Idris Elba

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Idris Elba
Idris Elba 2014.jpg
Elba in October 2014.
Born Idrissa Akuna Elba
(1972-09-06) 6 September 1972 (age 42)
Hackney, London, England
Other names Big Driis
7 Wallace[1]
Occupation Actor, film producer, singer, DJ
Years active 1994–present
Children 2

Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba (/ˈɪdrəs ˈɛlbə/; born 6 September 1972)[2] is a British actor, producer, singer, rapper, and DJ.[3]

Elba is best known for his portrayal of drug lord and aspiring businessman Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO series The Wire,[4] Detective John Luther in the BBC One series Luther, and Nelson Mandela in the biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning one, as well as earning four Primetime Emmy Award nominations.[5][6]

Elba has appeared in films such as American Gangster (2007), Takers (2010), Thor (2011), Prometheus (2012), Pacific Rim (2013), and Thor: The Dark World (2013).[7][8] In addition to his acting work, he is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis (or Big Driis the Londoner) and a hip-hop soul musician.[9]

Early life[edit]

Elba was born in Hackney, London. His father, Winston, was a Sierra Leonean who worked in a Ford motor factory, and his mother, Eve, was a Ghanaian who had a clerical job.[10] Elba's parents married in Sierra Leone and later moved to London.[11] Elba was raised in East Ham,[12] and shortened his first name at school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting. He began helping an uncle with his wedding DJ business in 1986; within a year, he had started his own DJ company with some of his friends.[2]

Elba left school in 1988 and won a place in the National Youth Music Theatre, thanks to a £1,500 Prince's Trust grant. He worked in various jobs, such as tyre-fitting and cold-call advertising sales, to earn an income between roles in Crimewatch murder reconstructions.[13] He was working in nightclubs under the DJ nickname Big Driis at the age of 19, but began auditioning for television parts in his early twenties.[2] After a stint in the National Youth Music Theatre, he worked the night shift at Ford Dagenham.[13]

Acting career[edit]


In 1995, Elba landed his first role on a series called Bramwell, a medical drama set in 1890s England. He played the lead character in an episode of the first season, an African petty thief named Charlie Carter, who lost his white wife to childbirth and had to figure out how to support his newborn daughter. His first credited role arrived in 1995, with a supporting role as a gigolo on the "Sex" episode of Absolutely Fabulous. Many supporting roles on British television followed, including series such as The Bill and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. He joined the cast of the soap opera Family Affairs,[2] and went on to appear in the television serial Ultraviolet and later in Dangerfield.[14] He decided to move to New York City soon after.[2] He returned to England occasionally for a television role, such as a part in one of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries. In 2001, Elba played Achilles in a stage production of Troilus and Cressida in New York City.[2]

After a supporting turn on a 2001 episode of Law & Order, Elba landed a starring role on a 2002 HBO drama, The Wire. From 2002 to 2004, Elba portrayed Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO drama series, perhaps his best-known role in the US. In 2005, he portrayed Captain Augustin Muganza in Sometimes in April, an HBO film about the Rwandan Genocide. Elba appeared on the 2007 BET special Black Men: The Truth.[15] Elba appeared as Charlie Gotso in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, filmed in Botswana.[16] The series premiered on 23 March 2008, Easter Sunday, on BBC One, receiving a high 6.3 million viewers and 27% of the audience share.[17]

In January 2009, it was reported per Variety that Elba would portray Charles Miner, a new rival to Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) for NBC's The Office.[16] Elba appeared in a six episode story arc later in the 2009 season as well as the season finale.[16] In September 2009, Elba signed a deal to star as the lead role in the 6-part BBC television show Luther, which aired in May 2010.[6] In October 2009, NBC announced Elba as executive producer of an as yet untitled legal drama.[18] He appeared on Showtime's The Big C in 2010.[19] At the 69th Golden Globe Awards telecast on 15 January 2012, Elba won the Award for Best Actor in a Series, Mini-Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role on the BBC crime thriller series Luther.[6]


Elba (back row, centre) with the cast of RocknRolla at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival

In 2007, Elba signed on as the lead of the 2007 film Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls, playing Monty, a blue-collar mechanic who falls in love with an attorney helping him gain custody of his kids, and finds the relationship and his custody hopes threatened by the return of his ex-wife. He appeared in 28 Weeks Later (2007) and This Christmas (2007), which brought in nearly $50 million at the box office in 2007.[20][21] In 2008, he starred in the horror film Prom Night and RocknRolla.[20] In 2009, he starred in horror film The Unborn and Obsessed.[22] The latter was a box office success, taking $29 million in its opening weekend.[23]

Elba's next film was Legacy (2010),[24] in which he portrayed a black ops soldier who returned to Brooklyn after a failed mission in Eastern Europe, where he undertook a journey looking for retribution.[24] He starred in Dark Castle's adaptation of DC/Vertigo's The Losers, under the direction of Sylvain White, in the role of Roque, the second-in-command of a black-ops team out for revenge against a government that did them wrong.[25] Filming took place in Puerto Rico and the movie was released in April 2010.[26] Elba appeared in the 2010 thriller Takers. He played Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh's 2011 film Thor (based on the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name).[27]

In August 2010, Elba signed up to portray the title character in a reboot of James Patterson's Alex Cross film franchise.[19] However in February 2011 he was replaced by Tyler Perry.[28] Elba appeared in the 2012 sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, playing an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding Ghost Rider.[29] In February 2012, Elba confirmed that he would portray Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is based on the eponymous autobiography.[30] As part of his preparation for the role, Elba spent a night alone, locked in a cell, on Robben Island.[31]

In June 2012, Elba portrayed Captain Janek in Prometheus. He joined the 2013 film Pacific Rim in the role of Stacker Pentecost.[32] In January 2014, he confirmed that he would be starring in a film adaptation of Luther.[33]

Music career[edit]

Elba at the American Music Awards in 2007

In 2001, Elba appeared in music videos for Fat Joe, Angie Stone and English rapper Giggs.[34] In 2006, he recorded the four-song EP Big Man for Hevlar Records. He co-produced and performed on the intro to Jay-Z's 2007 album American Gangster.[35] He DJ'd at the 2007 NBA All Star parties at the The Venetian and Ice House Lounge in Las Vegas.[36]

In July 2009, Elba was the DJ for BET's new series Rising Icons.[37] Elba announced the release of his first single "Please Be True."[38] In the August 2009 issue of Essence magazine, he announced the name of his six-song EP as Kings Among Kings.[39] He released his EP High Class Problems Vol. 1 in the United Kingdom in February 2010, for which he has won many prizes including a Billboard Music Awards nomination.[40]

In 2011, he performed on the intro to Pharoahe Monch's album W.A.R.. In 2012, he co-directed and performed in the Mumford and Sons music video for "Lover of the Light".[41]

In 2014 he produced K. Michelle's "The Rebellious Soul Musical" which debuted on "Vh1" on August 19, 2014.[42] In May, Elba featured on Mr Hudson's single Step Into The Shadows. Mr Hudson is also producing his album, slated for released on 24 November, Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela.

Elba has performed a rap for the second album by Noel Fielding and Sergio Pizzorno's band, the Loose Tapestries.[43]

Other work[edit]

In October 2014 Elba presented the series Journey Dot Africa with Idris Elba on BBC Radio 2, exploring all types of African music.[44]

Personal life[edit]

The Prince's Trust, which Elba credits with helping to start his career, appointed him its Anti-Crime Ambassador in April 2009.[45] In July 2010, he announced his support for Oona King in her campaign to become the Labour Party candidate for Mayor of London in 2012.[46]

He and his ex-wife Kim Elba have a daughter named Isan, born in 2002.[47] In 2014, Elba's girlfriend, Naiyana Garth, gave birth to her and Elba's first son, Winston.[48]

When asked if he is a religious person, Elba replies that he is more spiritual than religious.[49][50] He has been a fan of Arsenal FC since he was a teenager.[51]

Awards and honors[edit]

Elba was selected as one of People '​s annual 100 Most Beautiful People in the World in May 2007.[52]

Idris Elba was named Essence '​s annual 2013 Sexiest Man of the Year.[53]

He was also ranked #2 in People '​s annual Sexiest Man Alive in 2013.[54]

In October 2014, Elba was presented with a MOBO Inspiration Award.[55]

In 2015, he was named one of GQ '​s 50 best dressed British men.[56]



Year Title Role Notes
1999 Belle maman Grégoire
2000 Sorted Jam
2001 Buffalo Soldiers Kimborough
2003 One Love Aaron
2005 Gospel, TheThe Gospel Charles Frank
2005 Sometimes in April Augustin
2007 Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls Monty James
2007 Reaping, TheThe Reaping Ben
2007 28 Weeks Later General Stone
2007 American Gangster Tango
2007 This Christmas Quentin Whitfield
2008 Prom Night Detective Winn
2008 RocknRolla Mumbles
2008 Human Contract, TheThe Human Contract Larry
2009 Unborn, TheThe Unborn Arthur Wyndham
2009 Obsessed Derek Charles
2010 Takers Gordon Cozier
2010 Legacy Malcolm Gray Executive producer
2010 Losers, TheThe Losers Roque
2011 Thor Heimdall
2012 Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Moreau
2012 Prometheus Captain Janek
2013 Pacific Rim Stacker Pentecost
2013 Thor: The Dark World Heimdall
2013 Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Nelson Mandela
2014 No Good Deed Colin Evans Executive producer
2015 The Gunman DuPont
2015 Beasts of No Nation Filming
2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron[57] Heimdall Post-production
2016 The Jungle Book Shere Khan (voice) Filming
2015 Bastille Day Filming
2016 Finding Dory TBA (voice) Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1994 2point4 Children Parachute Instructor Episode: "Fortuosity"
1994 Space Precinct Pizza Delivery Man Episode: "Double Duty"
1995 Absolutely Fabulous Hilton Episode: "Sex"
1996 Crocodile Shoes II Jo-Jo Episode: "Troubled Man"
1997 Family Affairs Tim Webster
1997 Silent Witness Charlie Episode: "Blood, Sweat & Tears"
1998 Ultraviolet Vaughan Rice 6 episodes
1999 Dangerfield Matt Gregory 12 episodes
2000 In Defence PC Paul Fraser 1 episode
2001 Law & Order Lonnie Liston Episode: "3 Dawg Night"
2002 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Robert Gabriel Episode: "Payment in Blood"
2003 CSI Miami Angelo Sedaris Episode: "The Best Defense"
2002–2004 Wire, TheThe Wire Russell "Stringer" Bell 37 episodes
2005 Girlfriends Paul Episode: "All in a Panic"
2005 Sometimes in April Augustin Muganza
2008 No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, TheThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Charles Gotso Episode: "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency"
2009 The Office Charles Miner 7 episodes
2010 Big C, TheThe Big C Lenny 4 episodes
2010 Walk Like a Panther Executive producer
2011 Aqua Teen Hunger Force Police Officer Voice
Episode: "Intervention"
2010–2015 Luther DCI John Luther Producer
16 episodes
2011 How Hip Hop Changed the World Executive producer
2011 Demons Never Die Executive producer
2012 Idris Elba's How Clubbing Changed the World Presenter
2013 Idris Elba: King of Speed Presenter

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role
2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 SFC "Truck"
2014 FIFA 15 Voice in E3 Trailer

Music videos[edit]

Year Artist Title Role Notes
2012 Mumford and Sons "Lover of the Light" Blind Man Co-director, producer
2012 Giggs Hustle On Driver Producer


  • 2006: Big Man
  • 2009: Kings Among Kings
  • 2010: High Class Problems Vol. 1
  • 2014: Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela
  • 2011: Merry DriisMas Holiday Mixtape

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Work Award Result
2005 Gospel, TheThe Gospel Black Reel Award for Best Actor Nominated
2005 Sometimes in April Black Reel Award for Best Actor: T.V. Movie/Cable Nominated
2005 Sometimes in April NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Nominated
2007 Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls BET Award for Actors of the Year Nominated
2007 American Gangster Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2008 BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
2009 BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
2009 Obsessed NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated
2010 BET Award for Best Actor Won
2010 Takers Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble Nominated
2010 Luther Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2011 Takers NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated
2011 BET Award for Best Actor Won
2011 Luther NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
2011 Big C, TheThe Big C Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
2011 Luther Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Won
2011 Luther Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2011 Luther Satellite Award for Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2012 Luther Black Reel Award for Best Actor: T.V. Movie/Cable Won
2012 Luther Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2012 BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
2014 Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama Nominated
2014 Luther Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2014 Luther NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
2014 Luther Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated


  1. ^ Yuan, Jada (8 June 2012). "Idris Elba on Prometheus, Learning to Box, and His Party House". Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Addley, Esther (20 March 2008). "He often has fewer lines than anyone else but you still feel as though he has the bigger part, because he is luminous". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Why black British directors and actors leave the UK for Hollywood". The Guardian. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Wire Cast and Crew: Idris Elba, Russell "Stringer" Bell". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  5. ^ Lowry, Brian (10 July 2014). "Emmy Nominations 2014 — Full List: 66th Primetime Emmys Nominees". Variety. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "Wire actor Elba joins BBC drama". BBC News. 4 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  7. ^ French, Philip (13 July 2013). "Pacific Rim – review". The Observer (London). Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Hornaday, Ann (11 July 2013). "'Pacific Rim' review: A rock ’em, sock ’em sci-fi spectacle with heart". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Canada, Danielle (13 September 2011). "Idris Elba (Driis) Releases New Music Video "Secret Garden"". 
  10. ^ Fitzherbert, Henry (24 May 2012). "Idris Elba: Obama loves him and now he's playing Mandela". Daily Express. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Sawyer, Miranda (24 January 2010). "Idris Elba: life after 'Stringer' Bell". The Observer. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (9 May 2009). "The Midas Touch". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 29 July 2009. 
  13. ^ a b Ayres, Chris (23 August 2008). "Life as a RocknRolla: meet the crafty Cockney Idris Elba". The Times (London). Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
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  17. ^ Plunkett, John (25 March 2008). "Minghella's last film watched by 6.3m". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  18. ^ "Actor Idris Elbia developing NBC legal drama". Reuters. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  19. ^ a b "Idris Elba Is New Alex Cross in Relaunched James Patterson Film Franchise". Deadline. Retrieved 19 August 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "Idris Elba and Columbus Short Interview, This Christmas". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  21. ^ "This Christmas". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  22. ^ "Idris Elba And Beyonce To Play Married Couple In 'Obsessed'". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  23. ^ "Weekend Report: Moviegoers Fixate on 'Obsessed'". Retrieved 26 April 2009. 
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  29. ^ Kit, Boris (5 October 2010). "Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth gear up for 'Ghost Rider 2'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 
  30. ^ Jefferson, Lucette (22 February 2012). "Confirmed! Idris Elba set to play Nelson Mandela in Biopic". Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  31. ^ "Idris Elba Describes Chilling Night In Nelson Mandela's Prison (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  32. ^ "It's Official! Idris Elba Will Star in Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" (Black Superhero Next?)". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  33. ^ "Mandela actor Idris Elba confirms Luther film". The Mirror. 3 January 2014. 
  34. ^ Giggs – Hustle on official video on YouTube
  35. ^ "He often has fewer lines than anyone else but you still feel as though he has the bigger part, because he is luminous". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  36. ^ McMurtrie, John (11 February 2007). "Ties to 'Wire' cut – but new work calls". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  37. ^ "Keri Hilson, The Dream and Idris Elba party with BET". Retrieved 29 July 2009. 
  38. ^ Morris, Davina (5 July 2009). "Man of many talents – Actor Idris Elba returns to his first love, music, with the release of his new single". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 29 July 2009. 
  39. ^ Amber, Jeannine (13 July 2009). "ESSENCE August Issue: Sexy Talk With Idris Elba". Essence. Retrieved 14 August 2009. 
  40. ^ "High Class Problems". driis. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  41. ^ MTV
  42. ^ "K. Michelle To Star In Idris Elba Directed Musical". The Urban Daily. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  43. ^ "Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno and comedian Noel Fielding tease 'Wu-Tang Clan' live shows". Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  44. ^ "Journey Dot Africa with Idris Elba". BBC Radio 2. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  45. ^ "Idris Elba Becomes Anti Crime Ambassador". Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  46. ^ "Oona King can tackle violence, says The Wire star Idris Elba". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 23 July 2003. 
  47. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (5 May 2009). "The Midas Touch". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  48. ^ Webber, Stephanie (18 April 2014). "Idris Elba Welcomes Baby Boy Winston With Naiyana Garth: First Picture". Us Weekly. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  49. ^ "The Reaping: Idris Elba Q&A". 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  50. ^ Topel, Fred (30 November 1999). "Idris Elba: International Man". CraveOnline. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  51. ^ Singh, Amar (21 February 2011). "Arsenal can win the title! - Idris Elba, star of The Wire and Thor, on his love for the Gunners". Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  52. ^ "People Magazine's 'Most Beautiful People' issue". CBS News. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  53. ^ Penn, Charli (2013). "ESSENCE's 2013 Sexiest Man of the Year: 50 Reasons to Love Idris Elba". Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  54. ^ "Sexiest Man Alive 2013: Adam Levine, David Beckham, Brad Pitt, Idris Elba". 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  55. ^ "Mobo Awards 2014: Idris Elba receives inspiration award". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  56. ^ "50 Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015". GQ. 5 Jan 2015. 
  57. ^ Holmes, Jonathan (2 November 2014). "Will Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Idris Elba (Heimdall) appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron?". Radio Times. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 

External links[edit]