At a recent New York City press event for the upcoming James Bond film Skyfall, actress Noamie Harris, who plays Bond’s fellow agent Eve, said that there was no discussion on set of the various actors’ races and that actresses of several different racial backgrounds auditioned for the part she ended up playing. And now it looks like those race-blind casting choices may go even further for the franchise: in an interview with The Huffington Post that was published this week, Harris said that the British actor Idris Elba—with whom Harris recently filmed Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, in which she and Elba play Winnie and Nelson Mandela—has been in talks to play James Bond. Elba told Harris that he had spoken to Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, she said.
It’s not too hard to see why producers would be attracted to Elba: He’s a London native and has the acting cred and action (and humor) experience to get the job done. Elba was a regular on The Wire and had a story arc on the U.S. version of The Office; on the big screen, he recently appeared in Thor and Prometheus. This year, he won a Golden Globe for his performance in the BBC series Luther.
And Broccoli’s fellow producer Michael G. Wilson recently told TIME that they were always updating James Bond, to keep the franchise going over the decades. “The character himself is very rich so you can always find a way,” he said. “It’s just a matter of saying how he reacts under [new] conditions.”
While the idea of a black James Bond may have seemed outlandish to those who created the first Bond films 50 years ago, it’s not exactly a new idea. Back in 2008, Daniel Craig—who even got some flack initially for being the first blond Bond—suggested the idea himself. And rumors of Elba’s casting have been around at least since last fall, when the actor discussed the idea with NPR, during an interview in which he noted that, while he would definitely consider the role (“I’d not only get in the cab [to meet with producers] but I’d take the taxi driver out of the car, hostage…jump out while it was moving, jump onto a pedal bike that was just past the door as I got on it, and then get onto a plane—on the wing—land on top of Sony Studios, slide through the air conditioning, and land in the office,” he said), he wouldn’t want to be known as just “the black James Bond.”
But, as enticing as Elba’s taxi fantasy may be, audiences would have a while to wait for it. The role won’t change hands any time soon: according to NME, Craig will fill 007’s tux at least two more times before it is given to someone else.