The Rise of Idris Elba: Here’s How He Became One Of The Most Influential Actors Of All Time

Born Idrissa Akuna Elba, more popularly known as Idris Elba, is a highly talented and skilled actor and producer. Though he has been listed as one of the most influential actors on the American Hollywood movie screen, he is actually a native of the Borough of Hackney in London, United Kingdom. What may come as a surprise to many of his adoring fans is the fact that Elba is also a renowned musician and DJ. Early followers of the gripping character of Elba may recognize him from his portrayal as the ambitious businessman and drug lord Russell Stringer Bell from the HBO drama series, The Wire. In this write-up, we’ll take a deeper look at the life of Idris Elba and how he became the versatile, in-demand actor he has become today.

A Star Is Born

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Elba was born on September 6, 1972, and was first introduced to acting while attending school in Canning Town, East Ham, London. However, this encounter would only be the spark that ignited his passion for the big screen. Before landing any ground-breaking roles, he endured a treacherous uphill climb like any other aspiring actor. His first real acting gig came about after he applied for a role in a live play called The Stage. After auditioning for the performance, which was advertised in the British entertainment magazine, The Play, he was then recognized by his agent and launched into his acting career. His story is similar to a slew of other celebrities, such as Morgan Freeman, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep, Daine Keaton, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who all found their footing in acting from live stage performances.

Idris And His Music Passion

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The multitalented star also dabbled in music, founding his own DJ band with his friends while still in school. His music ability was so promising that when he graduated in 1988, he won a place at the National Youth Music Theatre with 1,500 worth Prince’ Trust grant. His knowledge as a DJ would come in handy, as his music personality, DJ Big Driis, would come to the fore as one of the various jobs he tried while in the beginning stages of his acting career. Such jobs included sales and tire-fitting at the London automotive factory, Ford Dagenham.

But his music career didn’t stop there. In fact, he was in the position that most rappers today would pay to be in – on an album with Jay Z. That’s right! In 2007, Elba co-produced the album for Denzel Washington’s American Gangster film with Jay Z and was even featured on the intro. So he earned a double-win with America Gangster by being cast in the movie alongside one of Hollywood’s most elite African-American actors and being featured on the movie’s soundtrack with one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Superstar DJ Big Driis also for Madonna’s performance while she was on her Berlin tour. He was also featured on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, which sold 60,000 copies in just its first week of being released. Then in 2019, one year after electrifying Coachella with his newly launched record label called 7Wallace Music, he made a minor appearance in Taylor Swift’s song London Boy. The British star seems to be playing his cards right on both sides of the entertainment industry.

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Minding The Movie Business

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But back to his shining movie career. Around the early 1990s, Elba landed his first role in the popular BBC series Crimewatch as a murder. And though it wasn’t all that glamorous, it was definitely afoot in the door and the beginning of his ascent up the ladder of movie star success. His acting career began to blossom when in 1995, he was cast in the British series Bramwell, a medical drama in an 1890s English setting. Then, earlier in the same year, he landed his second significant role as a gigolo in the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous.

Before transitioning to American television, he went on to be cast in numerous supporting roles in British TV series, such as The Bill, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, and Family Affairs, to name a few. Now, Idris was well on his way.

In 2001, he moved to New York in search of better opportunities for his acting career. His first big break was a bit nostalgic, as he was given the role of Achilles in the stage production of Troilus and Cressida. Similar to the London live play on The Stage, once Idris captivated the audience with his silky voice and intense character, he opened the door to a boatload of opportunities. One of those opportunities, which he is mostly known for, is the role of Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell on the iconic TV show, The Wire in 2002. Here he really showcased his acting skills to a wider audience with an uncannily accurate American accent, a skill that would prepare him for other potential roles. His next most notable performance presented itself in the British psychological crime thriller TV series, DCI John Luther, which aired on BBC One. Idris’s character, John Luther, displays a pensive detective who magnificently solves crimes with his sharp wit. A few of his other TV show appearances are The Office, Black Men: The Truth, and the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

When you’re considered one of the most likely candidates to replace a departing James Bond character, then you know your acting skills are on another level. Although Elba cleared up the suspicion by declaring plainly that he will not play the successor to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, his filmography includes horror flicks like Prom Night, The Unborn, and No Good Deed. Other ultra-successful films he has starred in include Obsessed with Beyonce Knowles, Takers, Beasts of No Nation, Thor, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girl, This Christmas, The Harder They Fall, Fast and Furious Presents (Hobbs and Shaw), and his personal favorite, Mandela.

Not only is Idris Elba gushed over by female celebrities and fans for his dashing good looks, but the guy is also a multifaceted talent with more than just looks to offer. And if he changes his mind about the James Bond switch, there’s no doubting that his fans will love him even more.

READ NEXT: The Next 007: Who Will Replace Daniel Craig As James Bond?

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Success Story, Hollywood Insider

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