THE DAY I WAS NEARLY IDRIS ELBA’S BOND GIRL

Idris Elba would be a great Bond, says Celia Walden

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“My name’s Elba, Idris Elba.” Twenty-seven char­ac­ters were all it took to send the Twit­ter­sphere into melt­down. That and a 007-tas­tic selfie of the Hack­ney-born Luther star — cropped to the point of in­scrutabil­ity. Af­ter four years’ con­jec­ture that Elba was to be the first black Bond, was this con­fir­ma­tion? Or was it — the time on the tweet reads 1.02am, af­ter all — just a tit­il­lat­ing “dweet” (drunk tweet, natch)?

Ei­ther way, the retweets came in their thou­sands: ju­bi­lant, vir­u­lent and of­ten plain mo­ronic thoughts on race, new dawns, cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion, artistic in­tegrity, Martin Luther King, the im­por­tance of Bri­tish iden­tity, big­oted ex­trem­ists (from both the left and right), the Bri­tish Em­pire and Hol­ly­wood misog­yny (how could Scar­lett Jo­hans­son be over­looked for the role again?).

De­bates raged over whether or not Ian Flem­ing wrote some of his books in Ja­maica — and, if so, did that re­ally mat­ter given Elba’s fa­ther is from Sierra Leone and his mother from Ghana? Should Tom Cruise now be cast in the

Black Pan­ther se­quel, peo­ple de­manded to know?

And the log­i­cal sequitur: “Will Abu Hamza now play the Queen?”

As en­ter­tain­ing as the en­dur­ing hys­te­ria has been, it does seem to have de­tracted from the only is­sue at hand: would Elba make a good Bond?

Yes. Mak­ing Elba the world’s eighth Bond may be a po­lit­i­cally cor­rect choice, but it would also be the cor­rect choice. He’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tor — with just the right men­ace-to-vul­ner­a­bil­ity ra­tio and who can rock a Tom Ford suit bet­ter than any cat­walk model. Women and men crush on him (a cru­cial 007 re­quire­ment that’s ab­sent from most ac­tors’ CVs) and I, for one, want to hear that silky voice stip­u­lat­ing “shaken, not stirred”. And that’s not a racial thing, but a smooth­ness thing. He even man­aged to make a sea lion in Find­ing

Dory sound sexy. So if his tweet does turn out to be a teaser to his for­mal anoint­ment, then I wouldn’t just say Bar­bara Broc­coli had made the right choice but that Elba could end up be­ing the best Bond in more than 30 years.

I shouldn’t like the guy as much as I do. When I sat down with him in a New York ho­tel years ago, he made me wait 90 min­utes (some­thing on-the-up ac­tors tend to do when they’re still at the pis­tol fin­gers in the bath­room mir­ror stage) be­fore saun­ter­ing in with a bot­tle of Bud in his hand. The great act­ing I knew about, from his por­trayal of Stringer Bell in The

Wire, but, within min­utes, Elba had won me over with the voice, the smile and the flirti­ness. And if I hadn’t been go­ing out with my hus­band at the time, I would’ve agreed to have din­ner with him when he asked me. That’s the clos­est I’ll ever get to be­ing a Bond girl.

Per­haps the most charm­ing thing about him was his lack of pom­pos­ity about every­thing from his first role in Crime­watch (“play­ing a guy who chopped his girl­friend up and put her in the freezer ... shot at the ac­tual crime scene”) to what he called “the ele­phant in the room”.

“There are only so many roles for black ac­tors in Eng­land. Peo­ple get all ex­cited,” he went on, adopt­ing a hys­ter­i­cal voice. “‘That’s racist,’ they say. It’s not racist. If you go to Africa and you’re white, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to get that much work ei­ther.”

With Daniel Craig back next year in the 25th Bond film (his last) — be­lieved to be based on Ray­mond Ben­son’s Never Dream of

Dy­ing, Elba’s spy stint may still be a way off. But, to swing back to the haters for a mo­ment: he’s not too old at 45, it wouldn’t be “PC gone f***en mad”, and the movie wouldn’t have to in­volve Bond be­ing sub­jected to a se­ries of mi­croag­gre­sions that would in­clude “be­ing pulled over in his As­ton Martin” and ID’d by racist cops.

We’ve gone from 6ft2 Scots and dim­plechinned Welsh and Ir­ish­men to diminu­tive blond thes­pi­ans with­out any­one, aside from their on-screen fe­male con­quests, bat­ting an eye­lid.

It’s fic­tion, folks, and as long as Bond doesn’t start wear­ing “this is what a fem­i­nist looks like” T-shirts and iden­ti­fy­ing as any­thing other than an amoral ma­cho di­nosaur with a dual spe­cialty in wince-in­duc­ing puns and ghastly double-en­ten­dres, I for one will keep watch­ing.

He’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tor — with just the right men­aceto-vul­ner­a­bil­ity ra­tio and who can rock a Tom Ford suit bet­ter than any cat­walk model.

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