License to Change. . . The Next James Bond

The new James Bond film “Spectre” will be released this autumn and it may well be Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007. As someone of the same age as Craig I can sympathise with any contradictory thoughts and feelings he might have about entering middle-age and the harsh physical demands of the part, while also not wanting a sense of being ‘washed up’. He may also ponder the fact that he has established a new kind of Bond – more akin to the raw, edgy character of the Ian Fleming novels – and be wanting to stick with a worldwide-fame role and yet, perhaps, crave a return to a more diverse career (he was in the Francis Bacon film-biography “Love is the Devil” in 1998). In truth, no actor who has played Bond has ever really had a say in when they leave.

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If “Spectre” is Craig’s last Bond film one question will demand a speedy answer: Who will be the next Bond?

For my money the immediate response is David Oyelowo.

Oyelowo has a fantastic on-screen presence: good looks, charisma and the requisite winning smile for the moments when he will fire his Walther PPK at super-villains. His recent role in “Selma” as Martin Luther King Jr brought him to the fore in the USA and has made him a ‘name’.

He has a proven track record playing a spy – he was an MI5 agent in the BBC1 series “SPOOKS” and he has just been given the voice-role, playing James Bond, on the audiobook version of the new Anthony Horowitz novel “Trigger Mortis” (I really don’t like that title!)

David Oyelowo

If, as I hope, Oyelowo is awarded the part after Daniel Craig there is bound to be a backlash – just as there was when Craig was offered the role: an infamous website called ‘Bond Not Blonde’ made some morons feel high and mighty for a while, picking physical holes in Craig and outlining their unconsidered reasons why he was completely wrong as 007.

When “Casino Royale” was released the site seemed to disappear …

Let’s just say it. David Oyelowo is black. 

James Bond has been played by a Welshman, a Scot and an Australian. The current Miss Moneypenny is black (Naomie Harris) as is mainstay CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright).

So why shouldn’t Bond be played by a black actor? Or an actor of any ethnic origin? There isn’t a reason other than bigotry.

The Stateside Sherlock Holmes hit TV show “Elementary” has Lucy Liu as Watson and Natalie Dormer as Moriarty. Have there been any social media campaigns to reinstate white, male actors to those leading roles? No, because the show is well-written and the on-screen chemistry works beautifully.

Surely the most important thing about the James Bond films is the quality: the action, the suspense, the thrill-ride into probable death and back, etc. Storytelling is the key.

In my opinion, the worst Bond films featured Roger Moore (quintessentially white, posh and English) – remember the ‘Tarzan moment’ in the execrable “Octopussy”? It still makes me shudder to think about it. The lack of quality in most of Moore’s 007 films was almost certainly the responsibility of the Producers, Screenwriters and the Directors. But, even as a child, I remember thinking how wooden Moore seemed; uncomfortable with action and more intent on delivering the appalling double-entendres with one eyebrow rising as far up his forehead as possible.

We live in a multi-cultural society. We do accept change. The supposed ‘Rise of UKIP’ is bogus when you actually take a look at the size of their membership, lack of councillors, MPs etc. A few people would object to a non-white actor playing Bond – displaying their ignorance and probable outright racism. But if someone reacts like that, frankly I don’t care what they have to say.

So, one more time for those in the cheap seats – it’s ALL about the quality of the film. I’m really looking forward to “Spectre” and what comes after.

Daniel David Gothard ()