Bond novel written by Anthony Horowitz. Remember, that's the one where open lesbian Pussy Galore also returns to the Bond canon -- and according to Horowitz he also has an "outspoken gay friend," too.
August 26, 2015 -- Pierce Brosnan is pretty sure Bond will never be gay.
While speaking to Details, Pierce Brosnan admits that while he doesn't care one way or the other, it will probably be a while before we see a Bond who is openly gay. "I don't know how it would work. I don't think Barbara [Broccoli] would allow a gay Bond to happen in her lifetime," he said. But it would certainly make for interesting viewing. Let's start with a great black actor being James Bond. Idris Elba certainly has the physicality, the charisma, the presence. But I think Daniel [Craig] will be there for a while yet.
August 29, 2015 -- Idris Elba, too "street" for Bond.
And then, of course, Anthony Horowitz shakes (not stirs) the Internet up be describing fan favorite Idris Elba as "too street" to play Bond while speaking to The Daily Mail. “Idris Elba is a terrific actor, but I can think of other black actors who would do it better,” he said. “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”
After critics pointed out that Elba is literally the most suave, dapper person on the entire planet, the author apologized on Twitter (above) a few days later. But it's okay, because Idris Elba ain't even bothered. "Always Keep Smiling!!," he wrote on Instagram. "It takes no energy and never hurts! Learned that from the Street!! ? #septemberstillloveyou"
September 1, 2015 -- Daniel Craig is committed to not being a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur."
In an interview with Esquire UK, he commented on Bond's tendency to treat women -- you know, less than fairly. "Hopefully my Bond is not as sexist and misogynistic as [earlier incarnations]. The world has changed. I am certainly not that person," he said. "But he is, and so what does that mean? It means you cast great actresses and make the parts as good as you can for the women in the movies."
September 17, 2015 -- Oyelowo still believes in the cause.
On an episode of "Charlie Rose," David Oyelowo said on the prospect of Idris Elba taking on a Bond-like role: "I think the audience is basically telling our audience what it wants to see, and our industry is saying it has to be a white good looking guy time and again. Television is showing us that it doesn't have to be, and the audience are basically doing to stop watching if you don't give them what they want."
September 21, 2015 -- Brosnan weighs in on a female Bond.
Former Bond Pierce Brosnan, however, is less optimistic -- or maybe less resistant to change. “Anything is possible for sure, but I think he’ll be male and he’ll be white.” he said to the Press Association of the next person to play Bond. “There’s wonderful black actors out there who could be James Bond, and there’s no reason why you cannot have a black James Bond. But a female James Bond, no, I think it has to be male. James Bond is a guy, he’s all male. His name is James, his name is James Bond.”
September 26, 2015 -- But in the end, it'll also probably still be Daniel Craig.
Welp, so much for all of that -- despite hinting that he might be leaving the franchise soon, Craig told the Daily Mail that he's contractually obligated to make one more Bond movie and that he plans to "keep going as long as I’m physically able.”
September 27, 2015 -- And if not, Bond will definitely still be white.
Strong rumors began to circulate that "Homeland" star Damien Lewis is the top choice to potentially replace Daniel Craig after "Spectre." As you will notice, he is white and male. So, guess Brosnan was probably onto something there.