Black History Month Highlights – Idris Elba

Our third highlighted icon for Black History Month is Idris Elba, a renaissance man making changes in the movie industry.

By Chuck Walton

Idris Elba in "Molly's Game."

©STX Entertainment/courtesy Everett Collection

Each day during Black History Month 2021 we're highlighting another worthy man or woman making a difference in today's cinema and culture. Ladies and gentlemen, tip your hats today to the one, the only, the incredibly awesome Idris Elba.

How You Know Him

A better question, how do you not know him? Modern renaissance man and Brit/Sierra Leonean Idris Elba literally does it all. He's an actor. He's an activist. He's a musician. He's a producer. He's even a professional kickboxer, with a TKO victory to his credit thus far.

He's starred in groundbreaking television fare such as HBO's "The Wire" and BBC One's "Luther," and innumerable other good tv programs. He's been nominated five times for an Emmy Award, and four more times, with one win, for a Golden Globe Award for his small screen work.

He's also starred in lots and lots of popular and independent films – everything from the "Thor" and "Avengers" movies to "Star Trek Beyond" and "Hobbs & Shaw," to critically acclaimed fare like "Beasts of No Nation" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

© Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

By the summer of 2019, this distinguished gentleman (People's 2018 Sexiest Man Alive, and in 2015, one of GQ's 50 best-dressed British men), who'd once been rumored as the next 007, had already appeared in films whose global box was nearly $10 billion. So, you can also call him the $10 billion man.

Their Life So Far

From modest beginnings, Idrissa Akuna Elba (born in 1972) has showed time and again his passion and perseverance. Growing up in humble circumstances in the London borough of Hackney, Elba took to music and performing in his childhood, starting his own DJ company by age 14. By age 16, he had won a grant from the Prince's Trust (started by Prince Charles) and a place in the National Youth Music Theatre.

Between odd jobs and nightclub gigs performing as "Big Driis," Elba in the '90s started to gain a foothold in acting, appearing in British tv programs like "Absolutely Fabulous" and "Family Affairs." By the late '90s/early '00s, after a move to New York, he was earning roles in American programs like "Law & Order," which eventually led to his breakthrough role as kingpin Russell "Stringer" Bell on "The Wire."

Over the last 20 years, he's been a fixture in big movies and small. While fans love him as Thor's loyal friend Heimdall in the MCU, and he's a forceful presence in commercial projects like Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," he's also lent his power to smaller films such as "Molly's Game" with Jessica Chastain. And he has a great voice for animation, showing up as Shere Khan in "The Jungle Book;" Fluke in "Finding Dory;" and Chief Bogo in "Zootopia."

The Movie to See

There are so many good options for Idris Elba movies, but fans should really check him out as Nelson Mandela in the 2013 film "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." Based on the full life of the anti-apartheid activist and eventual South African President, as recounted in his own 1995 autobiography, the film and Elba's performance are powerful and revolutionary.

©Weinstein Company/courtesy Everett Collection

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Biography / 2013

The remarkable life of South African revolutionary, president and world icon Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) takes center stage. Though he had humble beginnings as a herd boy in a rural village, Mandela became involved in the anti-apartheid movement and co-founded the African National Congress Youth League. His activities eventually led to his imprisonment on Robben Island from 1964 to 1990. In 1994, Mandela became the first president of democratic South Africa.

What's Up Next

Elba enters into the DCEU next with the upcoming "Suicide Squad," which arrives in theaters on Aug. 6, 2021. He'll play the character Bloodsport, a mercenary who reluctantly joins up with the rest of the Suicide Squad to commute his sentence and reunite with his daughter.

The busy performer will also join the cast of "The Harder They Fall," a Netflix 2021 western ensemble which features fellow acting titans Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo and Lakeith Stanfield.

More Black History Month Highlights:

-Feb. 1 – Regina King

-Feb. 2 – Michael B. Jordan

-Feb. 3 - Idris Elba

-Feb. 4 - Octavia Spencer

-Feb. 5 - Ryan Coogler

-Feb. 6 - Zoe Saldana

-Feb. 7 - Forest Whitaker

-Feb. 8 - Halle Berry

-Feb. 9 - Jordan Peele

-Feb. 10 - Zendaya

-Feb. 11 - Denzel Washington

-Feb. 12 - Viola Davis

-Feb. 13 - Chiwetel Ejiofor

-Feb. 14 - Tyler Perry

-Feb. 15 - John Boyega

-Feb. 16 - Daniel Kaluuya

-Feb. 17 - Danny Glover

-Feb. 18 - Zoe Kravitz

-Feb. 19 - Chadwick Boseman

-Feb. 20 - Spike Lee

-Feb. 21 - Taraji P. Henson

-Feb. 22 - Kerry Washington

-Feb. 23 - Barry Jenkins

-Feb. 24 - Eddie Murphy

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