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SYFY WIRE James Bond

Idris Elba sets record straight on James Bond teases: 'It was a joke. I swear to God.'

By Matthew Jackson
Idris Elba 2019 SNL promo

Over the weekend, Idris Elba hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time, and between sketches in which he played a very different version of the Hulk and a magician with an ill-fitting assistant, he also made time for yet another James Bond joke. 

In a sketch called "Can I Play That?" Elba was an actor on a game show who was asked whether or not he could play various roles without Twitter calling him out for not staying in his lane. As the sketch was ending, the host of the show (Kenan Thompson), teased that when they came back from break, they would ask the contestants if they could play James Bond.

"Hey, I know the answer to that one!" Elba shouted. 

The comment was the latest in a long line of teases Elba has launched in the direction of the massive segment of the internet that would love for him to be the next 007 after Daniel Craig retires from the role (presumably upon completion of the upcoming Bond 25). Many fans have campaigned for Elba to get the role for years, placing him atop polls and bringing up his name whenever speculation over the next Bond flares up, and whenever the fans get particularly loud about it, Elba leans in with a playful wink and a nod.

This seemed to reach a crescendo last summer, when Elba tweeted a photo with a caption that adapted Bond's most famous line to his own name. 

Elba followed up that tweet days later with an outright denial that he was actually up for the role, but even that wasn't the end of it. Earlier this year, Elba happened to be sitting next to Craig at the Golden Globe Awards, and the pair decided to make light of their connection with a playful photo.

So, Elba has never actually said he's fighting for the role of Bond, but he's also never been shy about teasing fans about it either, which begs the question: Would he actually be interested at this point?

In a new profile at The Hollywood Reporter, promoting his upcoming Netflix series Turn Up Charlie, Elba tries to set the record straight after all of those winks in Bond's direction. According to writer Lacy Rose, he has never been "formally approached" about the possibility of playing the character, and it's "not necessarily the career move he's after." One of the chief focuses of the profile is Elba's drive to continued to take on many and varied projects — he refers to his career as a "buffet" — and the Bond franchise would certainly limit his freedom in some ways. He's also nearly 50, while Craig is set to end his time with the physically demanding role at age 51.

All of this paints a picture of an actor who enjoys the social media flattery, but doesn't seem to take the lure of the role itself seriously. So, why the teasing tweet? Here's Elba's explanation:

"I took the piss a little," he said, "but I was also reminding people that I never got referred to as James Bond. So, I was like, hello, my name is Elba. Idris Elba. It was a joke. I swear to God."

Bearing all of this in mind, it seems likely that if Elba really did ever consider playing Bond — a possibility that feels somewhat remote at this stage — he would either be more forthright about it, or say nothing at all. 

Turn Up Charlie arrives March 15 on Netflix.