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 43)
Newham, London, England
Other names Big Driis
7 Wallace[1]
Occupation Actor, musician, DJ
Years active 1994–present
Children 2

Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba, OBE (/ˈɪdrəs ˈɛlbə/; born 6 September 1972)[2] is a British actor, musician, and DJ.[3][4] He is best known for his portrayal of drug lord and aspiring businessman Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO series The Wire,[5] Detective John Luther in the BBC One series Luther, and Nelson Mandela in the 2013 biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. He has been nominated five times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning one, as well being nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy Award.[6][7]

Elba has appeared in films such as American Gangster (2007), Takers (2010), Thor (2011), Prometheus (2012), Pacific Rim (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Beasts of No Nation (2015).[8][9] In addition to his acting work, he is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis (or Big Driis the Londoner) and hip hop soul musician.[10]

Early life[edit]

Elba was born in Newham, London.[11] His father, Winston, was a Sierra Leonean who worked in a Dagenham Ford motor factory, and his mother, Eve, was a Ghanaian who had a clerical job.[12] Elba's parents married in Sierra Leone and moved to London.[13] Elba was raised in East Ham[14] and shortened his first name from Idrissa to Idris at school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting. He credits The Stage with giving him his first big break; having seen an advertisement for a play in the newspaper, Elba auditioned and met his first agent while performing in the role.[15] In 1986, he began helping an uncle with his wedding DJ business; 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. His first roles were in Crimewatch murder reconstructions.[16] To support himself between roles in Crimewatch reconstructions, he worked in jobs such as tire-fitting, cold call advertising sales, and the night shift at Ford Dagenham.[17] He was working in nightclubs, under the DJ nickname Big Driis, at the age of 19, but began auditioning for television roles in his early twenties.[2]

Acting career[edit]


In 1995, Elba landed his first major role on a series called Bramwell, a medical drama set in 1890s England. He played the lead character in an episode of Season 1, 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.[18] 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 the 2002 HBO drama The Wire. From 2002 to 2004, Elba portrayed Russell "Stringer" Bell in the 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.[19] He appeared as Charlie Gotso in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, filmed in Botswana.[20] 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.[21]

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.[20] Elba appeared in a six episode story arc later in the 2009 season as well as the season finale.[20] In September 2009, he signed a deal to star as the lead role in the six-part BBC television show Luther, which aired in May 2010.[7] In October 2009, NBC announced Elba as executive producer of an as yet untitled legal drama.[22] He appeared on Showtime's The Big C in 2010.[23] 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.[7]


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.[24][25] In 2008, he starred in the horror film Prom Night and the crime comedy RocknRolla.[24] In 2009, he starred in the horror film The Unborn and in Obsessed, a thriller that had him cast opposite Beyoncé.[26] The latter was a box office success, taking $29 million in its opening weekend.[27]

Elba's next film was Legacy (2010),[28] 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.[28] 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.[29] Filming took place in Puerto Rico and the movie was released in April 2010.[30] 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).[31]

In August 2010, Elba signed up to portray the title character in a reboot of James Patterson's Alex Cross film franchise.[23] However, in February 2011 he was replaced by Tyler Perry.[32] Elba appeared in the 2012 sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, playing an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding Ghost Rider.[33] 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.[34] As part of his preparation for the role, Elba spent a night alone, locked in a cell, on Robben Island.[35] His performance earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.[36]

In June 2012, Elba portrayed Captain Janek in Prometheus. He joined the 2013 film Pacific Rim in the role of Stacker Pentecost.[37] In January 2014, he confirmed that he would be starring in a film adaptation of Luther.[38]

In 2015, Elba appeared as Heimdall in the superhero blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon. He will then be voicing the villainous tiger Shere Khan in an adaptation of The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau and co-starring Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Academy Award winners Sir Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and Lupita Nyong'o, as well as providing voice work on Pixar's Finding Dory, alongside Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks, both reprising their roles from 2003's Finding Nemo. Elba also starred alongside Abraham Attah in the film Beasts of No Nation which premiered in select theaters and on Netflix, for which he earned a nomination for the Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award.

Music career[edit]

Elba at the American Music Awards in 2007

Elba has appeared in music videos for Fat Joe (2002),[39] Angie Stone (2004)[40] and rapper Giggs (2010).[41] 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.[42] He DJ'd at the 2007 NBA All Star parties at the The Venetian and Ice House Lounge in Las Vegas.[43]

In July 2009, Elba was the DJ for BET's new series Rising Icons.[44] Elba announced the release of his first single "Please Be True."[45] In the August 2009 issue of Essence magazine, he announced the name of his six-song EP as Kings Among Kings.[46] 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.[47]

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".[48]

In 2014 he produced K. Michelle's "The Rebellious Soul Musical" which debuted on VH1 on 19 August 2014.[49] In May Elba featured on Mr Hudson's single "Step Into the Shadows". Mr Hudson also produced his album Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela, which was released in November 2014.[50][51] He also featured on the remix of Ghanaian music group, VVIP's single "selfie" together with Nigerian rapper Phyno released on 12 September 2014 and video released on YouTube on 11 April 2015.

Elba performed a rap for the second album by Noel Fielding and Sergio Pizzorno's band, the Loose Tapestries.[52]

Elba also rapped in a remix of Skepta's "Shutdown" which was uploaded on 1 June 2015 to SoundCloud.[53][better source needed] On 17 August, a song was released on which Elba appeared on Nigerian singer D'banj's single "Confidential", featuring Sierra Leonean rapper Shadow Boxer with the video uploaded to YouTube on 20 August.

In November 2015, Elba opened for Madonna during her Rebel Heart Tour in Berlin, Germany.

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.[54]

Elba has also featured in various television commercials for SKY box-sets in 2013, 2014 and 2015.[55]

Idris has created a collaboration with British fashion label Superdry, due to launch at the end of November 2015.[56]

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.[57] 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.[58]

He and his former wife Kim have a daughter named Isan, born in 2002.[59] In 2014, Elba's girlfriend Naiyana Garth gave birth to their first child, son Winston.[60]

On religion, Elba states that he is "spiritual but not religious", clarifying that "... I'm not a religious man in that sense. I call myself a spiritual being, if you like."[61][62]

He has been a fan of Arsenal F.C. since he was a teenager.[63]

Awards and honours[edit]

Elba was selected as one of People's annual 100 Most Beautiful People in the World in May 2007.[64] He was named Essence's annual 2013 Sexiest Man of the Year[65] and was also ranked #2 in People's annual Sexiest Man Alive in 2013.[66]

In October 2014, Elba was presented with a MOBO Inspiration Award.[67] In 2015, he was named one of GQ magazine's 50 best dressed British men.[68]

As part of his Discovery Channel miniseries Idris Elba: No Limits, he broke the course record land speed "Flying Mile" for the Pendine Sands.[69]

Elba was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to drama.[70][71]



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 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 Second Coming Mark
2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron Heimdall
2015 Beasts of No Nation Commandant
2016 The Jungle Book Shere Khan (voice) Post-production
2016 Bastille Day TBA Post-production
2016 Finding Dory TBA (voice) Filming
2016 Star Trek Beyond Krall Filming
2016 Zootopia Chief Bogo (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 Himself Host
2013 Idris Elba: King of Speed Himself Host
2015 Idris Elba: No Limits Himself Host

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


  • 2015: Murdah Loves John (The John Luther Character Album)
  • 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
Sometimes in April Black Reel Award for Best Actor: T.V. Movie/Cable Nominated
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Nominated
2007 Daddy's Little Girls BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
American Gangster Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2008 This Christmas, American Gangster and 28 Weeks Later BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
2009 RocknRolla and The Unborn Nominated
Obsessed NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated
2010 The Losers BET Award for Best Actor Won
Takers Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble Nominated
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
Takers and Luther BET Award for Best Actor Won
Luther NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
Big C, TheThe Big C Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Nominated
Luther Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Actor - Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
2012 Black Reel Award for Best Actor: T.V. Movie/Cable Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
Thor, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Luther BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
2014 Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Thor: The Dark World BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
Luther Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2015 Luther and No Good Deed BET Award for Best Actor Nominated
Beasts of No Nation Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor Won
Awards Circuit Community Award for Best Supporting Actor Pending
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role Pending
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male Pending
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Won
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
Luther Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Won
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Won


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  40. ^ Angie Stone – I Wanna Thank Ya on YouTube
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  69. ^ "Actor Idris Elba Breaks Historic 'Flying Mile' Record in Bentley", Bentley, 7 May 2015.
  70. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61450. p. N12. 30 December 2015.
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External links[edit]