'I can't talk about Bond any more': Idris Elba

13 December 2015 - 02:00 By Chris Harvey

When chatting to Idris Elba about the new series of 'Luther', Chris Harvey discovers it's best not to mention 007 It's 30 minutes and three seconds into my interview with Idris Elba when the "B" word is first used. "Can we talk about the media obsession with you playing James Bond?" I ask him. "Can we not?" he says forcefully.Why not? "Because it feels like I'm campaigning, and I'm not. At first it was harmless - oh, I know, wouldn't it be great? - and now it's started off racial debates. I'm probably the most famous Bond actor in the world, and I've not even played the role. Enough is enough. I can't talk about it any more."story_article_left1He leans back. This has been going on for six or seven years now, but it came to a head when a leaked e-mail from the 2014 hack into Sony revealed that there was talk about it at the highest level at the studio.Amy Pascal, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment's motion pictures group, apparently wrote: "Idris should be the next Bond." Then author Anthony Horowitz suggested the Hackney, London-born star was too "street" to play the Establishment spy, leading to raised voices from Elba's supporters, though not from Elba himself, who brushed it off with a witty riposte on Instagram.The 43-year-old has just got on with building an impressive film and television career - Pacific Rim, Thor, Mandela - that has been moving forward ever since he made his name playing the calculating drug dealer, Stringer Bell, in the landmark TV series The Wire in the early Noughties. He says he still considers it his defining role.Today, though, he's in town to talk about the return of another character he has made utterly his own: detective John Luther, from the adrenalising murder thriller Luther, which is back for a fourth series. It's a drama that answers a racial debate all by itself, about the almost complete absence of black lead characters on British TV.He won't answer questions about discrimination in the industry."As soon as you say discrimination, you're planting seeds over and over again. I don't want to be called a black actor. You've got a generation of people who just want to move forward, not keep going on about the past."Elba has an extraordinarily commanding screen presence, and Luther is a perfect fit. Luther's fearlessness finds an echo in Elba's: "I'm intimidated by the idea of being overcome by fear. I see how fear makes people make a lot of decisions that aren't insightful because they're worried or scared. I don't want ever want to be that person who doesn't do something because they're worried about it or because it might be the wrong move." - © The Daily Telegraph, London

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.