TV story:

Idris Elba’s new role on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel fits like a glove, writes HOLLY BYRNES

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING -

The gloves are on.

AS mid-life van­ity projects go, hav­ing your mon­ey­maker face used as a punch­ing bag for the eight months it takes to pre­pare for your first pro­fes­sional fight isn’t ex­actly the easy op­tion.

But then, Idris Elba – long tipped to be the next James Bond – isn’t the kind of man to set­tle back with a mar­tini and put his life on cruise con­trol.

“Some peo­ple go out and buy Fer­raris and some peo­ple buy a mo­tor­bike. Well, I was sort of in­ter­ested in test­ing whether my body could with­stand ex­treme train­ing,” Elba says.

Af­ter get­ting his fast and fu­ri­ous fix in Idris Elba: King

of Speed (Tues­day, 9.30pm), his lat­est Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel se­ries Idris Elba: Fighter de­manded more from The

Wire and Luther star. While his fe­male fans would ar­gue he’s fit as is, the 44-year-old wanted to push his phys­i­cal lim­its – train­ing as a K-1 fighter (a derivative of Muay Thai box­ing) and, in the fi­nale of the three-part doc­u­men­tary, shapes up in a pro­fes­sional bout.

On the other side of a year of in­ten­sive train­ing, which he squeezed in around his block­buster film sched­ules for

The Dark Tower and Thor: Rag­narok, Elba is in the best shape of his life.

“At the op­ti­mum of my train­ing, I was more fit at 44 than I was when I was 18 – and that’s a fact – so that was an achieve­ment for me,” he says.

“And the fear fac­tor just dis­ap­peared af­ter a while.”

But not ev­ery­thing ran to plan, with the ac­tor suf­fer­ing a “pretty se­vere back in­jury” which threat­ened to de­rail the pro­duc­tion in its early stages.

Doc­tors ad­vised Elba against con­tin­u­ing, mak­ing his 4am starts even more painful as he pushed ahead.

“When you’re train­ing for a fight, you take more losses than you take wins,” Elba says.

“You have to do 60 rounds be­fore you win two rounds … so a lot of the time, I was tak­ing hits and be­ing beaten and it didn’t feel good.”

Be­sides his strict fit­ness regime, Elba also com­pletely over­hauled his diet – he is now largely pescatar­ian af­ter dis­cov­er­ing he had al­ler­gies to wheat and corn.

“That was one of the hard­est things I went through be­cause I love pasta, I love rice, I love beer, and I had to cut all that out … as soon as I did, I lost huge amounts of weight but I also gained a lot of en­ergy,” he says.

The fa­ther of two ad­mits he turned to his act­ing skills to get him through his low­est mo­ments.

“The truth is … when you get punched in the face, or you get kicked in your leg and it hurts, there’s no act­ing there,” he laughs. “But I can def­i­nitely ap­ply what I do as an ac­tor to make that feel real, to make it look real.”

His agent is field­ing more in­ter­est in Elba as an ac­tion hero, but the Bri­tish-born star is spend­ing the year fo­cus­ing on di­rect­ing his first film,

Yardie; then he’d “like to go back and do more Luther, so I think that might hap­pen”.

Next on his ad­ven­ture list? A gal­axy far away. “If Dis­cov­ery will pay for it, then yeah, I’ll go to space,” he says.

IDRIS ELBA: FIGHTER TUES­DAY, APRIL 18, 9.30PM, DIS­COV­ERY CHAN­NEL

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