James Bond franchise needs a revamp — regardless of Danny Boyle's exit, Idris Elba's disinterest

Gautam Chintamani

August 26, 2018 12:21:02 IST

The chatter surrounding Idris Elba taking over as the new James Bond surfaced yet again a few days ago and once again, they were accompanied by a general sense of joy for fans. Elba even stoked the rumours by tweeting, ‘My name’s Elba, Idris Elba,” and by putting his own spin on one of the most famous cinematic catchphrases in the world, everyone wondered if Elba was indeed taking over from Daniel Craig. With Danny Boyle directing the next Bond adventure, the prospect of someone like Elba being cast as James Bond only made the franchise more enticing. After all, if there was one sure shot way to break the Bond’s monotony then it was the inclusion of new, fresh blood like Boyle and Elba. And then, all it took was just a couple of days for the reverie to break — first came the news of Boyle walking out following ‘creative differences’ with Craig apparently over the casting of the villain and then Elba himself said that he was not going to be the next Bond.

Director Idris Elba poses for a portrait to promote the film "Yardie" at the Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

Idris Elba. Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

While officially things might stand as they do but there is no denying that if just the idea of someone like an Idris Elba portraying James Bond could get people to sit up, imagine the reactions when such a thing finally happens. Every decade and a half, the producers of James Bond try rebooting the franchise by getting a new actor to play the world’s best-known spy and this is a ploy that has rarely failed to deliver. In the late 1980s, when the late Roger Moore was all set to hang his boots as Bond, the grapevine was abuzz with a certain Pierce Brosnan taking over the reins. Brosnan had been playing the titular role in the hit TV series Remington Steele where he is  conman coerced by a woman, Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist), to ‘become’ the man her detective agency is named after as the world doesn’t respect the idea of a woman private investigator. The success of the show made Brosnan a frontrunner as the character of Steele had all the necessary charm, wit and charisma to become James Bond but certain contractual obligations prevented Brosnan from accepting the role of James Bond.

A few years later when Timothy Dalton called it quits as Bond after two films The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989), which remains one of the most underrated Bond films, Brosnan finally got his shot and his first appearance GoldenEye (1995) gave the then three-decade-old super spy a brilliant makeover. There had not been a Bond film nearly six years and the reaction to GoldenEye ensured that every newer generation of the audience needed their own Bond. By the time Daniel Craig became James Bond with Casino Royale (2006), not only was there a new leading man but the entire series was rebooted where the audience saw how James Bond got his license to kill. Traditionally, it’s the actor playing James Bond who attracts the most attention but with the last two Bond productions, it’s also the one helming the film who has become a talking point. This change happened with Oscar-winning Sam Mendes directing Skyfall (2012), which released on the 50th anniversary of the series and was also critically acclaimed besides becoming the first Bond film to gross more than $1 billion. Mendes also got the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins to shoot the film, which added gravitas to the film and the presence of Javier Bardem as the main villain enhanced the overall production value.

FILE - In this March 15, 2018 file photo, director Danny Boyle attends FX Networks' annual all-star party in New York. Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, along with star Daniel Craig, announced Tuesday that Danny Boyle has exited the project over “creative differences.” (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, along with star Daniel Craig, announced that Danny Boyle has exited the project over “creative differences.” Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

What made Bond different post-Skyfall was the manner in which critics came to look at the series beyond its thrill-every-minute template. Being judged as ‘one of the best Bond films till date’ made Skyfall the yardstick to compare all future Bond films and in fact, the impact of Skyfall was such that the next film, Spectre (2015), which was also directed by Mendes, ended up looking uninspired despite Craig garnering some of his best reviews. The general consensus on Spectre made it clear that a sense of burnout was now more than apparent in the series and the only way it could be undone was by someone like a Danny Boyle directing. Once Boyle agreed fans, as well as the producers, knew that something fascinating was in store.

The manner in which the choice of the filmmaker directing Bond invariably ends up making all the difference, the choice of the leading man is truly the bigger X-factor. Truth be told, James Bond is no different from most successful franchises and no matter what one does there is a sense of predictability that seeps in if the same actor plays Bond for more than two films. Brosnan was nothing less gold in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) but he looked jaded in The World is Not Enough (1999) and by the time he did Die Another Day (2002), he was as bored as some of the viewers. The enthusiasm that greeted the announcement of Daniel Craig taking over from Brosnan was hardly anything to report and to his credit, Craig has made Bond more in sync with this generation but if the next actor to portray James Bond is cut from the same fabric (read white male), it’s not going to break new ground. Personally, the prospect of Boyle directing the next instalment or Elba playing Bond is enough to line up at the ticket counter and keeping in mind that neither is going to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future — the producers would need to do some truly out of the box thinking with the next Bond.

Daniel Craig as James Bond. Image via Twitter

Daniel Craig as James Bond. Image via Twitter

All things considered, the double-whammy of Boyle walking out and Elba confirming that he won’t be Bond could only be undone with something groundbreaking — perhaps the first female 007. And, why not? There have been enough voices in the past suggesting the same and these range from the British PM Theresa May to Idris Elba himself asking to do something different with the series. Even Barbara Broccoli, one of the producers of James Bond, is open to the idea of a person of colour or a woman playing Bond as she believes that as Bond films tend to reflect the times and “anything is possible.”

Updated Date: Aug 26, 2018 12:33 PM