Is there anything Idris Elba can’t do? Whether it’s acting, directing, writing, creating his own TV series, training to become a professional kickboxer (he won his only pro fight on a Round 1 TKO), designing his own fashion line, or working as a pro DJ, Elba’s done a little bit of everything through his Hollywood career.
Now, on his next project, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Elba will take on the role of a villain—but not just any run-of-the-mill bad guy. This time, Elba will be playing Brixton Lore, a “super-powered”, genetically-enhanced, rogue MI6 agent turned mercenary, or as he calls himself in the trailer, “black Superman.” In the film, Elba has to face off against two of the most well-known action stars in the world: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham. The process was a fun one for the London-born actor.
“The whole thing was a really great experience,” Elba tells Men’s Journal. “Both The Rock and Jason [Statham] are hard-working guys, very nice guys, and they’re as committed as anyone I’ve worked with. The energy on set was brilliant and fighting against those two was fun, but tough. These action sequences are amazing, like nothing I’ve done before. Fans are going to be very excited.”
Along with his big appearance in Hobbs & Shaw, Elba collaborated with Stella Artois this summer on a new campaign to have people “summer like you’re on vacation,” whether you’re at work, at home, around your city, wherever you are. Elba served as creative director for the ad in the campaign, showing Elba in the “summer like you’re on vacation” vibe in a bunch of different places.
Elba spoke with Men’s Journal about how he trained for Hobbs & Shaw, his favorite places to travel, collaborating with Stella on the new campaign, the best advice he’s received, and more.
What was it like working on Hobbs & Shaw?
The whole shoot was a really good experience. The director, David Lietch, did a great job. Most films start with the director and their energy, and David had that on this film. He had the imagination for some of these scenes and brought together a really great cast with Dwayne [Johnson], Jason [Statham] and Vanessa [Kirby]. The days had a lot of long hours of shooting these big, amazing sequences, but everyone brought their top game. The Rock and Jason work very hard and they’re very committed to what they do. Vanessa and I got on really well. It’s an exciting movie and we’re all excited for people to see it.
How did you train for the film? What are some ways you like to train in general?
For Hobbs & Shaw it was a lot of practice on the fight scenes and the choreography. The team we had was incredible. Overall, for me, I have days when I’m in the gym or kickboxing for a full session, but other times I’ll just try and get in a workout for whatever time I can. Maybe that’s a session of running, doing pushups, or going for a swim. I really like swimming as a workout because it hits basically all of your body. When it comes to core, leg raises are great for your core and abs, they’re tough but worth it. Kickboxing always is one of my favorite ways to train.
You’ve played both heroes, villains, and complicated in your career. Roles like Stringer Bell on The Wire, Detective John Luther on Luther, Krall in Star Trek Beyond, and Heimdall in the Thor and Avengers series to name a few. What do you enjoy about being able to play those different types of roles?
It’s about variation. As an actor, the best thing that can happen is that you can have a varied career. Whether it’s playing Stringer on The Wire, or Brixton in Hobbs and Shaw, no actor wants to play the same role over and over again. The best thing is having that variation in my life and career, and being able to play those roles and different types of characters and people is a challenge and one that I enjoy taking on.
You served as creative director on your recent campaign with Stella. What do you enjoy most about the behind-the-scenes process?
It was a fulfilling experience, to be able to give my input. Working with Stella was great. Transparently, I was going to direct the ad, but due to the commitment of putting it together and being in it, I got to suggest directors instead and help with the vision. For me as an actor who has his hand in different pieces, this is a dream gig. On one side of the fence, I get to act in it and be a personality. Stella was open for my input and creative ideas. It truly was a collaboration. I really felt that my opinion as a creator was taken seriously. Stella had a vision for it, very clear, and I wanted to amplify it, I brought in a director in Henry Scholfield to help me visualize and flesh out the idea.
For me as an actor who has his hand in so many different pieces, this is a dream gig. On one side of the fence I get to act in it and be a personality. Stella was so open for my input and creative ideas. It truly was a collaboration. I really felt that my opinion as a creator was taken seriously. Stella has their knowledge and I have what I can bring to it, and they were very receptive to my ideas and energy, and to Henry and his ideas. It was truly amazing, it didn’t feel like a grit-and-grind-it-out situation. Everyone had truly artistic minds with the idea to sell a great product. Even before I worked with them I drank Stella and I love it.
What are some ways people can enjoy their summer even if they aren’t on an actual vacation?
My lifestyle, it seems glamorous, but a lot of times when working, myself and my team find ourselves in a corporate hotel, a bland spot. But we make it so that everyone is having a good time and feeling comfortable like we’re on vacation. So you can also summer like you’re on vacation no matter where you are. It’s really about finding the things that make you most comfortable, whether it’s a good soundtrack, a good vista—it doesn’t have to be a beach or ocean, you can just sit on the balcony and have a good view—a cold Stella, the right sort of stuff on your feet so you’re comfortable. It’s about remembering to smile in the moment and enjoy the moment. Even though we know we’re in a hotel or whatever, we can be anywhere and have the same vibe. That’s my life, it isn’t all glamour, but you can find time to relax, turn everywhere we are into a vacation-like vibe.
Where are your favorite places to travel?
I love working in Africa, and visiting there whether it’s for work or on vacation. The Caribbean is great as well, there’s are great places to chill out, it’s warm, and the people are genuinely relaxed and friendly. To be honest, I love London, my hometown. I love being in my office and I genuinely enjoy coming into my office and work.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
It was from my dad. He said to always look people in the eyes. You get a sense of how genuine a person is and how they are as people when you look them in the eyes.
— Idris Elba (@idriselba) July 10, 2019