“Playing Mandela was without a doubt the hardest work I’ve ever done": FHM speaks to Idris Elba

Posted by , 06 December 2013

"I hate the term ‘Black Bond’, I really hate it. I'm just an actor...": when FHM met Idris Elba

"I hate the term ‘Black Bond’, I really hate it. I'm just an actor...": when FHM met Idris Elba

  • #01

    "I hate the term ‘Black Bond’, I really hate it. I'm just an actor...": when FHM met Idris Elba

  • Introduction
  • #01

    "I hate the term ‘Black Bond’, I really hate it. I'm just an actor...": when FHM met Idris Elba

It’s odd hearing Idris talk about himself as a fan of others when he’s got so many fans of his own. In a recent poll of celebrities that men would like to share a pint with, he was close to the top – and it’s not hard to see why.

Despite all the fame, all the millions and all the rapper friends, when you talk to him it’s like chatting to someone you’ve known all your life over a pint of Carling and a bag of crisps down your local. He’s warm, funny and interested in what you have to say (something exceedingly rare among A-list actors). What’s more, he’s actually down to earth. Not faux-self-deprecating, in a Stephen Fry “you’re-too-kind” thespy way, but properly humble. “I don’t read my own press, so I don’t know how far I’ve climbed,” he says, and you believe him. “I think the people who concentrate on how far they’re climbing on the success ladder of fame end up being idiots because there’s an insecurity that comes out.”

For Idris, life is about staying true to his roots as much as is humanly possible within the circles he moves. Like last summer, when he took on a seven-week DJ residency at a little-known bar on north-west London’s Kilburn High Road. “I’ve always loved music, ever since I was a kid,” he says, as a humongous grin covers his face. “At 14 years old, I was running around with my uncle doing DJ gigs, weddings, christenings, whatever. Me and my best mate got given a pair of turntables from school. We hid them under my bed because my mum didn’t want me to have them, and I remember that was when me and my mate started DJing together. It was like the beginning of a love affair. I remember DJing as a kid and thinking, ‘This is how people make a living? Choosing tunes and getting people on the dancefloor?That’s pretty fucking awesome!’”

For someone with so many big acting projects on the go, it’s amazing Idris finds time to get his hair cut, let alone forge a simultaneous career in the music industry. But he’s not someone who’s at ease just sitting at home twiddling his thumbs. “Over the past two years I’ve spent a lot more of my spare time working on my music. I’ve got a studio and I started spending quite a lot of my time in there. It’s pretty weird stuff, because I play house music, hip hop and progressive house, but I make soul and rhythm and blues. I’ve made rock songs no one has ever heard. I’ve made folk songs that no one has ever heard.”


Idris Elba belting out a few Dylan tracks on a rusty tambourine would no doubt surprise a few people, but perhaps not as many as if he landed the biggest role in British film, one that he’s already been quietly touted for. “Yeah, I’ve heard all the rumours about the James Bond role. And if I was offered it, I’d be honoured. Completely fucking honoured to just be asked. Even to be considered is a massive step in the right direction for me as an actor. But I think that it is, for a lot of Bond actors, the silver-lined coffin. Like, where do you go after Bond? Plus I hate the term ‘Black Bond’, I really hate it. It becomes all about the colour. I don’t even know what a black actor is. You’re known as a footballer, not as a striker or as a defender or as a midfielder. I’m just an actor.”

But he’s not just an actor. He’s an actor and a musician and a DJ; a football fan and a father and to a lot of people, Stringer Bell or Mandela. He might have turned 40, but he came late to the party and he’s just getting started. “When you’re in your 20s and 30s, you can get away with acting in a certain way. But when you hit 40, you’re supposed to behave like a grown-up. When I turned 40 last year, I was like, ‘Aw shit, I’m still a young man in my heart. I still love the partying and the girls and the loud music.’ That’s not the behaviour of a 40-year-old man.”

So what will he do when the partying finally takes its toll, when he needs to take life a couple of gears slower? “I’m going to get a house out in the countryside somewhere and just chill out. I’m just going to play music, me and Mumford & Sons. All I’ll need is a banjo, a couple of dogs running around on the grass and a piece of straw in my mouth. It’ll be complete and utter bliss.”

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