Idris Elba: “You Don’t Necessarily Have to Be Gay to Play a Gay Character”

The British actor compares the "Jungle Cruise" and James Bond controversies.

Idris Elba is the latest actor to weigh in on straight actor Jack Whitehall playing a campy gay character in Disney’s upcoming live-action Jungle Cruise.

Promoting his new film, Yardie, the British heartthrob defended Whitehall’s controversial casting in a recent interview with TimeOut London.

“Artistic license is artistic license,” Elba tells the magazine. “If an actor has the attributes to do something, they should be able to do it. They’re acting.”

“You don’t necessarily have to be gay to play a gay character. Though you do have to be black to play a black character.”

The Avengers star recently squashed rumors that he would be the first black actor to portray James Bond.

“It’s like the debate about James Bond,” Elba continues. “It’s nonsense. It’s a fictional character. I’ve got mad respect for how Ian Fleming described him. He said he was a white guy, looked like this… That’s how it was written. But then there’s interpretation. If we were always bound by the confines that something has to be [one way], people would never have expanded on things 
and come up with some of the most genius ideas.”

Elba’s comments follow Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’s Guy Pearce telling The Guardian he felt it was “dangerous” to allow only certain actors to play certain roles because of their gender or sexuality.

Elba has previously called for greater diversity in film and television, including better representation of the LGBTQ community.

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