David Oyelowo has become the first black actor to play James Bond – in audiobook form at least.
After appearing as Martin Luther King to much acclaim in the film Selma, Oyelowo, 39, will portray 007 and other characters in a recording of Trigger Mortis, a new Bond novel by Anthony Horowitz, The Guardian reported.
“I was asked specifically by the [original author Ian] Fleming estate, which is really special,” he said.
“I am officially the only person on planet Earth who can legitimately say ‘I am the new James Bond’… even saying that name is the cinematic equivalent of doing the ‘to be or not to be’ speech.”
He has form in playing a British security service agent, starring as MI5 officer Danny Hunter in BBC spy drama Spooks.
However Oyelowo said another black British actor, Idris Elba, was “ripe” for the screen role of Bond.
Elba, who first found fame after moving to the US to appear in the acclaimed crime drama The Wire, was “a titan on screen, he has all the qualities that you’d want in a James Bond”, Oyelowo said.
“Because films and TV affect culture, a black Bond would be a cultural event, a statement, beyond just entertainment,” he added.
Oyelowo appeared as Henry VI in the Royal Shakespeare Company, a casting decision that was criticised because of the colour of his skin.
“[One academic] said that we open ourselves to ridicule if we allow black people to play English kings when English kings have never been black. But I’ve never seen an Egyptian play Cleopatra,” Oyelowo said.
He was also sent hate mail along the lines of “how dare you enter a realm that is not yours to enter?”
The actor, who now lives in Los Angeles, said: “It’s upsetting. I had letters coming through to the stage door. This was over 10 years ago now, so you’d hope that wouldn’t be the case now.”
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