Q&A Idris Elba on his onscreen chemistry with Kate Winslet and fear of spiders.
Everyone appears to have their own way of saying your first name – it’s either Eee-dris, Eye-dris, or Eh-dris. Can you clear it up for our readers once and for all? It’s Eee-dris with a short E, not a long, drawn-out E. You made your name in the US with The Wire. You did the same in Britain with Luther. So, an Australian TV show could be on the cards next, but our accent is notoriously hard to imitate. Have you ever tried? Have I tried an Australian accent? Um… no! [Laughs.] I’m terrible with accents, if I’m honest. I’m terrible at doing it off the cuff. I don’t think you’d be very impressed. Your new film The Mountain Between Us was shot in the remote Canadian wilderness. Approximately how many times did you watch The Revenant to gear up for the cold weather? I watched it once – not in preparation. But I did think of it once I was up there. Director Hany Abu-assad says you and co-star Kate Winslet have incredible chemistry. Why do you think he said that – and, more importantly, do you think it beats hers and Leonardo Dicaprio’s in Titanic? I think he said that because we really got on. We had to because of the nature of the film, of course. It was hard work. Kate’s really nice and we basically bonded very quickly, even though our characters bonded much slower. And that was helpful because we could really pull this film together and trust each other’s instincts. In answer to your second question, no. That is one of the all-time best chemistries on film, Leo and her in Titanic. So no, I don’t think it beats that. In recent years you have voiced characters in Finding Dory, The Jungle Book and Zootopia. Be honest: do you take those jobs so you have a quiet excuse to eat some carbs and show up to work in your pyjamas for a change? [Laughs.] Yep, that’s it, you’ve got me. How did you guess? When you’re not acting, you are directing. Or kickboxing. Or making music. Or designing clothes. Have you ever thought about, oh, going to a spa day or something? Do you know what, I was thinking about doing that today… but then the phone rang, and I had to talk to you [laughs]. Rest is on its way, just after a few more questions. Last year you were named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Wield your
“Try an Australian accent? No! I don’t think you’d be very impressed” “Kate Winslet and I bonded very quickly but I don’t think it beats her and Leo’s all-time best film chemistry in Titanic”
influence and tell our readers what they should have for dinner tonight. You can have whatever you want. But make sure you have some vegetables, too. You’ve won numerous accolades. Earlier this year, you were awarded with another – Rear of the Year. You
took the gluteus maximus crown away from your Thor co-star Tom Hiddleston, and beat Prince Harry, Jamie Dornan and Harry Styles to the punch. How do you feel? Yeah, I’m still weirded out by that, if I’m being honest. I had to look in the mirror to see what they were talking about. Truth is, what an honour, wow! What can I say? Apparently having a nice backside is a big thing. You moved from the UK to the US when you were in your 20s. What was the biggest cultural hurdle you had to overcome? The biggest cultural hurdle was the “bigness” of America. Everything from the infrastructure to some of the personalities – it’s the first thing you notice. I really loved coming to America early in my career. I got used to it very quickly. You have two kids. What is the most important thing you have learnt through fatherhood? And the most ridiculous? Most important is to be honest [with] your children. And most ridiculous is… [Pauses.] What’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve learnt? The most ridiculous is that when my children say they’re going to bed, they’re not actually going to bed. They say they are, but they’re definitely not. You’re a sex symbol to millions. Who keeps your head from getting too big when those Sexiest Man Alive photoshoot approaches start rolling in? Probably my mum… Good ol’ Mum. Early in your TV career, you played a parachute instructor, a pizza delivery man and a pest controller. We know you are an adrenaline junkie and staying fit probably rules out pizza from your diet. So let’s talk pest control: just how squeamish are you when it comes to killing spiders? I’ve got this rule not to kill any living animal, so if I do see a spider – and I’m not a fan, I’m basically arachnophobic – again, I call my mum.