Bond-favourite Idris Elba on directorial debut Yardie
Forget Bond, Idris Elba tells Laura Harding why he wanted to take a seat in the director's chair for new movie Yardie and how his childhood in Hackney helped inspire it
IS IDRIS Elba the man who would be Bond? While it's been widely rumoured that he could soon be acquiring cinema's most famous 'licence to kill' when Daniel Craig returns his Aston Martin to the garage, reports that Elba is the next 007 have gathered furious pace in recent weeks.
Indeed, Elba himself fanned the flames when he wrote on Twitter: "My name's Elba, Idris Elba" and played the famous Bond theme during a DJ set.
So it's more than a little bit disappointing that we have been told firmly that the man himself does not want to discuss his prospects for taking on one of the biggest roles in showbiz.
Right now he has a very different role, one he has wanted for years – that of director.
"I know it sounds like a cliche but there comes a time as an actor when you're just like, 'I wouldn't mind sitting in the hot seat'," the 45-year-old admits.
So Elba, star of The Wire, Luther and the Thor films, set about making it happen and his directorial debut, Yardie, based on the 1992 book by Victor Headley, is finally hitting cinemas.
"This was a piece of material that I could definitely say I've lived with some version of it in my head for 30 years.
"The book was one of the first books I read. So you go, 'Right OK, if you're going to make a film, do you make a film about a deep sea diver that discovers a golden dolphin...'
He pauses for a moment, looking baffled with himself. "Don't know where I'm going here," he laughs before resuming his train of thought.
"No, because I know nothing about that. But I do know about this culture."
Yardie is set in 1970s Kingston, Jamaica and London's Hackney in the 1980s. The film follows a young Jamaican man named D who has never really recovered from the murder of his older brother.
After growing up under the wing of a Kingston 'don', he is sent to London when he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, hooks up with a soundclash crew and embarks on a quest to avenge his brother's death.
For Elba, who himself grew up in Hackney, the world of the story felt incredibly familiar.
"Victor Headley's book was one of the few books I read as teenager. I'm not a big reader, so this was a big deal to me at the time and the story stuck to my ribs for many years.
"I could relate to the lead character of D. His anger – teenagers are always angry – his drive and charisma.
"Victor's novel captured my imagination and that of the many people that made this book a cult 80s classic.
"I grew up in a similar environment to D; being a DJ, the music, the time period.
"In the 80s, when the majority of this film takes place, that was my coming-of-age. That's why I thought this would be the best film to go for.
"But the golden dolphin film is coming," he adds with a cheeky grin.
"I personally shied away from some of the violence in the book, but in this film I wanted to tell the human story, the human toll on people that live violent lives or are forced to live in violent climates."
Elba says he also learned some valuable new skills from his time in the director's chair.
"Patience – having incredible amounts of patience," he chuckles.
"You cannot over-prep for a movie because you never know what might happen and there's always instances that change immediately.
"So having patience to take the time to prep, to ask the questions, to ask the 'what if's', to explore it even further.
"Sometimes, you come up with a really good idea and it's amazing and then two hours later it's different, but it's deeper and it's better for a million reasons. And that's something I learned.
"I didn't act in this film, which is my other big love affair of my life, but I got really amazing actors to play the parts and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented film-makers existing.
"As an actor, I always love my crew – but as director, I was my crew and they were there for me 100 per cent. It was a very bonding time."
It also gave the passionate DJ, who recently set up his own record label 7Wallace, the chance to curate a whole soundtrack.
"Crafting the music was probably one the most exciting and frustrating parts of making this film.
"I love music and I often agonised about the choices I was making and why. In the end, it has become one of the strongest parts of the film.
"So directing Yardie has definitely changed the trajectory of my career.
"I want to direct more now, and perhaps merge acting, music and directing in the future."
Whether he plays James Bond or not, it seems like Elba will have plenty of other missions to keep him busy.
:: Yardie is out now, read our review on PXX