Bond Can't Be Black, Says First Black Bond Villain Yaphet Kotto

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer

Yaphet Kotto, the actor who played the first black Bond villain, has said that the character of James Bond should not be played by a black man.

Kotto, who was Dr Kananga in 1973’s ‘Live and Let Die’ opposite Roger Moore’s 007, made the comments during an interview with the Big Issue.

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When asked his opinion on Moore’s remarks to a French newspaper that Bond should be 'English-English’, remarks that Moore has since said were 'lost in translation’, Kotto was emphatic.

“He cannot be black. Political correctness be damned, [we] have to stay with what is literally correct,” he said.

“James Bond was established by Ian Fleming as a white character, played by white actors.

“Play 003 or 006, but you cannot be 007. A lot of people say we should be allowed to play everything. Don’t be ridiculous.

“If I say I want to play JFK, I should be laughed out of the room.

“Black men should stop trying to play roles created by whites. These roles are not written for black men. We have pens [to create] roles that no one else has established.”

Talk of a black Bond has been rife since Daniel Craig suggested that Idris Elba would be a good call to take over from him once he’s done with her majesty’s secret service.

Elba spoke about the on-going rumour only this week at an event at the BFI.

“Honestly, it’s a rumour that’s really starting to eat itself,” he said, confirming that rumoured talks between him and Bond producers Eon has simply 'never happened’.

“Daniel Craig actually set the rumour off. About four years ago he said Idris Elba would be a great Bond and then it started to creep. I blame Daniel.”

Elsewhere in the interview, 75-year-old Kotto, who also starred in films like ‘Alien’, ‘Midnight Run’ and ‘The Running Man’ said that during the promotion of 'Live and Let Die’, he was asked not to help promote the film, over fears his role could upset fans.

“They were afraid the public would react negatively to a black villain so they didn’t play my character up. That hurt me a lot, man,” he said.

“I went through a lot of goddamn emotional hell because they were afraid people would be angry that a black guy was not being Sidney Poitier. I was the opposite of everything he created.”

Kotto added that recent disquiet over civil rights drama 'Selma’ not being rewarded at this year’s Oscars was unnecessary, and that he himself had not voted for it.

“They’re wrong,” he said.

“I’m in the Academy and people who project racial issues into movies have no business in our business.”

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Image credits: Rex Features/PA