In a recent interview in the British newspaper the Guardian, Barbara Broccoli, the executive producer of the James Bond film series, basically ruled out the idea that Ian Fleming’s beloved and iconic character would be portrayed by an actress once actor Daniel Craig gave up the role.
“Bond is male,” Ms. Broccoli told the Guardian. “He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.”
Ms. Broccoli, 58, the head of EON productions and daughter of the late Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, the EON producer of the Bond series that began with “Dr. No” in 1963, added, “We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”
The drive to have a female Bond perhaps began when actress Gillian Anderson retweeted a photoshopped image of her replacing Daniel Craig in a “Skyfall” movie poster.
“It’s Bond. Jane Bond,” she wrote, partly, I presume, in jest.
Ms. Broccoli’s idea that film makers should let Bond be Bond and simply create more female characters of their own can also be applied to those who wish to see James Bond portrayed by a black actor.
There are those, mostly on the political left, who have been calling for Idris Elba or another black actor to be cast as the next Bond, even though many of them are probably not truly Bond fans. Like former Sony chairperson Amy Pascal, a liberal, financial backer of President Obama, they believe that a black Bond would signify a political, social and cultural milestone.
David Oyelowo, a fine black actor, suggested that Idris Elba portraying Bond would be a cultural event, a cultural statement that would go beyond entertainment.
But should a popular literary and cinematic character serve as a political, social and cultural statement rather than simply entertainment?
If there were multiple TV and film productions of Ian Fleming’s stories featuring James Bond, as there are with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, few would care if one or more of the productions offered a black, female or gay actor as Bond. But the character of James Bond is the exclusive property of Eon Productions, so the actor playing Bond for them is the one and only screen representation of Ian Fleming’s character. So that screen representation, it seems to me, should be a white male, just as the late, great thriller writer envisioned him.
Just as I think that only a black actor should portray Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins. Rawlins, a fictional character created by black crime novelist Walter Mosley, is a black, street-wise, hard-boiled private detective and WWII veteran. Rawlins was portrayed on screen by black actor Denzel Washington in 1995’s “Devil in a Blue Dress.”
And just as I think that Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara character from “Gone With the Wind” should be portrayed only by a woman.
I first saw Sean Connery as James Bond in “Dr No” in 1963 when I was a pre-teen. I went on to read Ian Fleming’s James Bond thrillers and was pleased to discover that the novels were darker and more complex than the films. I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado ever since.
More than 100 million other Ian Fleming fans, many of whom are women, have read his James Bond novels. Millions upon millions more have watched the successful James Bond film series.
The late Sir Roger Moore, who died in May of last year at the age of 89, portrayed James Bond in seven films, beginning with 1973’s “Live and Let Die” to 1985’s “A View to a Kill.” He weighed in on the idea of a female, gay or black James Bond in an interview with the Daily Mail newspaper in 2015.
“I have heard people talk about how there should be a lady Bond or a gay Bond.” Sir Roger Moore said. “But they wouldn’t be Bond for the simple reason that wasn’t what Ian Fleming wrote. It is not about being homophobic or, for that matter, racist — it is simply about being true to the character.”
Ian Fleming, a British journalist who served as a naval intelligence officer in World War II, sat down at his typewriter at his Jamaican Goldeneye villa in 1952 and created James Bond in his first thriller, “Casino Royale.” He based his character on the secret agents and commandos he met during the war. He also added to the character what he called his personal quirks and characteristics.
Gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation should have no place in the selection of an actor to portray James Bond. In my view, the actor should reflect the character as Ian Fleming created him: A ruggedly handsome, physically tough, white, male Brit.
• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.