The question is a big one; which black leading man will take film through 2019 on his back? At the risk of sounding cliché, who is the next Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Sidney Poitier? There is certainly no shortage of talent currently in Black Hollywood. But is talent enough? First we must ask ourselves the question, what does it take to be the guy?
Transcending power: Poitier was the master of crossing cultures with such poise [you can’t spell “poise” without Sidney Poitier] that it made many of his counterparts look sloppy. In a culturally underdeveloped America, the veteran actor shone as bright as the north star. Which of the many brilliant, contemporary actors portray such class? Perhaps David Oyelowo is subtle mannered enough and meticulous in the way that he delivers his words. He certainly pulls off a tux properly but would you flinch if he reached in his pocket for the alleged pistola?
It’s undeniable, to be a leading man you must also be intimidating. Just a look alone should be able to convey how unreasonable you plan to be before clearing the room of villains. Chadwick Boseman has the steely, unflinching gaze of Clint Eastwood [though uniquely his own]. His hard glare was powerful enough to rally the formidable Wakandan tribe in Black Panther, so undoubtedly; he has the chops. But is he a ladies man?
Making women swoon has always been one of the paramount features of any successful leading man. And rightfully so [they make up 49.55% of the world’s population.] And who’s more popular with the ladies right now than New Jersey native Michael B. Jordan? Cheers, mate [I’m a dude, what else do you expect me to say here?] But can he pull off the other two traditional leading man qualities? Is he smooth enough to pull up in a vintage Bentley, tux, and pull a gun out of his pocket? Sorry Miguel, seems you’re more likely to offer a guy a stick of gum and ask him where to park.
But if not these Hollywood heavy hitters, who will take the reigns and usher this generation into a new era of Steve McQueen like cool. Who will harness the Paul Newman like charisma that could help him get away with robbing a bank with only a wink and a smile? Who could believably go head to head with tenacious adversaries is a bloody, sweaty bout; and afterward light a cigarette, hop on a motorcycle and take off into the sunset like Bruce Willis – but black?
Drum roll please. None other than Idris Elba. (I won’t mention the bond thing) Nevermind, what’s up with the bond thing? Our guy is ready and he ain’t getting any younger. Smashing through stereotypes and cruising over the barriers of societal norms with a raspy low growl of a drawl, the towering Englishman lumbers rhythmically with the confidence of a professional rugby player. His charm seems to initiate women’s interest in groves and best of all, he’s got the squint. [All of the greats have it] You know, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne; the fucking squint, man. He’s got it! He can give you a look that could either mean “if I have to ask for the bag one more time, I’m going to open you up” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
You laugh but it’s true. Idris embodies everything that new Hollywood needs in a black leading man and I think that he has just the right mixture of classic gentleman/cutting edge bad ass to re-open the doors for actors with class and grit.