While shopping at Wegmans yesterday Idris Elba caught my eye. On a magazine cover of course. Idris became the first male to grace the cover of Maxim magazine by himself.
The acclaimed actor talks music, sex, auto racing, and a certain martini-swilling special agent who shall remain nameless.
Take it from the man himself: It’s just not happening. Elba, Idris Elba, will not be the next actor to introduce himself with that famous construction as Ian Fleming’s spy with a license to kill. The oddsmakers have spoken, tipping Damian Lewis to take over from Daniel Craig following this year’s Spectre. True, the franchise’s fans have not been shy about their desire to see the producers slide the Aston Martin keys across the bar to Elba, the scrappy kid from working-class Hackney. But in the actor’s estimation, this very attention has all but killed his chances to land the role. So, in an effort to pull victory from the jaws of defeat, let’s all just shut up about it, foil the search engines, and not even mention the famous spy he’s never in a million years going to play, OK?
It should be enough to celebrate the work of an impressively talented 43-year-old actor with the range to go from playing The Wire’s drug kingpin Stringer Bell to Nelson Mandela, and soon the villain of the Star Trek reboot. Next month, Elba plays the frighteningly charismatic commandant of an African child army in Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, a performance sure to land him on a red carpet or two. And who knows? Given his recent auto-racing exploits and his prowess as a DJ, maybe the sight of the actor strutting before the global entertainment media in a designer tux will land him the role after all. Oddsmakers have been wrong before.
You shot Beasts of No Nation in Ghana, where your mother grew up. Were you received as a hero?
I think there’s some pride there about my heritage and pride that I can use my skill to tell African stories. I’ve been acting a long time, but playing Mandela was certainly one of the big touchstones where my family said, “Wow, well done.” Playing a part in Thor didn’t quite get the same sort of reaction.
Your dad, who was an autoworker, died in late 2013. You based your portrayal of Mandela partly on him.
Although my dad was a simple, working-class man, he was very charismatic and always wanted to stand up for the underprivileged. Even at Ford, he became a shop steward, a union rep. I got to show my dad that film; that’s the last performance he saw. There was a huge amount of satisfaction there.
How did your father react to the news that you wanted to be an actor?
He said, “Boy, think of something else.” He just straight told me actors don’t make money. And I was like, No, I’m gonna do it.
You left a solid career as an actor in London to struggle in New York. Did you ever fear you’d blown it?
Yeah, definitely. My agent in England didn’t support it. She said, “We’re just getting you work in the first place! Why do you need to go over there and be another hamburger? They already have hamburgers.” And I was like, Well, I wanna be a bigger and juicier hamburger. So I ended up in America only to find out that I wasn’t even a ham sandwich. It was tough.
Check out the interview at Maxim.com or the magazine at your local newsstand.