Who should play the iconic role of James Bond always inspires strong opinions, but Anthony Horowitz, the author most recently commissioned to continue the book series, sparked a serious controversy with his thoughts on the matter. After calling actor Idris Elba — a rumored frontrunner to take over for Daniel Craig — “too street” to play the famed fictional spy in a recent interview with Daily Mail, there was so much backlash online that Horowitz realized an apology was due. He posted a lengthy tweet today, claiming that he was “mortified to have caused offence.”
The public wrath inspired by Horowitz’s initial comments blew up on Twitter, where the author was criticized for using “too street” and “too rough” as another way of saying “too black.” Though he’d tried to preface his comments by saying he could think of “other black actors who would do it better,” his reasoning for why Elba wasn’t the best candidate was pretty weak. Horowitz implied that Elba wasn’t “suave” enough, which, as anyone who’s dipped into the talented actor’s long body of work can attest, is a stretch to say the least.
In essence, Horowitz’ point about “other black actors” could be considered a point of contention in itself — many would argue the alleged consideration of Elba for the role has much more to do with the actor’s talent and gravitas on screen than his race.
Elba fans on Twitter were more than happy to speak up for the British actor, posting comments that poked holes in Horowitz’s argument in a variety of ways: Many pointed out just how suave he actually is (using photos of Elba looking every inch the dapper spy in tailored tuxes); others focused on the fact that acting is about embodying whomever your character happens to be; and still others highlighted that race should be a non-issue given how often white actors have played non-white characters.
Horowitz responded to the controversy today by trying to clarify his opinion. He shared that he thought Adrian Lester, another black actor, would be better suited to the role of Bond. He also apologized for “clumsily” describing Elba’s “gritty” portrayal of DCI John Luther in the self-titled British crime show as “street.”
I’m really sorry my comments about Idris Elba have caused offence [full statement attached] pic.twitter.com/UD6ouA45Uv
— Anthony Horowitz (@AnthonyHorowitz) September 1, 2015
It may not have been Horowitz’s intent to imply that a black actor shouldn’t play everyone’s favorite British spy, but he’s correct that his word choice was poor. It’s also clear that he should bone up on Idris Elba’s filmography before discounting him as the next 007.