Idris Elba is an actor torn between the gloss of Hollywood movies and dark, gritty TV roles.
His latest screen outing is the high-octane action-thriller Bastille Day, in which he plays a CIA agent teaming up with Game Of Thrones’ Richard Madden to investigate a terror threat in Paris.
Elba made his name on TV as The Wire’s drug kingpin Stringer Bell and the lead in Luther. Since then he’s made moves to the big screen, notching up blockbuster roles for Ridley Scott in Prometheus and Guillermo del Toro in Pacific Rim.
Beasts Of No Nation and playing Nelson Mandela in Long Walk To Freedom won the Londoner critical praise, and he’s been juggling TV and film ever since. Sky Atlantic’s high-profile miniseries Guerrilla is incoming, but before that Elba’s back on the big screen in Bastille Day.
The action film will do nothing to silence those “next James Bond” rumours. In Bastille Day Elba runs, jumps, punches and fires a gun as good as any Hollywood leading man. Plus he looks cool doing it to boot.
Elba tells Loaded that part of the appeal of Bastille Day is its commitment to doing things for real. Forget about computer-assisted superheroics, director James Watkins put Elba and co-star Madden through intense training to get the job done.
“I think that’s really part of the charm of this film,” Elba says “There’s no CGI in it, the stunts are real – guys jumping off roofs are guys jumping off roofs. Cars crashing into other cars is all real.”
What of Luther, the BBC1 drama whose fourth series aired at the tail-end of 2015?
“I think TV audiences deserve a little bit more before we step onto the big silver screen.”
Elba and creator Neil Cross have long talked about making a movie – but plans for that appear to be on the back-burner for now. The next time you see the DCI he’ll be on TV.
“Without saying too much, I think TV audiences deserve a little bit more before we step onto the big silver screen,” he says. “When and how and what that will feel like, we’re not sure yet. My instinct is it’ll be TV, but film is just definitely waiting in the wings.”
Elba’s co-star Ruth Wilson has experienced a similar upward career trajectory since playing Luther’s nemesis Alice Morgan. She bagged a Golden Globe for her role in The Affair in 2014, but was absent from last year’s Luther.
Though her character is presumed dead, her ultimate fate is still shrouded in mystery. Elba all but confirmed Wilson will be back in Luther’s life in some form or another.
The 43-year-old explains: “There’s definitely an element of Luther that isn’t whole without Alice. Without a doubt. But it’s called Luther – it’s not called Alice!”