Idris Elba

© DFID-UK Dept. for International Development
Wikimedia / CC BY 2.0 ]
BornIdris Akuna Elba
September 06, 1972 (age 45)
Profession Actor, Television Producer, Disc jockey, Singer, Rapper
Spouse Kim Elba
Parents Winston Elba, Eve Elba
Freebase ]

Idrissa Akuna "Idris" Elba, OBE (born 6 September 1972) is an English actor, musician, voice actor and DJ. He is best known for his portrayal of drug baron Russell "Stringer" Bell in the HBO series The Wire, Detective John Luther in the BBC One series Luther, and Nelson Mandela in the 2013 biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. He has been nominated five times for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, winning one, and was nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy Award.

Elba has appeared in films such as American Gangster (2007), Takers (2010), Thor (2011), Prometheus (2012), Pacific Rim (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Beasts of No Nation (2015, for which he received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor), and provides the voice of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book (2016). In addition to his acting work, he is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis (or Big Driis the Londoner) and hip hop soul musician.

Early life

Elba was born in Newham, London. 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. Elba's parents married in Sierra Leone and moved to London. Elba was raised in East Ham 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. 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.

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. 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. He was working in nightclubs, under the DJ nickname Big Driis, at the age of 19, but began auditioning for television roles in his early twenties.

Acting career


In 1995, Elba landed his first major role on a series called Bramwell, a medical drama set in 1890s England. He played the lead 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 credited role arrived in 1995, with a supporting role 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 and went on to appear in the television serial Ultraviolet and later in Dangerfield. He decided to move to New York City soon after. 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.

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


In 2007, Elba signed on as the lead of the 2007 film Tyler Perry's 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. In 2008, he starred in the horror film Prom Night and the crime comedy RocknRolla. In 2009, he starred in the horror film The Unborn and in Obsessed, a thriller that had him cast opposite Beyoncé. The latter was a box office success, taking $29 million in its opening weekend.

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

In August 2010, Elba signed up to portray the title character in a reboot of James Patterson's Alex Cross film franchise. However, in February 2011 he was replaced by Tyler Perry. In 2012's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the sequel to Ghost Rider, Elba played an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding the title character. 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. 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. His performance earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.

In June 2012, Elba portrayed Captain Janek in Prometheus. He joined the 2013 film Pacific Rim in the role of Stacker Pentecost. In January 2014, he confirmed that he would be starring in a film adaptation of Luther.

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 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. Elba voiced the cape buffalo chief of police, Chief Bogo in Disney's 2016 new universal claimed classic, Zootopia, alongside Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman. Elba voiced the villainous tiger Shere Khan in 2016's The Jungle Book, a live-action remake of the animated 1967 film of the same name. He will also provide voice work on Pixar's upcoming Finding Dory, alongside Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, both reprising their roles from 2003's Finding Nemo.

In 2016, Stephen King confirmed that Elba will portray Roland Deschain in the upcoming Dark Tower movie.

Personal life

Elba married Hanne "Kim" Norgaard in 1999. They separated while Norgaard was pregnant with their child Isan (b. 2002) and officially divorced in 2003. He then married Sonia Nicole Hamlin in 2006 with the marriage only lasting a day. In 2014, Elba's girlfriend Naiyana Garth gave birth to their son Winston. In 2016, Garth and Elba separated.

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."

He has been a fan of Arsenal F.C. since he was a teenager.

He is also an avid rally fan, having competed in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship as well as starring in the show Idris Elba: No Limits, where he races a rally car with help from Ari Vatanen.

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