Idris Elba has become one of the most visible stars in this decade of films and television, turning up in everything from Pacific Rim to The Jungle Book to Prometheus to Zootopia - and so forth. While his most recent appearance as a layabout seal in Finding Dory is an exception, most of his best-known roles involve a position of command, dignity and respect. Now, he's going to command his fellow actors for the first time in the director's chair.
While Elba has been adaptable enough to work in the playhouses of Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Disney and Marvel with ease, his big-screen directorial debut is something a little closer to his own formative experiences. Namely, it will be an adaptation of the Victor Headley novel, Yardie.
StudioCanal CEO Danny Perkins broke the news about Elba directing Yardie in an interview with Screen Daily. Headley's source material revolves around D., a Jamaican cocaine mule who makes it to London and decides to sell the latest kilo himself rather than deliver it, putting him on the run from his now ex-friends. Most of the drama of the story comes from D.'s attempts to escape the consequences of his betrayal, a cat-and-mouse chase that seems unlikely to end well for anyone. The novel also goes deep into the subculture of London's Jamaican underworld: the food, the music and the network of friends and enemies. Many Jamaican immigrants are nostalgic for "the Yard," their home in Jamaica, and so are called, or call themselves, "yardies."
Like the novel's characters, Elba is well-acquainted with what it is to be a black immigrant in London, although there are some important differences. His parents came not from Jamaica, but from Ghana and Sierra Leone, marrying in Sierra Leone and moving to London before he was born. The novel's gritty crime flavor is also close to Elba's roots: not only is he well-known for playing Russell "Stringer" Bell on The Wire and DCI John Luther on Luther, but his first TV roles were on Crimewatch (a UK television show that reconstructed real-life murders).
Elba has directed shorter projects before, most notably two episodes of Sky's Playhouse Presents, a 30-minute anthology series. The gravitas he's brought to a variety of roles is likely to translate well to a story that weaves together noir thrills and the exploration of a little-known subculture, and Elba's own experiences as a minority in London are likely to lend the picture authenticity and authority.
On the other hand, Elba is a very busy actor, currently filming two high-profile projects (Thor: Ragnarok and The Dark Tower) and appears on the big screen this month in Star Trek Beyond. It's hard to be sure whether he'll have the time to give directing the attention it deserves, or whether the story will still feel relevant after changes in British politics that are currently still ongoing. There is also no word on casting: while Elba starring in Yardie would boost its marketability, it would also give the first-time director even more balls to juggle. Even so, Elba's name in the credits as director alone makes Yardie one to watch for.
We'll keep you updated on information concerning Yardie as it becomes available.
Source: Screen Daily