Idris Elba, 49, plays Dr. Nate Daniels, a recent widower who brings his two daughters on a long-planned trip to a game reserve in Beast (in theaters August 19). But the family vacation quickly turns into a gritty fight for survival. Here are some things you may not know about the London-born star of the TV series Luther and the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
His name—of African origin—was shortened from Idrissa Akuna Elba.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Elba worked night shifts at the Ford auto factory in Dagenham, East London, to make ends meet in between acting gigs.
He was about to give up on his acting career when he landed the role of Russell “Stringer” Bell on TV’s The Wire—just under the wire!
Elba and his wife, actress Sabrina Dhowre Elba, attended the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018, and he also DJ’d the reception with a playlist requested by the bride.
Elba launched his own fashion line in conjunction with Superdry in 2015 and released the second installment of his collection in 2020.
In addition to voicing the Bengal tiger, Shere Khan, in Disney’s live-animated hybrid The Jungle Book (2016), he released his own remixes of the movie’s songs “Bare Necessities” and “Trust in Me.”
Elba was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2016 for his work as an actor.
For his role in Long Walk to Freedom as Nelson Mandela, he channeled his father’s admiration of South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
He is a devoted soccer fan, especially of the Arsenal Football Club.
In 2015, Elba broke a U.K. land speed record that had originally been set in 1927 by reaching 180.361 mph while driving along Wales’ Pendine Sands beach in a Bentley Continental GT Speed.
A music lover and sometimes DJ, Elba has also appeared in music videos for the Isley Brothers, Fat Joe, Angie Stone, Mumford & Sons and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
While waiting for his first break in the U.S. back in the late 1990s, Elba he worked for a time as a bouncer at Carolines Comedy Club in New York City.
Elba was named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine in 2018.
In 2018, Time Out magazine named him one of the “50 Londoners Who Make the City Awesome.
He got tongue-tied when he met his celebrity crush, Meryl Streep.
He’s an actor with no formal acting training.
In 2015, he became the first male to make the cover of Maxim magazine.
Daniel Craig nominated him to play James Bond.