U.K. native Idris Elba is an actor, writer, producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and DJ. A closer look into the actor’s background reveals even more diversity, as Elba is a mashup of theatrical ingenue, physical athlete and passion-driven creative. Elba found his love for theater early on, winning a Prince’s Trust musical theater grant before age 20, he also worked as a wedding DJ, exhibited entrepreneurial skills starting his own company, and kept a night gig playing at clubs all while pursuing acting. Elba also was an avid kickboxing fan, and after a year of kickboxing and mixed marital arts training, he competed in and won a professional kickboxing match in London. We’ve watched Elba as the complicated Stringer Bell in “The Wire,” a flawed detective in “Luther,” an alcoholic war monk in Ghost Rider, Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a serial killer in No Good Deed, and the voice of an animated sea lion in Pixar’s Finding Dory.
These are just a few of the roles and background experiences that work to make Elba much more than the “Sexiest Man Alive” as People magazine labeled him in 2018. His colorful background allow him to draw from a wealth of experiences for the different roles that continue to come his way. It’s also what makes Elba much more than just a romantic or dramatic lead or an action hero; he really has the capacity to do it all.
Elba’s most recent role in The Suicide Squad as the heroic villain Bloodsport gives audiences another opportunity to witness his subtle brilliance. We’re introduced to an angry, insolent villain who is resigned to living in solidarity without human contact.
When you look at your background, it’s obvious you’ve done a lot you could pull from for this character Bloodsport, specifically kickboxing. Did you approach the role pulling from your own experiences?
There are two types of actors, there are actors that are really very good at mimicking [who] can do an incredible job of making you believe they are that person. And then there are other people that have lived a full life and can tell you a little bit about everything they’ve experienced and offer a little bit of themselves in each role. I’m of the latter [group]. I came to Bloodsport knowing that I have a daughter, I can connect there. I’m grumpy too, maybe not as grumpy as he is, but I can connect there. The biggest thing was I really love storytelling. I love James Gunn; his vision is huge and I want to be a part of that group that tell these monumental stories.
When we meet Bloodsport, he is emotionally closed off but he gets in touch with his emotions and redeems himself through his relationship with Cleo. Did you enjoy showing that human side to what started out as an untouchable villain?
That was definitely one of the most attractive parts of playing this character. Because this is a man that loves his kid but [he] never got an opportunity to show it. In fact, he tells his kid that he’s no good for her. But through his relationship with the rat catcher and her connection to him, it allows him to see what’s most valuable to him. It was a really touching story and that was a big part of why I chose to do this film.
Your journey to leading man has been different from that of many other actors; did you have a role model or mentor you looked up to while building your career?
I didn’t know any of the actors that I admired from Robert De Niro, Daniel Day Lewis, Denzel Washington to Wesley Snipes; I didn’t know those guys when I was coming up but that’s who I looked up to. But each one of them had a sort of spectrum of roles from one extreme to the other and that’s what I admire. That’s the kind of actor I think is impressive, when some[one] looks a certain way or acts a certain way but can portray something very different.
Cover photography by Alex Piper for Art Streiber/Warner Bros.
Movie stills courtesy of Warner Bros.
Black-and-white image courtesy of Idris Elba
The Suicide Squad features an all-star cast, including Idris Elba, Sylvester Stallone, John Cena, Pete Davidson, and Margot Robbie. The film is scheduled to hit theaters on Aug. 6, 2021.
For more with Idris Elba and co-star Daniela Melchior click the link below: