Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Elba in October 2014
Born Idrissa Akuna Elba
(1972-09-06) 6 September 1972
London, England
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1]
Other names Big Driis
7 Wallace[2]
Occupation Actor, musician, DJ
Years active 1994–present
Height 190 cm (6 ft 3 in)
Partner(s) Naiyana Garth (2013–16)
Children 2

Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba, OBE (/ˈɪdrs ˈɛlbə/; born 6 September 1972)[3] is an English actor, musician and DJ.[4][5] He is known for playing drug baron Russell "Stringer" Bell on the HBO series The Wire,[6] Detective John Luther on the BBC One series Luther, and Nelson Mandela in the biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013). He has been nominated four times for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning one, and was nominated five times for a Primetime Emmy Award.[7][8]

Elba has appeared in films such as Ridley Scott's American Gangster (2007), Takers (2010), Thor (2011), Prometheus (2012), Pacific Rim (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Beasts of No Nation (2015, for which he received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor), and Star Trek Beyond (2016).[9][10] In 2016, he also voiced Chief Bogo in Zootopia, Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, and Fluke in Finding Dory. He will make his directorial debut in late 2016 with an adaptation of 1992 novel Yardie by Victor Headley.[11]

In addition to his acting work, Elba is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis (or Big Driis the Londoner) and hip hop soul musician.[12] In 2016, he was named in the Time 100 list of the Most Influential People in the World.[13]

Early life

Idris Elba was born in London, England on 6 September 1972. His father, Winston, was a Sierra Leonean who worked in the Ford motor factory at Dagenham, and his mother, Eve, was a Ghanaian who had a clerical job.[14] Elba's parents were married in Sierra Leone and later moved to London.[15] Elba himself was brought up in East Ham[16] 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.[17] 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.[3]

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.[18] To support himself between roles in Crimewatch reconstructions, he worked in jobs such as tyre-fitting, cold call advertising sales, and the night shift at Ford Dagenham.[19] He was working in nightclubs, under the DJ nickname Big Driis, at age 19, but began auditioning for television roles in his early twenties.[3]

Acting career


In 1995, Elba landed his first significant role on a series called Bramwell, a medical drama set in 1890s England. He played a central 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 named role arrived earlier in 1995, cast 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[3] and went on to appear on the television serial Ultraviolet and later on Dangerfield.[20] He decided to move to New York City soon after.[3] 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.[3]

After a supporting turn on a 2001 episode of Law & Order, Elba landed a starring role on the 2002 HBO drama series The Wire. From 2002 to 2004, Elba portrayed Russell "Stringer" Bell in the series, perhaps his best-known role in the United States. 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.[21] He appeared as Charlie Gotso on The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, filmed in Botswana.[22] 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.[23]

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.[22] Elba appeared in a six episode story arc later in the 2009 season as well as the season finale.[22] In September 2009, he signed a deal to star as the lead role on the six-part BBC television series Luther, which aired in May 2010.[8] He appeared on Showtime's The Big C in 2010.[24] 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.[8]


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

In 2007, Elba signed on as the lead role of the film 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 former wife. He appeared in 28 Weeks Later (2007) and This Christmas (2007), which brought in nearly $50 million at the box office in 2007.[25][26] In 2008, he starred in the horror film Prom Night and the criminal comedy RocknRolla.[25] In 2009, he starred in the horror film The Unborn and in Obsessed, a thriller that had him cast opposite Beyoncé.[27] The latter was a box office success, taking $29 million in its opening weekend.[28]

Elba's next film was Legacy (2010),[29] 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.[29] 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.[30] Filming took place in Puerto Rico and the movie was released in April 2010.[31] Elba appeared in the thriller Takers (2010). He played Heimdall in Kenneth Branagh's film Thor (2011) (based on the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name).[32]

In August 2010, Elba signed up to portray the title character in a reboot of James Patterson's Alex Cross film franchise.[24] However, in February 2011, he was replaced by Tyler Perry.[33] In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012), the sequel to Ghost Rider (2007), Elba played an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding the title character.[34] In February 2012, Elba confirmed that he would portray Nelson Mandela in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is based on his autobiography.[35] As part of his preparation for the role, Elba spent a night locked in a cell alone on Robben Island, where Mandela had been imprisoned.[36] His performance earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.[37]

In June 2012, Elba portrayed Captain Janek in Ridley Scott's Prometheus.[38] He joined the cast of the film Pacific Rim (2013) in the role of Stacker Pentecost.[39] In January 2014, he confirmed that he would be starring in a film adaptation of Luther.[40] In 2014 he starred in No Good Deed as a vengeful psychopathic serial killer.

In 2015, Elba appeared as Heimdall in the superhero blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon. Elba also starred alongside Abraham Attah in the film Beasts of No Nation which premiered in select theaters and on Netflix. He earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture as well as a BAFTA nomination for a Supporting Actor award in the Film category. In 2016, he had several voice roles: the cape buffalo chief of police, Chief Bogo, in Disney's Zootopia, alongside Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman; villainous tiger Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, a live-action remake of the animated 1967 film of the same name; and Pixar's Finding Dory, alongside Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, both reprising their roles from Finding Nemo (2003). In 2016, Stephen King confirmed that Elba will portray Roland Deschain in the upcoming Dark Tower movie.[41] Elba appeared in Star Trek Beyond as the main antagonist, Krall.

Music career

Elba at the American Music Awards in 2007

Elba has appeared in music videos for Fat Joe (2002),[42] Angie Stone (2004)[43] and rapper Giggs (2010).[44] 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 album American Gangster (2007).[45] He DJed at the 2007 NBA All Star parties at The Venetian and Ice House Lounge in Las Vegas.[46]

In July 2009, Elba was the DJ for BET's current series Rising Icons.[47] Elba announced the release of his first single "Please Be True."[48] In the August 2009 issue of Essence magazine, he announced the name of his six-song EP as Kings Among Kings.[49] 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.[50]

In 2011, he performed on the intro to Pharoahe Monch's album W.A.R.. The following year, he co-directed and performed in the Mumford and Sons music video for "Lover of the Light".[51]

In 2014, he produced K. Michelle's "The Rebellious Soul Musical" which debuted on VH1 on 19 August 2014.[52] 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.[53][54] 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.[55] Elba also rapped in a remix of Skepta's "Shutdown" which was uploaded on 1 June 2015 to SoundCloud.[56] 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. Elba is also featured on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis album This Unruly Mess I've Made (2016).

Other work

In October 2014, Elba presented the series Journey Dot Africa with Idris Elba on BBC Radio 2, exploring all types of African music.[57] Elba has also featured in various television commercials for Sky box-sets in 2013, 2014 and 2015.[58] Elba has created a collaboration with British fashion label Superdry, which launched at the end of November 2015.[59]

Personal life

The Prince's Trust, a leading UK youth charity which Elba credits with helping to start his career, appointed him its Anti-Crime Ambassador in April 2009.[60] 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.[61]

As The Wire filmed in Maryland, he lived there. On the Eastern Shore is where he met real estate attorney Sonia Nicole Hamlin. They married in 2006 with the marriage only lasting six weeks before Elba left her.[62] After dating since 2013, in 2014, Elba's girlfriend Naiyana Garth gave birth to their son Winston Elba. In 2016, Garth and Elba separated.[63][64]

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."[65][66]

He has been a huge fan of Premier League football club Arsenal F.C. since he was a teenager.[67] Idris broke a land speed record, drove a dragster, and piloted a plane in his show on the Discovery channel Idris Elba: No Limits. He is also an avid rally fan, having competed in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship as well as starring on the show Idris Elba: No Limits, where he races a rally car with help from Ari Vatanen.

Awards and honours

Elba was selected as one of People's annual 100 Most Beautiful People in the World in May 2007.[68] He was named Essence's annual 2013 Sexiest Man of the Year[69] and was also ranked No. 2 in People's annual Sexiest Man Alive in 2013.[70]

In October 2014, Elba was presented with a MOBO Inspiration Award.[71] In 2015, he was named one of GQ magazine's 50 best dressed British men.[72]

As part of his Discovery Channel miniseries Idris Elba: No Limits, he broke the course record land speed "Flying Mile" for the Pendine Sands.[73]

Elba was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to drama.[74][75]



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 Zootopia Chief Bogo (voice)
2016 The Jungle Book Shere Khan (voice)
2016 Bastille Day Sean Briar
2016 Finding Dory Fluke (voice)
2016 100 Streets Max
2016 Star Trek Beyond Krall
2017 The Dark Tower Roland Deschain In post-production
2017 Thor: Ragnarok Heimdall In post-production[76]
2017 Molly's Game Filming
2017 The Mountain Between Us Dr. Max Payne Filming[77]


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 The Governor Officer Chiswick 6 episodes
1996 Crocodile Shoes II Jo-Jo Episode: "Troubled Man"
1997 Family Affairs Tim Webster 7 episodes
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"
2002–2004 The Wire Russell "Stringer" Bell 37 episodes
2003 CSI: Miami Angelo Sedaris Episode: "The Best Defense"
2005 Girlfriends Paul Episode: "All in a Panic"
2005 Sometimes in April Augustin Muganza Television film
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
2010–2015 Luther DCI John Luther Producer
16 episodes
2011 Aqua Teen Hunger Force Police Officer Voice
Episode: "Intervention"
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

Year Title Role Notes
2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 SFC "Truck"
2014 FIFA 15 Voice in E3 Trailer
2016 Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege Televised Advertisements

Music videos

Year Artist Title Role Notes
2012 Mumford and Sons "Lover of the Light" Blind Man Co-director, producer
Giggs "Hustle On" Driver Producer
2016 Macklemore "Dance Off" Himself Featuring Artist



Awards and nominations

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 Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
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 Won
Kermode Award for Best Actor Won
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
2016 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated


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  37. Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
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  41. "'The Dark Tower' rises: Stephen King confirms stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey".
  42. Fat Joe – All I Need on YouTube
  43. Angie Stone – I Wanna Thank Ya on YouTube
  44. Giggs – Hustle on official video on YouTube
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  54. Andy Gill, "Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela, album review: A marvellous alliance of ancient and modern styles", The Independent, 21 November 2014.
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  58. "Idris Elba's new Sky advert: why can't he wink?". Guardian. 29 November 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
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  61. "Oona King can tackle violence, says The Wire star Idris Elba". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 23 July 2003.
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  68. "People Magazine's 'Most Beautiful People' issue" (PDF). CBS News. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
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  72. Robert Johnston (5 January 2015). "50 Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015". GQ.
  73. "Actor Idris Elba Breaks Historic 'Flying Mile' Record in Bentley", Bentley, 7 May 2015.
  74. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61450. p. N12. 30 December 2015.
  75. Mendick, Robert; Swinford, Steven (31 December 2015). "New Year's Honours: Idris Elba, Barbara Windsor, Damon Albarn and Ronnie O'Sullivan named in 2016 lis". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  76. "Hey brothers and sisters, I'm finally on Snapchat taking you on the set of @marvel #Thor3 Follow along". Instagram @markruffalo. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.

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