Idris Elba recently shot down rumors that he would be the next actor suited up to play James Bond, becoming the first African-American in the role. Now, a British historian is telling audiences that a female version of the English spy could be decades away.
Jeremy Black, a 007 expert who recently published “The World of James Bond,” told Fox News that it could take as long as 20 or 30 years for a female star to shake things up on the big screen.
“I can’t see why it shouldn’t happen,” he explained on whether the next Bond should be a woman. “But I’ll tell you one reason I don’t think it’s going to happen. If you’re looking at James Bond as a commercial product, the leading film market in the world is the United States. And an increasing portion of the James Bond market is in the Far East, South Asia and in parts of the world where their values are different, shall we say.
“These are more male-centered societies. And in those societies, I think it would be a hard sell to have your leading secret agent as a female. Now that may well change in 20, 30 years’ time. But I think one has to be aware there are commercial reasons.”
TheWrap.com previously reported the last 007 film, 2015’s “Spectre,” was the second-highest grossing entry in the franchise with $750 million global rung up by December. It also outperformed 2012’s “Skyfall,” in several foreign markets, specifically in China, where it had taken in $83 million since opening on Nov. 13, compared to the $59 million overall taken in by the previous film.
Both films starred British actor Daniel Craig, who currently has four Bond films under his belt. The 50-year-old is set to return in the still-untitled movie, known now as “Bond 25.”
While the idea of the first female Bond in a film would easily stir headlines, Black pointed out it would be a major gamble for a franchise that has “Star Wars” as its biggest competitor financially.
“The present Bond films are much more action-oriented,” he explained. “More fights, fast chases and less talk than in the films of the 1960s or ‘70s. That is because more of the audience is people who don't speak English as their first language. The fights and chases make much more sense to them than if you’re going to have a lot of conversation. And it is a commercial product."
Elba voiced his support for a female Bond to Variety in January.
“Are we interested in having a Bond character other than being a male?” said the 46-year-old British actor. “It could be a woman — could be a black woman, could be a white woman. Do something different with it. Why not?”
But Rachel Weisz, an Academy Award-winning actress who is married to Craig, told The Telegraph in February she was not into the idea of a female Bond because the mastermind behind the stories, English author and naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming, “devoted an awful lot of time to writing this particular character, who is particularly male and relates in a particular way to women.”
“Why not create your own story rather than jumping onto the shoulders and being compared to all those other male predecessors?” added Weisz, 48. “Women are really fascinating and interesting, and should get their own stories.”
Still, Black is hopeful that the future will bring a female 007.
“My guess is that at some stage, they will go for a female James Bond,” he said.
But Black pointed out the most famous spy in cinematic history has already been changing with the times.
“If you look at the recent films, James Bond as a character has been having fewer female relationships,” he explained. “He’s become a serial monogamist. Whereas Roger Moore’s James Bond usually had multiple partners, one after the other, in the same film. Now, there’s generally one female partner and there’s very little emphasis on that side.
“James Bond doesn’t really smoke anymore. He drinks a little bit just to deliver his signature line. And while he has little to no sex, he kills far more people than ever before. It is a strange aspect of the political correctness of the character.”
There are currently 26 films dedicated to Bond in Hollywood. Black said it has maintained a specific formula in its story, which has been the secret behind its lasting success, despite its changing roster of actors embodying the leading role.
“In a way, having a secret agent who was British, not American, was less controversial in many foreign markets,” he explained. “But essentially fast chases, cars, attractive women, sinister villains, a plot where James Bond has to be captured, a villain that rather just shooting him, explains what he is going to do, this quest to save the world — that seems to be a market that operates very well for different groups.”
When it comes to actors who have played Bond, Black has his favorites.
“I can believe Sean Connery killing someone with his bare hands,” he said. “I find that very difficult to believe of Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. The one who is most liked of the original stories is Timothy Dalton. The James Bond of the stories… He kills people, but he’s quite troubled. Timothy Dalton best presents that. [But] ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ was Sean Connery at his most polished… It just worked.”