- Simon Garner
Actor of the Week: Idris Elba
Time, again, for us to crown a new Actor of the Week. This week, it goes to a man of great diversity, the magnificent Idris Elba! I have a hell of a soft spot for Elba, as he has starred in a number of things, both film and TV, that I hold in high regard.
Elba started out in TV, with small roles in series such as 2.4 Children and Absolutely Fabulous, and later Dangerfield and Family Affairs. From a film point of view, his first role of note was probably in Buffalo Soldiers, which also starred Joaquin Phoenix.
The first film I saw Elba in wasn’t until a bit later on in his career, and this was 2008’s RocknRolla. RocknRolla involves a property development scam, some rival gangs, a mob boss and a painting! Elba’s character, Mumbles, is a member of one of the gangs, The Wild Bunch, who are sent to intercept a transaction from the rival Russian gang. Full of action, this film is also outright hilarious, with lots of little twists and turns and plenty of hilarious dialogue. Elba plays a great part in this, having his fair share of comical lines and ridiculous action. In addition to Elba’s stellar performance, RocknRolla contains a large number of top drawer turns, one of these being from former Actor of the Week Tom Hardy, as another Wild Bunch member, Handsome Bob.
After RocknRolla, Idris starred in many different types of film, from the romantic thriller Obsessed, alongside Beyoncé, to being another big name to star in a Marvel film in Thor. He subsequently starred in Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok, working with another previous Actor of the Week winner in Cate Blanchett in the latter.
Like many actors who we have lauded in our Actor of the Week segment, Elba also lent his voice to an animated character when he starred in the extremely popular Zootropolis. Elba stars as Chief Bogo, in a film about a rooky Police cop, who also happens to be a bunny, working with her fox friend to deduce a plot. A great family film, Zootropolis is just good fun and shows Elba is comfortable doing a vast amount of work, as well as doing it to a top standard.
Another variable role saw Elba star as the alien leader Krall in Star Trek Beyond. If you haven’t seen Beyond, then the picture below illustrates why this was a diverse role for Elba, yet again highlighting his arsenal, particularly talent and fearlessness. He also worked with yet another former Actor of the Week winner, this time it was Chris Pine, who plays Captain James T. Kirk.
As people will know, being Life of Films, we are obviously focussed on movies, but I couldn’t write this without mentioning two of my favourite roles of his. These roles were both in highly-regarded TV series - The Wire and Luther. Luther sees Elba play DCI John Luther, a genius but troubled detective who can’t always stop himself from acting out of passion, and therefore sometimes violence. Initially, he identifies Alice Morgan as the prime suspect in her parents’ murder, and he goes from charging and resenting her as a criminal to forging an unlikely and incredibly interesting friendship of sorts.
The Wire arguably remains his most famous role, where he plays Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell. This was the first thing I saw Elba in, and being new to him at this stage, I was astonished to learn that he was not, in fact, American by birth. Stringer is a drug baron and right-hand-man to Avon Barksdale, the big kingpin of the Baltimore drug scene. Stringer is both ruthless and clever, as we see him in the midst of the drug scene, but also attending out of hours classes in business, to run the drug circle in tight, formal way. This contributes to the intrigue of his character, and Elba pulls it all off with incredible ease, and The Wire is a firm favourite of mine, largely because of his contribution.
Other notable films of Elba’s are Pacific Rim, The Dark Tower, and in the Netflix Original film Beasts of No Nation.
As highlighted, Idris Elba has had a fantastically diverse career to date, and this makes me extremely excited about anything I hear him linked with. Speaking of which, if he were to be cast as the next Bond, for example, I for one would be very happy to see that. Regardless of this, I hope he keeps up the good work, as he has plenty to give. Thank a lot, Big Driis!