With his chiseled good looks and his compelling acting talent, Idris Elba has genuinely brought British swag to the United States. Here are 24 facts that show his evolution in show business—and in our hearts.
24. He Absolutely Fabulous
In 1995, Idris Elba partied it up with the leading ladies of Absolutely Fabulous, a hit British TV show. He played a male escort named Hilton on the third episode of the show. Seems like Eddy and Patsy saw something in him long before we did! What a long way he has come!
23. He Can Rule Some Turntables!
Elba is a man of many talents. Before becoming an actor, he used to be a house music DJ, and has gone by creative names such as “DJ Dris” and “Big Driis” in the past. Elba is even still DJing today! He remixed the newest The Jungle Book soundtrack, and he has completed his own music project called Hiatus.
22. Behind the Camera
The actor doesn’t just enjoy being in front of the camera, he likes to create behind it too. In 2012, he directed a music video for the Mumford and Sons song, “Lover of the Light.” He also starred in the video as a blind man who decides to explore the world in ways he never thought were possible.
21. What Can’t This Guy Do?
Elba is clearly an adrenaline junkie. In an exciting marketing campaign for a model of the Ford Fiesta R1, Elba raced in the vehicle to bring awareness to its performance and speed, and went up against some of the most famous rally racers in the world.
20. His Ties to Ford Run Deep
To support Elba’s family, the actor’s father worked at a car factory. Inspired by his father, Elba began to work night shifts at Ford Dagenham to make ends meet in between acting gigs when he was first starting out.
19. Voice Acting
In addition to his DJ work, Elba also loaned his voice to Jay-Z’s opening “Intro” for the American Gangster soundtrack (Elba also had a role in the film). Jack of all trades is an understatement.
18. Giving Back
In 2009, Elba was selected as the spokesman and Anti-Crime Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, a charity created by British Royal, Prince Charles. His role was to steer British youth from a life of crime. In fact, the charity even supported Elba when he himself was a youth, giving him a grant.
17. Not a Fan of Oasis
In 2013, Elba was entering an award show when Oasis member Liam Gallagher tried to grab his hat. Elba was not happy with the gesture, and a physical altercation almost ensued. Gallagher has a different story of the incident, and says that it was Elba who actually tried to muss up his hair. Can’t we all just get along?
16. Gamer Guy
Elba is not all about the movies: He has also dabbled in voice acting. Elba’s voice was featured in one of the most popular first-person-shooter franchises of all time, in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
15. A Royal Recommendation
In 2016, Elba became an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a rare honor from the Royal Family. When Prince William presented him with the designation, Elba took his mother to experience the Buckingham Palace ceremony.
14. Save the World
Elba’s father is a native of Sierra Leone, and when ebola went on to ravage the country, Elba saw a way to use his celebrity status to help. He collaborated with The Africa United global health campaign to educate people on how to protect themselves from the disease.
13. Not a Perk of the Job
Being an actor can be a gruelling job, and Elba is not exempt from feeling a little annoyed with his work sometimes. During the filming of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Elba had to travel from South Africa to London for extensive reshoots for Thor: The Dark World right after he returned to England. The pain of the stunts and insane traveling schedule got to him so much that he voiced his displeasure in an interview after The Dark World was released.
12. Breakout Role
The TV series Luther set up Elba as a leading man in Hollywood, and his performance, as well as the show as a whole, was critically acclaimed. The role allowed him to act as a detective with the intellect of Sherlock Holmes and the technique of Colombo.
11. One of the Most Embarrassing Moments of All Time
Elba clearly has a sense of humor: the actor once spilled the beans about the time he mistakenly kept his mic on while he was using the bathroom. There is nothing more refreshing than a guy as suave as Elba being able to laugh at himself.
10. Get ‘Em While They’re Young
Even as a child, Elba’s parents trusted him to keep the party going: He was charged with DJing parties and house get-togethers when he was just eight years old. This makes Elba a veteran of DJing!
9. A Crush of Epic Proportions
When asked who his celebrity crush was, Elba remarked that he always carried a torch for Meryl Streep. He was even so nervous when he met her that his tongue swelled up!
8. Record Breaker
Elba has a need for speed: In May 2015, he broke a British land speed record in a Bentley. He hit over 180 mph, breaking a record previously held by Sir Malcolm Campbell, who set his record in 1927.
7. A “New York” State of Mind
Elba has been known to be a man of many voices, and to blend into roles without his signature British accent, Elba honed his American accent in a Brooklyn barbershop. A genuine commitment to sounding as American as possible!
6. Don’t Look!
Another significant role in Elba’s career was his stint on The Wire as Stringer Bell, one of the series’ most memorable characters. The show has been watched by millions—except for Elba. In an interview, he explained that he was not too keen on watching himself in the show. As he said of never watching the series, “I’m supercritical of my own work. As an actor, if you’re being told how wonderful you are, what do you need to strive for? I don’t know if I’m good just because some critic says I am in the press.”
5. True Crime
From The Wire to Luther, Elba has more than shown he can handle the demands a crime drama series can bring. Perhaps he picked up these skills from his first roles in Crimewatch murder reconstructions! Yep, if you’re ever watching true crime reruns, keep an eye out for him.
During Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour, Elba had the honor of opening for the legendary superstar in Berlin, Germany. Is a DJ tour somewhere on the horizon for Elba? Better yet, could a Grammy be possible?
3. Cover Photo History
Maxim, a magazine that usually features women on their front cover, made history when they revealed Elba on the front cover of their September 2015 issue, and Elba became the first man to ever appear on the cover of the magazine! His inclusion fit the theme—it was also the first fashion issue of Maxim, and Elba is quite stylish.
2. Near Death Experience
On the set of Beasts of No Nation, Elba leaned against a tree that overlooked a waterfall. Horrifically, the actor lost his balance and almost tumbled over the edge to a 90-foot drop. Luckily, he happened to land onto a narrow ridge that prevented his almost certain death.
1. A Natural
Elba has been honest about the fact that he does not have any formal acting training. A Golden Globe winner and frequent Emmy nominee, his accomplishments in Hollywood are that much more impressive. Sometimes all it takes is desire, an innate talent, and hard work.
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