Idris Elba Talks 'Luther' Special and What's Next for the Franchise

BBC
Idris Elba

The star also discusses the importance of awards-season buzz, the longevity of 'The Wire' and his status as a sex symbol.

Idris Elba told reporters in London that his protagonist in the BBC's upcoming Luther special will have matured.

Elba is reprising his role as murder detective John Luther whose mind can't always save him from the violence of his passions. The special will air in December in two parts in the U.K. and as a one-night special on BBC America in the U.S.

What can fans expect from the new season? "We’re so aware that we have an unorthodox way of presenting Luther," Elba said. "We don’t adhere to seasons and numbers of episodes. We always try to keep the DNA of the show the same. It is about John Luther. It is about a detective that is a maverick. But what we needed to do is to mature him a little bit and mature his storyline."

Asked if he has any input into scripts for the show, he said: "A little bit, yeah. As a producer on it, I can definitely look at the scripts and sort of give my opinion on it very early on it."

Elba has in the past said that there could be a film or stage version of Luther in the future. "It’s the kind of material that can actually live in different spaces," he reiterated while promoting the special in London. "I would love to see a cerebral, slow-burn play of John Luther. … But also, I would love to see the epic, big version of Luther on the big screen. Both of [them] are very doable and may happen."

Have he and the other creatives behind the show been talking about another season or another iteration of Luther? "We haven’t yet," Elba said.

Asked about a Luther album he has been working on, Elba said: "Mi Mandela the album and John Luther’s album, which is called Murder Loves John, is really a take-home factor for my audiences to have a little bit more personal insight to what I do as an actor with certain characters. What I’d like in 10 years is to have a box set of all the character albums of all my favorite characters, which gives me an opportunity to be musical and expressive in my second love, which is music."

Describing the album, he said: "It’s the sound of Luther. The actual sound. It’s an industrial sound, it’s London, it’s cars, it’s trains, it’s Luther speaking high because there’s traffic running. We call that industrial fog. … We used all U.K. artists."

British media outlets have in the past repeatedly suggested that Elba could one day portray James Bond. So, who is the more interesting character to play, Luther or Bond? "Luther," Elba told reporters. "I haven’t played James Bond."

He added: "I think there is a potential for John to be a super-franchise in that sense, because it is centered around a character that is a maverick like Bond, whatever. I’d rather build something." Does that mean that he doesn’t need James Bond? "He doesn’t need me either," said Elba.

Elba also discussed Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book and his role in it. "I was obviously nervous about recreating a classic," he said. "That could go wrong for many reasons. But the truth is that Jon Favreau wanted to stay away from that and go completely let’s reinvent it. I just approached it this is new material." He also lauded the film's “groundbreaking” cinematography, adding: "I was inquisitive about what do talking tigers move like. I really wanted to understand that."

Do his kids watch his films and TV shows? "My son is a bit too young. I can do all the dark stuff, Beasts of No Nation, which my daughter saw and I was horrified but she loved it," Elba said. "It was educating for me. But ultimately I would love to do things that are in her age group, and the animation stuff is that."

How important would Oscar and awards-season buzz be for Beasts? "I just don’t make films sort of for awards," Elba said. "It’s a lovely honor. But you can’t step into art and expect to be rewarded for it." If it does get any major honors, “it just helps the film and ultimately helps the message, which is why we made that film," he added.

With Netflix having released the film, the star was also asked about the streaming video giant's role in the industry. "Netflix only exists because the nature, the way we absorb television and film is changing," Elba said. "We’ll always have cinemas. But now we have got smartphones, now we are on the move. … I think that’s going to be the way films will be absorbed more and more."

Asked about the difference between filming in the U.K. and Hollywood, Elba said there was "not much actually, you’d be surprised." He explained: "The process pretty much stays the same, but it depends on the budget. Either you have got a caravan or a Winnebago with a swimming pool on the top, which has not happened to me." Added the star: "I enjoy both crews, but England is a crew where I am sort of used to the banter."

He also said he is still fond of The Wire and lauded the drama's longevity. "That show is still relevant, the themes in it are right where we are in many societies," Elba said. "And it gets a reinvention every three, four years. … It’s a really great show."

How does Elba cope with his image as a sex symbol? "Thank you, I obviously get very embarrassed about it," he told reporters. "But honestly, in my real life, in my day-to-day life, it just doesn’t happen like that. I don’t get streams of women running after me. I have quite a normal existence in that way."

Added Elba: "Over the last, I guess, five years, this whole sex symbol thing has been - I don’t even know what to see. It’s a good feeling. I tell you what though: I do get a lot of 'My mom loves you.' Always. 'Can I take a picture for my mom?' Sure."
 

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