Idris Elba will finally graduate from strong supporting player to full-fledged leading man in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Legendary Pictures has been eying the respected (and busy) actor as a potential star of the sci-fi flick for a few weeks; now, a deal between the studio and Elba has been closed.

Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam will appear in Pacific Rim alongside Elba, who is set to tackle the role of Sensi. That part was originally conceived for Tom Cruise – back when he was circling the project in the wake of the collapse of del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness adaptation (which Cruise was set to star in).

Pacific Rim is a futuristic sci-fi thriller in which an enormous portal forms on Earth, allowing giant monsters from another world (referred to as The Anteverse, according to early script details) to reach our planet. Humanity fights back against the deadly creatures by initiating the “Jaeger” program – a military operation in which pilots train to control enormous mechanical suits and engage in direct combat with the extraterrestrial invaders.

Deadline indicates that Elba’s signing on for Pacific Rim all but discounts him to appear in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which the actor was rumored to star in (Jamie Foxx is now said to be the front runner). Elba is currently busy with shooting another big-budget sci-fi title, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus; once his work on that project is complete, he’ll set to work on del Toro’s new pic – the filmmaker’s first directorial effort since Hellboy II: The Golden Army, back in 2008.

Guillermo del Toro on the set of 'Hellboy II: The Golden Army'

Screenwriter Travis Beacham has reportedly devised his own original glossary of pseudo-scientific and military jargon for Pacific Rim, which is being designed as a big-budget and box office-friendly (re: Rated PG-13) tentpole picture. The film will undoubtedly welcome comparisons to previous movies with similar imaginative technology (Aliens, Avatar), building-sized monsters laying waste to human civilizations (Godzilla), and alien invasion thrillers that feature everyday human soldiers being forced to rise to the occasion and defend everything they hold dear (Battle: Los Angeles).

With del Toro working behind-the-scenes, though, Pacific Rim is guaranteed to boast some creative and creepy monster/creature design work. It’ll also help that early word on Beacham’s script (which was partly retooled, due to the recent natural disasters in Japan) is by and large very positive – not to mention, both Hunnam and (in particular) Elba are in a good position to go from being memorable supporting cast members or stars in small productions, to becoming A-listers in their own right.

Principal photography on Pacific Rim is expected to begin during the second half of 2011; the film itself is looking to reach theaters by either summer or fall of 2013. We’ll let you know when an official release date has been set.

Source: Deadline