Break­ing the good-guy mould

The Star Early Edition - - TONIGHT FILM - THERESA SMITH

NE of the mar­ket­ing cam­paigns for the film No Good Deed fea­tures a poster of Idris Elba, ask­ing the viewer: “Would you open the door to this man?”

It rather de­feated the ob­ject of the cam­paign, though, be­cause many a woman (or man) would do so sim­ply be­cause it is Elba.

In the film, how­ever, he plays a bad guy, though the viewer is a tad con­fused about how good or bad he is for the first half-an-hour be­cause it could swing ei­ther way, and the Bri­tish ac­tor’s screen bag­gage has been mostly pos­i­tive up to this point.

After all, this is the guy who plays Madiba in Long Walk to Free­dom as well as the door­keeper to Val­halla, Heim­dall, in the Mar­vel movies and the charis­matic Luther in the BBC TVseries.

He seems tick­led when I ex­plain that No Good Deed opens on the South African cir­cuit this week.

“No way, is it? Fan­tas­tic. It’s com­ing here? Re­ally?” he chuck­les.

He’s laid-back, talk­a­tive and sur­pris­ingly happy for some­one who has spent an en­tire day talk­ing to jour­nal­ists about be­ing in South Africa for the Oude Meester Masters in the Mak­ing tour.

In No Good Deed Elba plays a character who is in­vited into Taraji P Hen­son’s home when his car breaks down, but he has an ul­te­rior mo­tive for want­ing to use a phone.

“It was a dif­fer­ent part for me, you never see me play such an an­tag­o­nis­tic character.

“But I think that was part of the thrill of this par­tic­u­lar film. I, of course, moulded that as much as I could as an ac­tor and as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer I was part of the artis­tic de­ci­sions that sculpted the film, but ul­ti­mately I was there to act.”

Elba and Hen­son did a lot of stunt train­ing for a sec­tion at the

Oend when the two tussle phys­i­cally: “It was im­por­tant to the di­rec­tor and our­selves that we show the emo­tion at that mo­ment. It’s a big emo­tional fight and stunt men can only do so much.” No Good Deed was shot in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia in 2012 be­fore he moved on to the Long Walk to Free­dom set in South Africa, which was fol­lowed by work in the UK on the Thor 2: The Dark World set.

The 42-year-old was born in Hack­ney, London, but refers to him­self as a gypsy since he trav­els ex­ten­sively.

South African tele­vi­sion au­di­ences as­so­ciate Elba and London with the Luther character and talk of a film has been bandied about, but it is a slow process: “It’s a tele­vi­sion show. Peo­ple loved it on tele­vi­sion and the idea of it step­ping into a slightly big­ger arena, and you have to pay to watch it, that’s a hard sell for any au­di­ence.

“I think what we’re do­ing is a very slow burn and hope­fully I’m go­ing to make another one.”

Though there have been three se­ries since 2010, there have only been 14 episodes: “So, I still feel like there is some un­touched ground there to look at with the Luther character and, also a sort of foun­da­tion to­wards a film.”

While he speaks with an East London ac­cent, Elba af­fects a fairly neu­tral Amer­i­can ac­cent for No Good Deed, and, of course, he tack­led Nel­son Man­dela’s speech pat­terns for Long Walk to Free­dom.

“I re­mem­ber do­ing my re­search for Madiba and hav­ing to un­der­stand the way he spoke, why he spoke that way, how his English was af­fected by Xhosa. All of this was for me more in­for­ma­tive than do­ing an im­per­son­ation. Try­ing to un­der­stand who he was and why he spoke the way he did, that’s the type of work I try to do with all the char­ac­ters that I do.”

He is cur­rently at­tached to two an­i­ma­tion projects, pro­vid­ing the voice for Shere Khan for The Jun­gle Book and also some­thing for Find­ing Dory. He is very cagey about the de­tails though: “I can’t ac­tu­ally say, I’m sort of bound to… the tech­niques of an­i­ma­tion are fas­ci­nat­ing th­ese days.”

He would def­i­nitely do other an­i­ma­tion film voices: “I’m loving that, it’s a dif­fer­ent dis­ci­pline for me. Also be­cause I have chil­dren and would love them to go to my films.”

While he was in South Africa he got the chance to play DJ, some­thing he has been do­ing across east London (UK, not SA) for the Ibiza Rocks brand.

Elba is pro­duc­ing an al­bum in­spired by his ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on the Man­dela movie, but another mu­sic project he had great fun on was for BBC Ra­dio 2, a ra­dio show ti­tled Jour­ney Dot Com in which he in­tro­duced lis­ten­ers to African mu­sic from the ’60s to to­day.

“That’s mu­sic that I grew up with and stuff that I re­ally loved and stuff that I didn’t know that was re­searched for me.

“African mu­sic is amaz­ing and I re­ally wanted to take peo­ple on a lit­tle bit of a ‘oh re­ally’ ex­plo­ration.

“There’s such beau­ti­ful mu­sic com­ing from this con­ti­nent, so that was a great op­por­tu­nity. And it was like a boy­hood dream for me, be­ing on ra­dio.

“The best part of that show was me say­ing: ‘Okay, this is Idris Elba and it’s time for the news.’”


MR MAR­VEL: Idris Elba, who played the role of Nel­son Man­dela in Long Walk to Free­dom, at Van Ryn’s Dis­tillery, near Stel­len­bosch. He was in the coun­try for the Oude Meester Masters in the Mak­ing tour.

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