Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Birth name: Idrissa Akuna Elba
Born: September 6, 1972
Age: 51
Birthplace: Hackney, London, England
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Idrissa Akuna Elba OBE (/ˈɪdrɪs ˈɛlbə/; born 6 September 1972) is a British actor, producer, musician and DJ known for playing drug trafficker Stringer Bell on the HBO series The Wire,[2] DCI 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 - Miniseries or Television Film, winning one and was nominated five times for a Primetime Emmy Award.[3][4]

Elba appeared in Ridley Scott's American Gangster (2007) and Prometheus (2012), Thor (2011) and its sequels Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). He also starred in Pacific Rim (2013), Beasts of No Nation (2015), for which he received BAFTA, and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Molly's Game (2017). In 2016, he voiced Chief Bogo in Zootopia, Shere Khan in the live action/CGI adaptation of The Jungle Book, Fluke in Finding Dory and played the role of Krall in Star Trek Beyond. He will make his directorial debut with an adaptation of the 1992 novel Yardie by Victor Headley.[5]

In addition to his acting work, Elba is a DJ under the moniker DJ Big Driis (or Big Driis the Londoner) and a hip hop and soul musician.[6] In 2016, he was named in the Time 100 list of the Most Influential People in the World.[7]

Idrissa Akuna Elba, an only child, was born on 6 September 1972[8] in Hackney, London.[9] His father, Winston, was a Sierra Leonean who worked at Ford Dagenham, and his mother, Eve, is Ghanaian.[10] Elba's parents were married in Sierra Leone and later moved to London.[11] His paternal grandfather, Moses, was a sailor and a policeman.[12]

Elba was brought up in Hackney[10] and East Ham,[13] and shortened his first name 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 a newspaper, Elba auditioned and met his first agent while performing in the role.[14] 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.[8]

Elba left school in 1988, and won a place in the National Youth Music Theatre thanks to a £1,500 Prince's Trust grant.[15] His first acting role was in Crimewatch murder reconstructions and in 1994 appeared in a BBC children's drama called The Boot Street Band. To support himself between roles in Crimewatch reconstructions, he worked in jobs such as tyre-fitting, cold call advertising sales, and working night shifts at Ford Dagenham.[16] He was working in nightclubs, under the DJ nickname "Big Driis", aged nineteen, but began auditioning for television roles in his early twenties.[8]


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, when he was 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[8] and went on to appear on the television serial Ultraviolet and later on Dangerfield.[17] He decided to move to New York City soon after.[8] 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.[8]

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.[18] He appeared as Charlie Gotso on The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, filmed in Botswana.[19] 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.[20]

In January 2009, it was reported by Variety that Elba would portray Charles Miner, a new rival to Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell) for NBC's The Office.[19] Elba appeared in a six-episode story arc later in the 2009 season as well as the season finale.[19] 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.[4] He appeared on Showtime's The Big C in 2010.[21] 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.[4]


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.[22][23] In 2008, he starred in the horror film Prom Night and the criminal comedy RocknRolla.[22] In 2009, he starred in the horror film The Unborn and in Obsessed, a thriller that had him cast opposite Beyoncé.[24] The latter was a box office success, taking $29 million in its opening weekend.[25]

Elba's next film was Legacy (2010),[26] in which he portrayed a black ops soldier who returns to Brooklyn after a failed mission in Eastern Europe, where he has undertaken a journey looking for retribution.[26] 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.[27] Filming took place in Puerto Rico and the movie was released in April 2010.[28] 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).[29]

In August 2010, Elba signed up to portray the title character in a reboot of James Patterson's Alex Cross film franchise.[21] However, in February 2011, he was replaced by Tyler Perry.[30] In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011), the sequel to Ghost Rider (2007), Elba played an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding the title character.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] 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 Ridley Scott's Prometheus.[34] He joined the cast of the film Pacific Rim (2013) in the role of Stacker Pentecost.[35] In January 2014, he confirmed that he would be starring in a film adaptation of Luther.[36] 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 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture as well as a BAFTA Award nomination for Supporting Actor 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 (2016), a live-action remake of the animated 1967 film of the same name; and sea lion Fluke in Pixar's Finding Dory, alongside Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, both reprising their roles from Finding Nemo (2003). Also that year, he played the main antagonist, Krall, in the sequel Star Trek Beyond. In 2017, he played Roland Deschain in the Stephen King film adaptation The Dark Tower,[37] and starred in Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut Molly's Game, alongside Jessica Chastain. In 2019, Elba will star as Macavity in Tom Hooper's film adaptation of the musical, Cats.[38]

Music career

Elba at the American Music Awards in 2007

Elba has appeared in music videos for Fat Joe (2002),[39] Angie Stone (2004)[40] and rapper Giggs (2010).[41] 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).[42] He DJed at the 2007 NBA All Star parties at The Venetian and Ice House Lounge in Las Vegas.[43]

In July 2009, Elba was the DJ for BET's current series Rising Icons.[44] Elba announced the release of his first single "Please Be True."[45] In the August 2009 issue of Essence magazine, he announced the name of his six-song EP as Kings Among Kings.[46] 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.[47]

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 & Sons music video for "Lover of the Light".[48]

In 2014, he produced K. Michelle's "The Rebellious Soul Musical" which debuted on VH1 on 19 August 2014.[49] 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.[50][51] 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.[52] Elba also rapped in a remix of Skepta's "Shutdown" which was uploaded on 1 June 2015 to SoundCloud.[53] 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

Elba with a British cabinet minister - Justine Greening - at a meeting with diaspora representatives at the 'Defeating Ebola in Sierra Leone' conference in London, October 2014

In October 2014, Elba presented the series Journey Dot Africa with Idris Elba on BBC Radio 2, exploring all types of African music.[54] Elba has also featured in various television commercials for Sky box-sets in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.[55] Elba has collaborated with the UK Parliament in their efforts to eradicate Ebola from West Africa, working alongside the UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening in 2014. Elba has created a collaboration with British fashion label Superdry, which launched at the end of November 2015.[56]

Elba hosted The Best FIFA Football Awards 2017 at the London Palladium on 23 October 2017. During the show he took a selfie of "the best team in the world" which included Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.[57]

Personal life

Elba has been married twice; first to Hanne "Kim" Nørgaard (1999 until 2003) and then to Sonya Nicole Hamlin (for four months in 2006). He has two children, daughter Isan (born 2002) and son Winston (born 2014). Isan's mother is Elba's Danish ex-wife Kim. Isan currently resides with her mother in Atlanta, Georgia. Winston's mother is Elba's British ex-girlfriend Naiyana Garth.[58][59][60] Elba became engaged to girlfriend Sabrina Dhowre on 10 February 2018, during a screening of his film Yardie, at an East London cinema.[61] The pair had been dating since early 2017.[62]

On religion, Elba states that he is "spiritual but not religious", clarifying: "...I'm not a religious man in that sense. I call myself a spiritual being, if you like."[63][64]

Elba is an avid fan of Premier League football club Arsenal F.C.[65] As part of his Discovery Channel miniseries Idris Elba: No Limits, he broke the course record land speed "Flying Mile" for the Pendine Sands.[66]

The Prince's Trust, a UK youth charity which Elba credits with helping to start his career, appointed him its Anti-crime Ambassador in April 2009.[67]

Kickboxing career

Discovery Channel produced a documentary, Idris Elba: Fighter, chronicling Elba's 12-month kickboxing and mixed martial arts training[68] under Muay Thai coach Kieran Keddle,[69] culminating in Elba's first professional kickboxing fight-and win-against Lionel Graves, a younger, more experienced Dutch opponent, at London's York Hall.[70][71]

Kickboxing record

Kickboxing record
Date Result Opponent Event Location Method Round Time Record
2016-08-28 Win Lionel Graves Road to Glory UK London, United Kingdom TKO 1 N/A 1-0

Legend: Win Loss Draw/No contest Notes

Awards and honours

Elba was selected as one of People's annual 100 Most Beautiful People in the World in May 2007.[72] He was named Essence's annual 2013 Sexiest Man of the Year[73] and was also ranked No. 2 in People's annual Sexiest Man Alive in 2013.[74] On November 5, 2018 it was announced he had been named People's Sexiest Man alive via the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.[75]

In October 2014, Elba was presented with a MOBO Inspiration Award.[76] In 2015, he was named one of GQ magazine's 50 best-dressed British men.[77] Elba was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to drama.[78][79]

In 2017, Elba won the male title for the "Rear of the Year" award in Britain.[80]

In September 2018, he was one of 50 people named for "making London awesome" and helping to shape London's cultural landscape who were featured in Time Out to mark the magazine's 50th anniversary.[81]



Year Title Role Director Notes
1999 Belle maman Grégoire Gabriel Aghion
2000 Sorted Jam Alexander Jovy
2001 Buffalo Soldiers Kimborough Gregor Jordan
2003 One Love Aaron Rick Elgood
Don Letts
2005 The Gospel Charles Frank Rob Hardy
Sometimes in April Augustin Raoul Peck
2007 Daddy's Little Girls Monty James Tyler Perry
The Reaping Ben Stephen Hopkins
28 Weeks Later General Stone Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
American Gangster Tango Ridley Scott
This Christmas Quentin Whitfield Preston A. Whitmore II
2008 Prom Night Detective Winn Nelson McCormick
RocknRolla Mumbles Guy Ritchie
The Human Contract Larry Jada Pinkett Smith
2009 The Unborn Arthur Wyndham David S. Goyer
Obsessed Derek Charles Steve Shill
2010 Legacy Malcolm Gray Thomas Ikimi Also executive producer
The Losers Roque Sylvain White
Takers Gordon Cozier John Luessenhop
2011 Thor Heimdall Kenneth Branagh
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Moreau Neveldine/Taylor
2012 Prometheus Captain Janek Ridley Scott
2013 Pacific Rim Stacker Pentecost Guillermo del Toro
Thor: The Dark World Heimdall Alan Taylor
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Nelson Mandela Justin Chadwick
2014 No Good Deed Colin Evans Sam Miller Also executive producer
Second Coming Mark Debbie Tucker Green
2015 The Gunman DuPont Pierre Morel
Avengers: Age of Ultron Heimdall Joss Whedon
Beasts of No Nation Commandant Cary Joji Fukunaga
2016 Zootopia Chief Bogo (voice) Byron Howard
Rich Moore
The Jungle Book Shere Khan (voice) Jon Favreau
Bastille Day Sean Briar James Watkins
Finding Dory Fluke (voice) Andrew Stanton
100 Streets Max Jim O'Hanlon
Star Trek Beyond Krall / Balthazar Edison Justin Lin
2017 The Dark Tower Roland Deschain Nikolaj Arcel
Molly's Game Charlie Jaffey Aaron Sorkin
The Mountain Between Us Dr. Ben Bass Hany Abu-Assad
Thor: Ragnarok Heimdall Taika Waititi
2018 Yardie N/A Himself Director
Avengers: Infinity War Heimdall Anthony & Joe Russo
2019 Hobbs and Shaw Brixton David Leitch Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1994 2point4 Children Parachute Instructor Episode: "Fortuosity"
Space Precinct Pizza Delivery Man Episode: "Double Duty"
1994-1995 The Bill Earl Lee / Alex Mason 2 episodes
1995 Absolutely Fabulous Hilton Episode: "Sex"
Bramwell Charlie Carter Episode: "The Outcast's Baby"
1996 The Governor Officer Chiswick 6 episodes
Crocodile Shoes II Jo-Jo Episode: "Troubled Man"
The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Raffy / Pest Controller 4 episodes
1997 Family Affairs Tim Webster 7 episodes
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 London's Burning L/Cpl Richard Frost (Soldier) 2 episodes
Law & Order Lonnie Liston Episode: "3 Dawg Night"
2002 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Robert Gabriel Episode: "Payment in Blood"
Hack Mac Boone Episode: "My Alibi"
2002-2004 The Wire Russell "Stringer" Bell 37 episodes
2003 CSI: Miami Angelo Sedaris Episode: "The Best Defense"
Queens Supreme Carla Episode: "Mad About You"
Soul Food Smitty Episode: "Sacrifice Fly"
2005 Girlfriends Paul Episode: "All in a Panic"
Sometimes in April Augustin Muganza Television film
Jonny Zero Hodge Episode: "To Serve and to Protect"
2006 All in the Game Paul Television film
2008 The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Charles Gotso Episode: "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency"
2009 The Office Charles Miner 7 episodes
2010 The Big C Lenny 4 episodes
Walk Like a Panther Executive producer
2010-present Luther DCI John Luther 16 episodes; also associate producer
2011 Aqua Teen Hunger Force Police Officer (voice) Episode: "Intervention"
How Hip Hop Changed the World Executive producer
Demons Never Die Executive producer
2012 Idris Elba's How Clubbing Changed the World Himself Host
2013 Idris Elba: King of Speed Himself Host
2013, 2015 Playhouse Presents Akuna's Father / Narrator Wrote and directed episode: "The Pavement Psychologist"
2015 Idris Elba: No Limits Himself Host
2017 Guerrilla Kentoro "Kent" Abbasi 6 episodes; also executive producer
Idris Elba: Fighter Himself Host; also executive producer
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2017 Himself Host
2018 In the Long Run Walter Easmon Also creator
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2018 Himself Host
2019 Turn Up Charlie Charlie Also creator and executive producer

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
2014 K Michelle "***" N/A Director
2016 Macklemore "Dance Off" Himself Featuring Artist


  • 2015: Murdah Loves John (The John Luther Character Album)
  • 2006: Big Man
  • 2009: Kings Among Kings
  • 2010: High Class Problems Vol. 1
  • 2014: Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela
  • 2011: Merry DriisMas Holiday Mixtape

Awards and nominations

Year Work Award Result
2005 The 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
The 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 British Academy Television Award for Best Actor Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Nominated
2017 The Jungle Book Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance Won
Black Reel Award for Outstanding Voice Performance Won
Zootopia Black Reel Award for Outstanding Voice Performance Nominated
Finding Dory Black Reel Award for Outstanding Voice Performance Nominated
Star Trek Beyond Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Villain Nominated

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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