Idris Elba Covers ESQUIRE UK; Reflects On His Hustling Days & Talks Playing Mandela

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British actor Idris Elba makes his YDBR debut as he covers the November issue of ESQUIRE UK. On November 29, the East London-native will star in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The film is based on the 1994 book Long Walk to Freedom by anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

In ESQUIRE UK, Elba reflects on his hustling days, talks about playing James Bond, living in Atlanta and London, playing Mandela and much more. Below are some highlights:

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His old hustlin’ days:

‘You got to remember, I was hustling back then,’ he recalled. ‘And I mean huss-ell-ing. I was working the door at Carolines comedy club. Selling weed, 10 spots, everything, just to make money because the acting weren’t coming in fast enough.’

On the idea of playing James Bond:

‘If it f***ing happens, it’s the will of the nation. It’s not because of me. Everywhere I go people are saying, ‘You’d be a great Bond.’ And I want to ask them, ‘Are you saying that because it’s trendy or because you mean it?’ But you can tell by looking in their eyes they mean it!’

Living in Atlanta and London:

‘I have no base. I go from one job to another. As an actor, you have to sell out where you’re from because you’re playing other people. That’s why I DJ, because for one night, I’m me.’

Playing Mandela:

‘People are going to judge me for this role,’ he said. ‘I don’t look like Mandela, some say I don’t deserve it. Whatever. For me, it’s important I am who I am, as I present this piece to the world. I’m 40 and I’ve had a great career. I’m alright to be myself at this point. Look, if I never work again, I don’t care. I did my bit, you know?’

The first time people saw him in character:

‘We did our final checks, and then me and my troops walked in. ANC—boom! I had the haircut. Pa-pow! Young Mandela at his prime! I was f***ing nervous, because this was Soweto – that’s like someone playing Jay Z going into Brooklyn. But I’m telling you, man — people were crying. First take, I’m not even joking. First they were like, ‘It’s Idris Elba’. Then, ‘It’s Idris Elba playing Madiba’ (Mandela’s clan name).Then it’s like, ‘S**t—it’s Madiba!’ It was so layered.’

He won’t care about the reviews:

‘I got to tell you something, man, as arrogant as this might sound, I actually don’t care what the press think. Because as a memoir to Mr Mandela, this film is one of the greatest gifts I think we can give to the Mandela family.’

Highlights via The YBF

Photos Credit: ESQUIRE

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