From The Wire to Luther to Prometheus to Beasts of No Nation to the Thor movies, Idris Elba has shown an incredible amount of range and versatility on the big and small screen. In 2017 alone, he’s gone from playing Roland, the last gunslinger of a dying alternate universe in The Dark Tower, to encoring as Heimdall, former guardian of the Bifrost in Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, to his newest role as Charlie Jaffey, a fictional version of the principled and honorable defense lawyer who defends one-time Olympic skiing hopeful turned high stakes poker game runner Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) in the film Molly’s Game.
Chastain and Elba have a fantastic natural chemistry together as two complete strangers who gradually develop a mutual respect and understanding for the other in writer and first-time director Aaron Sorkin’s legal drama, which is based on Bloom’s real-life story as a woman who refused to be shut down by anyone — whether it be the FBI or the Russian mob. But chemistry and a powerful presence come easily for the British actor, who regularly lands near or at the top of lists of prospective James Bond candidates and who is demand almost constantly (and works nearly as much). We spoke briefly with Elba recently in Los Angeles about the characters of Bloom and Jaffey, the relevance of Molly’s story and more, including his thoughts on the less-than-successful launch of The Dark Tower.
Den of Geek: Your character, Charlie, is a fictional version of Molly’s real lawyer.
Idris Elba: Correct.
Did you get to meet the real lawyer or do you have any insight into him at all?
Nope. There was no insight. I was pretty aware that this is a fictitious character to some degree. And actually, I read this quite clear that all of Charlie’s thoughts are his thoughts, this whole thing. So, I did a little bit of research about who it was, and couldn’t find much to be honest. It was pretty well varied, but, yeah, there was someone that really fought for Molly, and advised her on her legal status. But the character in the film is slightly embellished, and I knew that.
He’s decent without being naïve.
That’s a good observation. I was attracted to him because of that. I was attracted to this relationship with his daughter, and that his relationship with his ex-wife is troublesome, and you can see has a real sort of struggle with his parenting.
But somehow, that informed how he dealt with this case, which was outside of his very comfortable box at this point. And I think some part of it is due to his relationship with his daughter. He’s a cool guy. He’s a good guy. He has a good heart, but he also, I think, is frustrated with the law and the system that’s used to chase really bad guys, people that break the law systematically. He’s was frustrated with it, which is why he does different work when you meet him. And I think that he lived vicariously through Molly, sort of put in the world to right, a little bit.
I think part of his frustration is that he knows how these things will play out usually.
Yeah. I think so. I think he, to some degree, wouldn’t expect the outcome he got in this case, although he wanted to. Seeing how strong-minded Molly was, and how her integrity stayed intact, was impressive to him. He had hopes that his daughter, who thought Molly was a hero, could take something from her. You know what I mean? I think that’s some of his fuel in this film.
Jessica said something along the lines that this is about a woman who does not want to play by the rules set down by men. Does that make that feel relevant right now to the #MeToo movement?
It’s quite poignant. Of course, this is a film that was made a year ago, and probably prepped two or three years ago, but to come out when its coming out now is actually quite amazing, when we’re seeing women stand up and have a liberation movement of speaking up against some their atrocities that has happened.
So, I think yes, this timing of the film, its great, because one, it’s a female protagonist. It’s also a screenwriter who’s a first-time director. It’s also a filmmaking in which there’s no green screen in there, and there’s no aliens flying out in the sky. This is real people. I think, therefore, kind of feels refreshing in a way.
Speaking of green screen, we were happy to see Heimdall get off the Bifrost for a bit in Thor: Ragnarok.
Yeah. I really implored that we have a slightly different direction for Heimdall. We adopted a new costume, cosmetic look for him, which I was really happy with. I’m so happy that the film is doing well. It’s a real fun ride, but it takes Thor in a completely different direction, and kills it.
Are you in Avengers: Infinity War?
I’m not allowed to say.
What do you think is going to happen with The Dark Tower?
I don’t know. I wish I could make a generally more satisfying film for the fans, or reconfigure it. Because it’s a great title, it’s a great character. I love the gunslinger. But I’m not one of the producers. I’m just the gun for hire. You see what I did there? (laughs) But there is a little frustration that it wasn’t received as well as I would’ve hoped, but if the opportunity arose, I would certainly get back into the saddle…see what I did there?
Molly’s Game opens in theaters on Monday, December 25 (Christmas Day).