The Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor may be the next Bond baddie. Nominated this year for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ejiofor’s performance in 12 Years A Slave was terrific.
Set in those years just before the American Civil War was fought for and against slavery, Ejiofor’s Solomon Northup is a free man who is kidnapped from New York and sold into slavery in one of the southern provinces, whose cotton fields necessitated bonded labour. Silently bearing the brunt of the system, Northup displays immense inner strength to stay alive, and Ejiofor is brilliant in the film.
The James Bond movie, planned by MGM and Sony, is yet to get a title, but it is certain that Daniel Craig will play 007 with Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris. The Skyfall director, Sam Mendes, will helm the film with John Logan scripting it. The film is scheduled to hit theatres in November 2015.
Incidentally, the Bond franchise has often surprised us with its choice of 007 girls as it has with the villains. When the brilliant Spanish actor, Javier Bardem (now married to the equally brilliant Spanish actress, Penelope Cruz), was selected to essay the evil Raoul Silva in the 2012 Skyfall, many must have gasped.
Not because, Bardem was unsuited to play a baddie (he had done that in the 2007 No Country For Old Men), but he had after that been portraying very different kinds of roles – as a romantic guy in Woody Allen’s 2008 Vicky Christina Barcelona (a married man who woos two friends) and as a terminally sick man in Biutiful (2010). And as Silva, Barden was by far the best Bond villain ever seen.
So, Ejiofor, if picked, will transform from a docile and helpless slave into a ruthless rogue – as the Bond villains have been. Admittedly, he has done negative parts in Children of Men and Four Brothers. But then Bond is a different ball game.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran watched 12 Years A Slave at the 2013 Dubai International Film Festival, and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)