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David Oyelowo “Playing” 007 in An Audiobook Is Both Significant and Insignificant

Actor David Oyelowo poses at a screening of the film "Selma" during AFI Fest 2014 in Hollywood, California November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR4DTAN

Is this a big deal?  It seems like it is, but is it really?

According to the Guardian, the Ian Fleming Estate has hand-picked Selma‘s David Oyelowo (aka, the man who did a damn fine Martin Luther King, Jr. impersonation) to play 007.  Whoa.  Daniel Craig is leaving?  No, no.  Put down your “Down with the blonde Bond!” banner.  That’s not what’s happening here.  Spectre is still coming out later this year, and there’s been no announcement that it shall mark the end of Craig’s tenure with the franchise.  Oyelowo isn’t replacing him.  Instead, Oyelowo will simply be providing his voice to an audiobook version of Trigger Mortis, a new James Bond continuation novel written by Anthony Horowitz.

So, you’re telling me that the first black man to play James Bond will being so in an entirely audio medium?  We won’t be able to see him play Bond, but if we listen to the audiobook and close our eyes we can tell ourselves, “That’s a black man reading those lines.  I am so [excited/incensed]!”  But then we’ll get to experience the confusion of hearing him also read all of the other lines in the book thus not really making it seem like someone is playing a role as much as someone is simply reading us a book with a goofy title.  Hopefully someone else will read Pussy Galore’s lines.  Oh, I just buried the lead there.  This book will resurrect the Pussy Galore character.

Progress?

Not really because the internet has already proved this whole thing to be factually incorrect.  Yes, Oyelowo will be reading this new audiobook and thus kind of, sort of playing James Bond, but he’s not the first black guy to get that honor.  That distinction goes to Hugh Quarshie, who read the audiobook for Dr. No.

Hugh_Quarshie

Hi. I’m Hugh Quarshie.

This story seemed like such a conversation starter, re-igniting the divisive argument over whether or not we’ll ever be able to accept a black version of James Bond.  However, no great door has been kicked down here.  The only reason this is notable is because David Oyelowo is someone we know thanks to Selma.  A black actor we don’t know already got to be “the first black 007,” but that distinction doesn’t mean much when it’s exclusive to audiobooks.

But The Guardian took a wider view on it, “Oyelowo believes black actors still have huge obstacles to overcome. He is not alone. The director Rufus Norris has said that the UK still lags behind the US in casting black actors, while the comedian Lenny Henry has spoken of work having ‘dried up’ for home-grown black, Asian and minority actors. David Harewood, who stars in the hit drama Homeland, is among black actors who have left Britain to find work.”

In fact, Oyelowo has lived in Los Angeles since 2007, “Part of the reason I moved to America was I could feel my head bobbing against this glass ceiling that wasn’t going to break.”

Getting to do the audiobook isn’t exactly breaking any glass ceiling, but it might weaken it enough for Idris Elba to break through since he’s been the rumored frontrunner to replace Craig for years.  Oyelow, for one, would love to see that happen, “[Elba’s] a titan on screen, he has all the qualities that you’d want in a James Bond. Because films and TV affect culture, a black Bond would be a cultural event … a statement … beyond just entertainment.”

But James Bond is white.

Yeah, but does he have to be?  It’s like the “Should the Doctor on Doctor Who be female” all over again?

Source: BirthMoviesDeath, The Guardian

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About Kelly Konda (1858 Articles)
Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

9 Comments on David Oyelowo “Playing” 007 in An Audiobook Is Both Significant and Insignificant

  1. I’m fairly neutral on the whole “Should Bond be black?” argument. Sure, progress is progress, diversity is good, and all, but, by the time Craig retires, Elba (definitely a great candidate for the role, don’t get me wrong) will be somewhere between 45 and 50, not a good age to start Bond. Moore was 46 when he started, and he only arguably got in 5 films before he looked too old, and he was past the limit when he hit his 7th. Do we want to finally get Elba as Bond, only to drop him only a few films later? And if not Elba, who?
    Then, of course, there’s the problem of the in-universe explanation. M has been female, with an explanation in the Brosnan era, she’s a different character then Bernard Lee/Robert Brown. In the Craig films, there has never been a different M that Bond worked for, it’s a new timeline. The same goes for why both Felix Leiter and Miss Moneypenny have changed races. But to do this again, with Bond, you’d need either another reboot, or to ignore the race-swap entirely, which I’m not sure is the right road to take.
    Basically, there’s an argument to make on either side. I don’t really care who’s Bond next.

    • I’m with you on this. I get the arguments on both sides, but I don’t really care who plays Bond next. Black guy, white guy, I’m cool with either. I just found it inherently hilarious to see some people touting the oyelowo thing as huge progress when he’s been cast in the one place where it absolutely does not matter what skin color he has, but then a I read more about it and saw that with the way black actors struggle for work in the UK this is legitimately seen as some tiny bit of progress.

      • The only thing I’d be against is if they cast an American actor. Then we’d have another Barry Nelson on our hands.

      • Ah, good point. I forgot about that particular angle on the story. Btw, isn’t it weird that the Brits are getting so many of the roles as American icon superheroes but the idea of an American playing Bond is a total nonstarter. That’s one cultural exchange which only goes one way. If they ever make a Captain Britain movie it’s only fair that a non-Brit gets to play him.

      • I guess it’s just how definitively Connery created the role that no one faking an accent could attempt to follow, so nobody did. And the tradition is far, far too ingrained now to change it up. Though we did get a Scotsman (Connery), an Australian (Lazenby), and an Irishman (Brosnan). In fact, there have only been two times that he’s been played by an Englishman (Moore and Craig).
        But with superheroes, there’s usually no one to compare it to, and faking an American accent is easier than a British accent. But I’d love to see a Captain Britain movie with an American actor. It’d be even funnier if he didn’t even do an accent, just exaggerated his American accent, see if it annoys anybody.

      • It’d be like the Valkyrie of superhero movies (where basically nobody playing WWII Nazis bothered with attempting a German accent). I am now deeply amused by Captain Britain with a barely disguised American accent.

      • It starts out with one camera angle where he has an at least passable British accent, and then cuts to another, where he continues to talk in a barely disguised Chris Pratt-ish accent. He continues with this voice for the rest of the movie. Brilliant!

      • And no one in America will notice but the critics and fans in the UK will crucify them, kind of like how the UK was really hard on Russell Crowe ‘ s Robin Hood accent and not nearly as many people in the US cared.

      • Perfect! Us Americans will finally have revenge for what’s-his-face’s slipping accent in Pacific Rim!

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