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“I find villains way more compellin’ to unearth their psyche. Writers love writing for villains because they can get a lot more off their chest, and it just means a lot more stuff for the actor to do. But good guys are also a challenge, because if you don’t get the balance between being real and being, you know, a stereotypically good guy, your character can come across as corny. So each has its challenges, but I think being a bad guy has more.”
It took him a few years to perfect his American accent.
“The truth is, I had been living in America 3-4 years by the time I got ‘The Wire,’ so my ear is pretty good at picking up accents and I’m a bit of a mimic. So it was a combination of living in the country and picking up an East Coast accent for Stringer. So the short answer is: it took me four years, but in honesty I cheated because I was living in America.”
What’s his favorite scene from “The Wire”?
“My favorite scene is when I tell Avon that I killed D’Angelo. That was the scene yeah. It was a very Shakespearean scene, and Avon and Stringer end up on the floor. It’s actually the scene that sealed Stringer Bell’s fate, although he didn’t know it. I remember Wood and I, we sat in a trailer – and discussed what we were going to do pretty much all day. And ended up going in on set. It was incredible.”
Turns out he was the right choice to voice Shere Khan.
“What is my favorite classic animated movie? At the risk of sounding corny, I think it is ‘The Jungle Book.’ And, it’s not animated, but it fits in that world: ‘Mary Poppins.’ I loved ‘Mary Poppins.’ Classic, man, just classic! The songs, the animation, amazin’.”
He loves horror movies.
“I actually like the genre, to watch. It’s a guilty pleasure. My daughter loves those movies, and we like to watch them together, just so we can frighten each other in certain places. It would be interesting to me to be in one again, not for any particular reason, apart from that I just like to do really varied work.”
He’s got a pretty wacky Nicolas Cage story.
“Nic Cage came back one day on [the ‘Ghost Rider’] set, and he came down to set and he looked a little bit tired, a little bit – kind of like he’d ben up all night. So I was like, ‘Hey Nic man, how you doing man’ and he said ‘I’m alright.’ And I said ‘You seem a little spoked out,’ and he said, ‘Yeah man, I went up to Dracula’s castle…the ruins up in the mountains, and I stayed the night.’ I said ‘What?! Why|?’ and he said ‘I just had to channel the energy, and it was pretty spooky up there.’ We were shooting in Romania, Transylvania, and he just went up there to spend the night, as you do. And then he walked away. True story.”
Idris Elba: The next James Bond?
A fan asked, “If it were offered to you, would you be the next James Bond?” “Yes, if it was offered to me, absolutely.”
He’d also like to direct more.
I’d like to be a director one day. [What] entices me to one actor or another is his range. I enjoy watching an actor transform themselves each time. People like Daniel Day-Lewis, Fassbender, Denzel, they reinvent themselves, and I think what’s happened during my career in the last three years is that I’ve done so many types of roles, and I think directors are going ‘Hey man, this guy has range.’ Hopefully. So I think that’s the answer.”
Did you know that Idris Elba directed the Mumford & Sons video he starred in?
“That was one of the pinnacles of my career, it was the first time I ever directed myself in a film, and I loved it. We had a really small crew, not much of a budget, and we all drove down to this beautiful part of the world in Wales, and we stayed in this little B&B. We shot this video in the hills and on the beach. It’s a very – not weird – story, a story of a blind man that decides to run as fast as he can without seeing where he was going. Thank you for asking me that one, because that is one of my proudest pieces of work. Mumford & Sons asked me to be in a video for them. They didn’t want to be in the video, they were all big fans of ‘The Wire,’ and I said, ‘Yes but only if I can direct it.’ They huddled together, shook their heads, and said ‘Okay then,’ and the rest is history.”