The History Of Idris Elba’s Casting Rumors

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Whenever word breaks that a studio is looking to cast a major role, fans take it upon themselves to throw out their own suggestions. The self-proclaimed social media casting directors often look for actors that physically resemble characters, did well in similar roles, or any of the other qualifiers pulled from a long list. But no matter what system is used, one of the names that seemingly always makes it into these casting rumors is Idris Elba.

Elba first got on most people’s radar when he played Stringer Bell, a Baltimore drug dealer with a penchant for business savvy, in HBO’s The Wire. He later went on to build an impressive portfolio of diverse acting credits that sent his stock rising to new heights.

Contrary to Anthony Horowitz’ misguided criticisms that he’s too “street” to play James Bond, the British actor has played everything from a Norse god in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the vice president of a paper company in The Office, and Nelson Mandela.

Whether they were started by someone casually mentioning his name in an interview or fans being convinced something was meant to be, Idris Elba casting rumors take on lives of their own. In hindsight, some of them may seem a bit far-fetched (like playing multiple characters in the same cinematic universe) but that didn’t stop people from campaigning non-stop to make it happen.

Back when it was time to cast a new charismatic time and space traveler for Doctor Who, everyone was wondering if things would be shaken up a bit and we’d get to see a non-white guy captain the TARDIS. Let’s be honest, having 11 white men play a character that’s supposed to come out of a regeneration looking “different” isn’t going to win you any points in the diversity department. So, when it was announced that Peter Capaldi was cast as the twelfth Doctor, people stood around wondering what happened.

So scriptwriter Neil Gaiman gave us a peek into the secret world of Doctor Who’s casting process and admitted that the role was actually offered to a black actor who turned down the role. Gaiman failed to name said actor, but that didn’t stop people from speculating. Was it Idris? Or was it someone else completely like Chiwetel Ejiofor? No one really knows. But the fact that Idris wasn’t clearly named as the actor that turned down the role, optimistic fans still hope that there’s a chance it’ll happen next regeneration.

Outside of his acting ability, irresistible charm and kickass accent, one of the main reasons that people get behind casting Elba in conceivably every role under the sun is the fact that he could add some much needed diversity to the mix. So whenever there’s an opportunity for a black character to get some spotlight, Elba’s a shoo-in for consideration. This has been the most on display in the superhero film genre.

Idris Elba has been playing Heimdall in the MCU since 2011. Pretty much as a rule, Marvel doesn’t allow anyone to have multiple roles in their films and series. It would just make things confusing and takes away from the depth of the universe. Even though his role in the MCU is pretty much cemented as the omniscient guardian of Asgard, people just couldn’t resist the urge to fan cast Elba as other prominent Marvel characters in hopes that there would be an exception – or because they didn’t know the rule was even a thing.

To be honest, Idris Elba may have worked as the Black Panther (either as an older T’Challa or his father T’Chaka). But when Elba was brought into the MCU, the idea of the Black Panther being introduced wasn’t much more than a nerd’s fantasy. Once news broke that Marvel was actually doing it, people went, “What rules? We want Idris and we want him as the Black Panther!”

"Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom" Portraits - 2013 Toronto International Film Festival
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Earlier this year, Daredevil came out on Netflix and was considered a major success. So much so, that Marvel’s doubled down and announced that they’d continue the trend by giving Luke Cage a shot with his own series. To no surprise, Elba’s name ended up in the hat again. But this time, he was quick to come out and say that someone else had already filled the role, so fans were able to let that dream go.

It started to look like Elba was going to be stuck with golden contact lenses and a pointy helmet for the rest of his superhero career until DC and Warner Brothers revealed the extent of their own extended universe, which includes a film focused on the Green Lantern Corps.

Anyone who’s followed anything Justice League related can tell you that over the past 10 years or so, Hal Jordan’s taken a noticeable backseat to John Stewart when it comes to being the most recognizable Green Lantern. Consequently, fans are hoping that Stewart will be the main member of the Justice League in the DCFU, if not just a supporting role.

As Elba fans have been known to do, they began to campaign that he should play Stewart, if anyone does. With the help of fan concept art and a creative imagination, it would probably work really well. But the rumors went into overdrive when a fan tweeted Elba a picture of him in Green Lantern costume back in 2013 and he said he liked the idea.

Now, this would be conceivable if Elba weren’t already (unhappily?) locked up with Marvel. But, given an interview with The Telegraph, he may not even want to keep the superhero thing going too much longer. He made it pretty clear that going from playing Nelson Mandela to hanging from wires in front of a green screen was pretty humbling.

But, James Bond isn’t a superhero in leather tights. He’s a smooth, capable superspy. Idris Elba is considered by many to be one of the most suave people on the planet (see: GQ and Maxim covers). Plus, he’s actually British. For some, him playing James Bond is a no-brainer. Even Daniel Craig thinks so, which took dreams of Idris asking for a martini shaken, not stirred, to another level. But for others, the idea of a black James Bond, whether it’s Idris or not, is a waste of time.

Even though he admits that neither he nor his people have talked to anyone attached to James Bond, Elba has made it pretty clear that he’d like to play the role. I mean, who wouldn’t? But, for now, it’s all in the hands of the same fans that have made a habit out of campaigning for him to make enough of a buzz that it turns into something. It definitely wouldn’t be the first time they tried to do so.