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The Joke That Didn't Make It Into Hobbs & Shaw

One of the most awesome lines in the trailer for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw was changed up at the last minute by Elba... Idris Elba.

The actor, along with co-star Dwayne Johnson, recently revealed to Variety that Elba's "black Superman" declaration was originally meant to reference a different iconic character — one which fans doggedly keep trying to connect Elba with.

According to Johnson, the original line Elba was asked to say was, "I'm the black James Bond." But the star balked, saying that it was "too close to what everybody's talking about."

Respectfully, Mr. Elba: that's precisely what would have made it so funny, but we understand where you're coming from. For years, rumors have swirled that Elba would be the next to take over the role of 007 after current series star Daniel Craig departs, and at times, Elba has added fuel to the fire himself. As far back as 2011, Elba told NPR (in response to the rumor mill that was churning even prior to then) that he'd consider taking on the role, using a turn of phrase that probably sprang immediately to mind on the set of Hobbs & Shaw.

"I just don't want to be the black James Bond," Elba said at that time. "Sean Connery wasn't the Scottish James Bond, and Daniel Craig wasn't the blue-eyed James Bond; so if I played him, I don't want to be called the black James Bond."

Well, that certainly makes his opposition to the gag a little more understandable. Elba has had occasion to address the possibility of his playing Bond over and over and over again in the years since, and has mostly appeared game in all of those instances, even in the face of an inevitable racist backlash on the internet (including a poorly-coded remark from current Bond author Anthony Horowitz, whose ridiculous assertion that Elba is "too street" to play Bond rightly sparked a backlash of its own).

Recently, though, Elba appears to have shot the notion down once and for all — certainly not because of what any trolls on the internet might think, but for another, very actorly reason. Speaking with Event, the star said, "Bond is one of the biggest franchises in the world, and for that reason, whoever ends up playing it, lives it. You're THAT character, and known as that character for many, many years. I'm creating characters now that can still live alongside Idris. Not ones that take over me and solely define me."

This is a fair point: just ask Robert Downey, Jr., who has recently made some waves simply by reminding fans that he is not, in fact, actually Iron Man. But seeing as how Elba had been somewhat keen on the idea of taking up the Bond mantle in the past, it seems that the joke as written just rubbed him the wrong way. Fortunately, he was ready with a heck of an alternate, even if Johnson — who insists that the "black Superman" line was his idea — remembers it differently.

"Everyone loves 'the black Superman' line. Everyone's taking credit for it — Idris, our director, our producers, I'm sure [co-star] Jason [Statham]... [but] I came up with that," Johnson said. "I said, 'What about the black Superman?” And everyone's like, 'Great!' [But] now everyone takes credit."

Uh-huh. Sure, Mr. Rock. There's only one problem with that: according to both Elba and producer Hiram Garcia, you're full of it. "That line was just improvised," Elba explained to Variety. "I was in one of these takes and I was really riffing, and then it came out and [director David Leitch] loved it, and so we kept it."

Garcia also remembers the genesis of the line exactly this way. "[Elba] just shouted it out. He was talking trash, shouted it out, and we said, 'This is incredible!'... so he ran with it. He loved it, and that line really stuck, and we're so happy the fans responded to it."

Of course, this raises the question: will we ever see an actual black Superman onscreen? Elba has had nothing to say on the matter, but Johnson has something to say about everything, so he offered up his opinion. "I think as everything builds and grows, and you take the temperament of society and what's happening, and I think here in Hollywood — especially with franchises and characters and publicly traded companies who are sensitive to that kind of thing — and yeah, I think they're doing a great job. And maybe one day we will see a black Superman," the Rock said, before (presumably) cocking his famous eyebrow and deadpanning, "You're looking at him."

Well, now, we don't see how that would be possible, as Johnson will be appearing as DC antihero Black Adam in his very own solo vehicle. For that matter, Elba has already found his place in the Worlds of DC, as he'll be playing an as-yet undisclosed character in writer/director James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. But in Hollywood, nothing is certain but change; perhaps Elba should consider jumping ship over to the heavily-rumored Superman reboot, thereby making his ad-lib even funnier in retrospect.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw hits the big screen on August 2.