LOS ANGELES: British actor Idris Elba, 40, may be best known as an enterprising Baltimore drug lord on HBO series The Wire, but he has a growing presence in sci-fi films and will play South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela in his first biopic.
Elba, who starred in 2011’s action-adventure Thor and 2012 sci-fi film Prometheus, will next be seen as a general in Guillermo del Toro’s epic sci-fi disaster film Pacific Rim, out in US theatres on Friday.
You play Nelson Mandela in the upcoming film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. What did the role mean to you and did you meet Mandela when preparing?
It meant so much to me, it’s such a massive opportunity to be part of a true legend’s life, and more importantly, the film re-educates people on this legend.
I never met Mr Mandela because he was very ill, so our interpretation of him was without his personal influence. But the script is such a good one, and obviously it comes from his book, and the book speaks for itself.
Did you feel any pressure in playing Mandela?
This is the first real biopic I’ve done, and there’s no real difference in the process, but it’s Mr Mandela, so that’s huge. Everyone knows who he is and what he sounds like, and I look nothing like him.
If I get judged, which I will, about my performance or how I sound or how I look, I think people miss the point. The point is that this is called Long Walk to Freedom, this is the book about his life and it’s his own words.
How do you want people to remember Mandela from the film?
That he’s a man. He’s a human being. I think we forget that — that he is human.
You have a music career on the side as DJ Big Driis. You put out your own EP (extended play recording) and featured in Jay Z’s 2007 album American Gangster. What does music mean to you?
My music stuff is always a part. What it’s become for me recently is that it’s a reset between all the stuff I do. I go back to it to kind of remember who...I am. It’s really the one point of my life that I get to be creative without any pressure.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.
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