13 Fascinating Facts About Idris Elba
Since first rising to fame as Stringer Bell on HBO's critically acclaimed series The Wire, Idris Elba has cemented a solid place for himself as one of Hollywood's most in-demand (and bankable) actors. The British star has dabbled in comedy, become a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, lent his voice to a few animated films (including Zootopia and Finding Dory), and won a Golden Globe for his role as a brilliant-but-headstrong London detective in Luther. And though it doesn't seem like Elba is even interested in becoming the next James Bond (he'd like to see the role go to a woman), that hasn’t stopped fans from rallying for it to happen.
Here are a few things you might not have known about Elba, who will next be seen alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, which arrives in theaters on August 9.
1. "Idris" is not his full name.
Like many actors before him, Elba made a slight tweak to his birth name when choosing his professional moniker. Which is how Idrissa Akuna Elba became known as Idris Elba.
2. Elba is also a musician—and a very successful one.
Besides being an actor, Elba is an experienced DJ who formerly went by the name DJ Big Driis. Elba became interested in music as a child and began to work as a DJ at weddings and other events as a teenager, then continued picking up gigs when he moved to New York City in the 1990s. Even when his acting career took off, Elba continued to make time for music.
"Once The Wire came in, I tried to DJ as much as I could," Elba told Rolling Stone earlier this year. "My profile went up and the money went up along with it. It definitely fell second place to acting but then I got serious about it. I got myself an agent, a DJ manager, and it was like a second career, a side-hustle."
In 2018, Elba launched his own record label, 7Wallace Music, and he played a DJ set at this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. "Doesn’t matter how big my name is on the poster," he told Rolling Stone of making the Coachella lineup. "This is massive for me!"
3. He is one of Hollywood's highest-grossing actors.
Though Elba has been choosy with his roles, and has regularly gravitated toward smaller, personal films, he currently holds the 20th spot on the list of actors whose films have grossed the most amount of cash. (He's wedged right in between Mark Ruffalo at number 19 and Ian McKellen in the 21st spot.) Elba's role as the all-seeing Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no doubt largely to thank for Elba's box office totals.
4. Elba has appeared in several music videos.
Given Elba's love of music, it isn’t entirely surprising that he has acted in a few music videos, including projects for Fat Joe and Giggs. In 2012, Elba even co-directed and starred in the Mumford & Sons music video for "Lover of the Light."
5. Elba earned a prestigious honor from the Queen.
In 2016—the same year Elba earned both Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for his work in Beasts of No Nation—the actor landed a spot on Queen Elizabeth II's annual New Year's Honors List, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work as an actor.
"Awards and honors come in all shapes and sizes and all as significant as the other," Elba said at the time. "But this is beyond special as it comes from Queen and country, and I couldn’t be more proud for receiving this right now. What a year. On me head son."
Other stars who have received OBEs include Eddie Redmayne, Keira Knightley, Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, James Corden, and David Beckham.
6. Elba is a major soccer fan, and has done promos for his favorite team.
Like many Brits, Elba is a devoted soccer (a.k.a. football) fan, and is very vocal about his support for the Arsenal Football Club in particular. The actor recently even starred in an advertisement for the team, making a cameo in a promo for Arsenal's collaboration with Adidas.
7. Elba has a crush on Meryl Streep.
While some actors like to play coy on which fellow celebrity they might have a crush on, Elba has been quick to reveal his: Meryl Streep. In 2016 he told US Weekly how starstruck he was by the Oscar legend, saying, "When I met her, my tongue swelled up in my mouth!"
8. When he lost the Golden Globe in 2012, Elba's daughter hand-made him one.
My daughter Isan made this for me last year when I didn't win. This year... I'm bringing her home a real one. pic.twitter.com/ws6K4PDh
— Idris Elba (@idriselba) January 15, 2012
In 2012, Elba took home the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role as DCI John Luther in Luther. It was Elba's second consecutive nomination in the category for the same role, yet he hadn't been so lucky the first time around; he lost the award to Al Pacino for You Don't Know Jack in 2011.
In 2012, Elba tweeted a photo of the Golden Globe his daughter made for him after that initial loss. Fortunately, he made good on his promise that he'd be bringing her home a real one that night.
9. He broke a nearly 90-year-old land speed record.
In 2015, Elba proved himself a real-life superhero yet again when he hopped into a brand-new, super-powered 626-hp Bentley Continental GT and broke a UK land speed record that had originally been set by Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1927 (back when George V was still king). Elba broke the "Flying Mile" record by reaching a speed of 180.361 mph while speeding along Wales's Pendine Sands beach. (The previous record, set by Campbell, was 174.8 mph.)
"I'm absolutely elated to have broken the 'Flying Mile' at Pendine Sands," Elba said in a statement at the time. "It’s an honor to have taken on the challenge, and to successfully follow in the footsteps of the illustrious Sir Malcolm Campbell." It was all captured on camera as part of Idris Elba: No Limits, a Discovery docuseries.
10. He is a trained kickboxer and mixed martial arts fighter.
As if Elba didn’t have enough talents, he showed off that he could get physical in 2017, when he debuted his year-long journey of training in kickboxing and MMA with a documentary called Idris Elba: Fighter. The actor ended up winning his professional kickboxing match debut.
“It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to fight professionally,” Elba said when the documentary was first announced. “Entering the ring to further test myself as a human being is a challenge I have been looking to take on for quite some time.”
11. His feature directorial debut earned him a sundance Grand Jury Prize nomination.
In 2018, Elba directed Yardie, a British crime drama based on Victor Headley's 1992 book of the same name. The movie made its debut at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it earned Elba a Grand Jury Prize nomination in the World Cinema - Dramatic category. The film was also named Best Drama by England's National Film Awards.
12. He was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by time Magazine.
In 2016, TIME Magazine included Elba on its TIME 100, an annual list of the world's most influential people. Elba was included in the "Artists" category, alongside such names as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Oscar Isaac, Kendrick Lamar, Ariana Grande, Ryan Coogler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Yayoi Kusama.
13. Elba was also named People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive."
In 2018, two years after being honored by TIME, Elba earned an accolade of a different nature when he was named People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, following in the footsteps of Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and other Hollywood heartthrobs.
“I was like, ‘Come on, no way. Really?,'” Elba said when he was told the news. "Looked in the mirror, I checked myself out. I was like, ‘Yeah, you are kind of sexy today.’ But to be honest, it was just a nice feeling. It was a nice surprise—an ego boost for sure.”