Not long ago, one of my favorite, but alas now defunct radio shows used to keep an Apology Clock. This time-piece counted very specific numerals: The Apology Clock ticked off each time someone famous was forced to apologize for their indiscretions. Since the Apology Clock is a product of our SJW (short for social justice warrior, a term which is decidedly unfair to actual warriors) climate, most of these “indiscretions” were nothing more than words or phrases. Remember “stick and stones” and all that? Well, the Apology Clock highlighted just how hollow that formerly golden bit of wisdom has become. Consider the recent cases of Justine Sacco, Tim Hunt, and Curt Schilling, among many, many others.
During the last week of August, somebody else landed in hot water. This time around, the hater-in-residence is Anthony Horowitz, a noted thriller writer and James Bond “continuation author” who said something unconscionable. During an interview with The Daily Mail, Horowitz, who recently penned a critically praised Bond novel entitled Trigger Mortis, took time to trash the recent round of Bond films. Skyfall? In Horowitz’s own words: “Skyfall is my least favorite. I know it’s heresy to say so, but it is the one Bond film I have never liked.” Furthermore, in Horowitz’s estimation, the great sin of Skyfall is that “Bond is weak in it. He has doubts. That’s not Bond.”
Hard words, but only Bond aficionados are likely to grouse over such assertions. No, what put Mr. Horowitz on the Apology Clock tour was his summation that Idris Elba, the black British actor who first came to fame in the U.S. as criminal-cum-businessman Russell “Stringer” Bell in the crime drama The Wire, is “too rough,” “too ‘street’” to play the martini-sipping, clubland hero that is James Bond. Although Horowitz did praise Elba as “a terrific actor” in the interview, the social media world and the big journalism echo chamber didn’t want to hear it.
Since going viral, Horowitz has apologized and even did the old two-step by claiming that his words were mischaracterized as racist. Almost as a chore, Elba was forced to weigh in on the matter, replying “Always Keep Smiling!! It takes no energy and never hurts!” (As a final riposte, Elba added “Learned that from the street.”) The coverage so far has made Elba look magnanimous, while Horowitz has been cast in the role of Archie Bunker, or more properly Alf Garnett.
But the question remains: Is Idris Elba “too street” to be Bond? Well, that depends. Frankly, every actor who has ever played the role has faced criticism. Edward Fox, the great aristocratic British actor who is best known for playing King Edward VII in Edward & Mrs. Simpson and the Jackal in Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal, called Daniel Craig, the current Bond, too ugly for the role and leaned on his past friendship with Ian Fleming to back up his opinion. Then of course there’s George Lazenby, who was too Australian for some, and one should never forget Pierce Brosnan, an Irishman and a Roman Catholic. Even Roger Moore initially had his detractors, and in turn he has disparaged Elba, whom so many want to be the next Bond, as not English enough for the part.
Fundamentally, all of these pseudo-controversies make the same fundamental mistake: Fleming’s Bond has never appeared on the screen. From the glory days of Sean Connery, when James Bond became the standard-bearer of the Playboy lifestyle and a sort of joie de vivre underneath the sheets, to today’s much more noir-ish Craig, the hero that Ian Fleming created in the 1950s has never been properly translated to the silver screen.