Idris Elba is one of the hottest stars in Hollywood and apparently in the United Kingdom as well.
Doing double-duty, Elba just completed his first season as the star of the six-part BBC series, “Luther,” and he’s a familiar face in a number of American films and television productions, minus the accent.
I recently caught Elba in one of his first roles as a pizza delivery man in the 1994 futuristic series “Space Precinct,” which recently aired on the Syfy channel. Everyone featured spoke English, but they apparently dubbed Elba’s voice because his English had an accent.
“Luther” is now on DVD. Elba stars as DCI John Luther, a detective working for London’s SCU, a unique stand-alone Serious Crime Unit. A dedicated detective, Luther is also troubled, and a little bit dangerous. His analytical thinking puts you in the mind of Sherlock Holmes, with a touch of Lt. Columbo, NBC’s detective series (“Columbo”) which starred Peter Falk who shrewdly solved all his cases through a very unique approach.
Luther has paid a heavy price for his dedication; he has recently suffered a mental breakdown following a traumatic investigation into a child serial killer. Add to that his wife of six years wants to divorce him and he’s not ready to let her go. The series met with such success that it’s been cleared for a second season.
American audiences remember him as Russell ‘Bell’ Stringer in HBO’s “The Wire.” That role led to such gigs as “Daddy’s Little Girls,” “The Reaping” “28 Weeks Later,” “American Gangster,” “This Christmas,” “Obsessed,” and let’s not forget “Losers” and “Takers” which had everyone talking.
Elba’s body of work is extremely versatile, something he’s proud of. In an Entertainment Weekly interview Elba says, “I would never be fearful of any character. I think there’s a tendency for actors like myself, and I don’t mean to generalize myself, but I’ve played “men’s men,” if you will, characters that are simmering rage and calculated. There’s a trend not to play anything that is opposed to that.”
He continued, “I remember when I left Stringer on HBO’s The Wire, one of the films I did was Tyler Perry’s “Daddy’ Little Girls,” which was about a man doting over his three little girls. I remember there was talk, ‘Why? Why would you do that? Play gangsters. Play ruthless.’ It’s really funny, because the same people who loved me as Stringer Bell were the same people that were watching ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ literally in tears. Some people don’t like the film, but some of the guys that came up to me and said, ‘Yo, I want to see you play gangsters’ were the same ones that were in tears because they had either strained relationships with their children, or they loved their children so much and they were watching a character that they could relate to. I don’t mind playing characters that are opposite of what people think I am.”
Elba recently signed on to play an “alcoholic warrior monk” in “The Ghost Rider” sequel, and he raised some eyebrows, when critically acclaimed British filmmaker and actor, Kenneth Branagh cast him in the role of Heimdall in the upcoming blockbuster film “Thor.”
Elba said Branagh called him personally and said, “I know this isn’t a big role, but I would really love to see you play it.” A few movie purists are up in arms because Heimdall is of the Norse mythology. Heimdall, as guardian, is described as being able to hear grass growing and single leaves falling; is able to see to the end of the world, and be so alert that he requires no sleep at all.
He’s also referred to as the “White god.” In Marvel comics’ lore, Heimdall stood as guardian of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge and was one of Odin’s most trusted servants.
And if that’s not enough, Elba has been tapped to star as the new Alex Cross, the forensic psychologist played by Morgan Freeman in the thrillers, “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider.” Elba is clearly on a roll.
Elba is also a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis and recently released his second EP.
The BBC’ “Luther” is now on DVD.
Gail can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.