Bond, Jane Bond!

News reports emerged in May that Gillian Anderson has put herself into the running to be the next James Bond.

Among the more serious ‘#NextBond’ suggestions on social media are black actor Idris Elba, the Irish actor Aidan Turner and red-haired Damian Lewis. Of the top few, it appears that only half Scottish and Eton-educated Tom Hiddleston fits Ian Fleming’s original description of James Bond.

While Tom Hiddleston is currently the bookies’ favourite (with betting now suspended) could the Bond series’ producers lawfully insist that Bond must be a James and not a Jane?

Under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act), an exception is available where there is an occupational requirement (OR) that is genuinely needed for the job (previously ‘genuine occupational qualification’ in relation to sex and race discrimination) and the application of the requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Examples of where an OR might be applied are set out in the explanatory notes to the Act. A particular example given is that “the need for authenticity or realism might require someone of a particular race, sex or age for acting roles (for example, a black man to play the part of Othello) or modelling jobs”.

In the last year, though, such examples are now looking a little less realistic. The RSC has recently had the black actor Paapa Essiedu playing Hamlet. Male model Andrej Pejic models women’s clothes and female model Elliott Sailors models menswear.

In this year’s television adaptation of John Le Carré’s ‘The Night Manager’, the character of Raymond Burr was changed to be Angela Burr, to allow the female actor Olivia Colman to play the part.  All of the Ghostbusters are women, and America’s next President may be female.

In light of such developments, the Bond producers might find it more difficult to argue that the characteristic of being male is genuinely needed for the job of Bond. We have already had a blonde Bond and a black Miss Moneypenny, so maybe we can have Gillian Anderson as the first female Bond and Tom Hiddleston as her Bond boy?

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