Thursday, February 7, 2013


Idris Elba has tailor-made his own success. Decorated with a Golden Globe for his lead role in police drama Luther, he has since been inundated with offers from Hollywood. Here, the star of Ridley Scott's Prometheus takes the lead for GQ It was, it's fair to say, probably quite an awkward moment. The 2012 Golden Globes were in full swing, and the organisers, in their not-quite-so- infinite wisdom, had taken the unusual step to sit former Wire colleagues Dominic West (who played Detective Jimmy McNulty) and Idris Elba (who played drug kingpin Stringer Bell) on the same table. They were both up for the same award - Best Actor In A Miniseries Or TV Movie, Elba for BBC police drama Luther, West for BBC period piece The Hour. Only one of them could win, of course. And one of them did. "I'd actually given him a call when the nominations were announced," says Elba. "We laughed about it - we laughed about not being able to get rid of each other. He's a good sport, but it was unfortunate we were put on the same table. For one to have to watch the other win... I mean, fortunately I won. But I'm sure for him it wasn't as fun." In fairness, the same could probably be said for the rest of the cast of The Wire, the Baltimore-set crime series no "best TV ever" list is complete without - if you're not Idris Elba, it's just not as fun. Certainly, like West, there are success stories - Wendell Pierce (who played Detective Bunk Moreland) in Treme, or Michael K Williams (Omar Little) in Boardwalk Empire - but then, there's success, and there's success. Elba is currently having the latter. Leaving aside the TV bit parts (the American Office smash-grab, or the Emmy-nominated turn in The Big C), or the small roles in big films (American Gangster, Thor), or the big roles in smaller films (The Losers, Obsessed), Elba has recently moved into a whole new category - big roles in monster get-outta-the-way Cineplex fillers and Oscar-bait biopics. I still love TV. I have my feet firmly stamped in it. But my opportunities have been bigger and better First, Prometheus, the Ridley Scott-directed Alien prequel ("Well, it's not exactly part of the trilogy," says Elba, "but Ridley certainly said its DNA is from Alien - we wanted to do something slightly different, slightly bigger, with the DNA intact"), which is torpedoing into cinemas this summer. Then Pacific Rim - directed by Pan's Labyrinth supremo Guillermo del Toro, it's set in a world in which giant monsters have mysteriously appeared from the ocean, and sees soldiers piloting giant robots to do battle with them (seriously, how can this film not be good?). Elba has just finished filming the latter, having replaced Tom Cruise as its star. And, finally, there's the long-awaited biopic treatment of Long Walk To Freedom, in which he'll be playing Nelson Mandela ("That is a lot of responsibility," he says. "It's like being asked to play Jesus Christ"). So, a good couple of years, Idris? "You know, film is the ultimate goal in an actor's career. I mean, I still love TV. I have my feet firmly stamped in it. But my opportunities have been bigger and better. [The last two years] feel like a reinvention of my career. Because I'm not a household name, by any stretch of the imagination. In some countries, no one knows who Idris Elba is." And who cares if he occasionally talks about himself in the third person? (We know GQ has done it.) Or that, yes, OK, maybe his music career (three EPs and counting, all under his DJ moniker Driis) hasn't quite hit the heights of his film one. Not us. Not when, frankly, there's one role GQ thinks Elba would be perfect for, and the Hackney-born 39-year old is refreshingly honest in admitting, yes, go on then, he wouldn't mind it one bit. "Bond?" he laughs. "It is a bit like saying, 'Do you want to play Superman?' Anyone would dream of it. It's one of the most coveted roles in film. I'd be honoured. But I don't know if it will actually happen. I'm just happy with the idea of being associated with it. It's nice there's a lot of good will." Was it strange, we ask, to be sitting at that table at the Globes, both yourself and West nominated for TV shows you've done after The Wire, while neither of you got a single nomination for The Wire itself? "Yeah," he says, after a small pause. "It's actually quite criminal how The Wire was systematically ignored." One thing's for certain - Elba isn't being ignored any more

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