“There was a time when I was a job actor and I didn’t know what I wanted to learn from it – I just wanted to get paid.” – Idris Elba
Idris Elba may have earned praise for roles like Beasts of No Nation, Luther, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, but the Thor star tells The Los Angeles Times that he has not yet turned in his best acting performance. He also touches upon the great pride he takes in being cast as Roland in The Dark Tower.
Elba is asked about whether or not he’s getting his due from Hollywood, considering many actors heap praise on him and many fans feel he should have been cast as James Bond. Elba reflects, “Is Hollywood giving me a shot? Yes, I think? I’ve been getting more opportunities to work on more interesting roles. There is so much talent. I think they have choices. I don’t think it’s a black thing or a white thing or a race thing. It’s ‘Who’s available? Who’s great? Who can do it?’ Look, The Dark Tower wasn’t written for me or a black actor. It was just written and anyone could have gotten that role and I did.”
Though The Dark Tower was profoundly disliked by critics and by many fans of the book series and also failed at the box office, Elba points to him being cast in the role of a white character as a major accomplishment. He says, “Regardless of how the film was received, that was a character who’s white in his iconography and I was cast in the role because I’m a good actor — or perceived to be. It’s definitely a landmark. I don’t think anyone should be cast because they’re black. I think people should be cast because they’re good at what they do. That’s the state of play.”
Accomplishments like that mark a fundamental difference between how Elba used to choose roles and how he chooses roles now. These days he looks for more than just a paycheck. He says, “There was a time when I was a job actor and I didn’t know what I wanted to learn from it – I just wanted to get paid. But as life goes on — and life is short — I just want to choose based on ‘What do I want to learn from this? Where do I want to go? If I can work with any director, who do I want to work with and why? What is the audience going to get from this?’ I ask that quite a bit.”
Because of that, Elba is still waiting on what he will consider his best performance. He confesses, “I still feel my best performance is yet to come. I think that will always be my mantra, even if I got 17 Oscars. I’d still think, ‘Well, I think I got one more in me somewhere.’ It’s a privilege to be there. As a sportsman obviously there are certain things that prohibit you from pushing yourself any further, but as an actor you become wiser with age and you become more interesting.”