Watching The Losers is a lot of fun, and the characters on screen all seem to be enjoying each other (when they’re not hitting each other), so it should have come as no surprise that when I sat down with co-star Idris Elba, he immediately opened up about how cool everyone was and how they got along. “If you’re not going to do leading roles, you want roles like this, where you part of an ensemble, and I’m talking about a cool ensemble,” he tells me as I sit across from the 6 foot 3 inch Londoner. I’m not worried about him kicking my ass, though that’s only because one foot is laid up in a cast and I’m fairly confident I can get to the door quickly. That and he’s a delightful guy.
Best known for his work as Stringer Bell on HBO’s critically acclaimed The Wire, Elba is soon to be on the minds of comic fans everywhere with two print-to-screen movies in his immediate future. The first, obviously, is The Losers based on the Vertigo book of the same name. The second is Marvel’s Thor, in which he’ll bring to life the bruiser Heimdall.
When I ask him why he took the role in Losers, we talk about the first ten pages and how he wanted a piece of that film after he read a draft more than four years ago. “Five soldiers are frickin’ beasts at what they do,” he explains. “They get framed and they try to fight for their lives back, and it’s tongue in cheek, but at the same time these guys are bad ass.
And bad ass they are, as Elba finds himself teamed up with comic movie alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, and Avatar star Zoe Saldana. Though those names are instantly recognizable to to us cool nerds, Idris explains the chemistry on set working because everyone had been around for a bit and yet, none of them were shouting “Oh my god, movie stars!” There were no egos involved in the production, which always makes for a smoother ride.
The camaraderie may have been smooth, but in terms of action the film is bumpy and explode-y. To make sure they got it right, a Navy SEAL and a tactical expert were brought in to make sure this bunch of actors looked and moved like elite operatives on screen. As Idris puts it, “when you’re doing something and you’re supposed to look cool, what makes you look is that you know what you’re doing but you’re not paying attention to it.”
There is a special desire to make it look legit, beyond just appearing to be a badass as you spin knives around in front of your face (which Elba demonstrates as we talk weapons), and that’s not embarrassing the guy who trained you or offending the soldiers you’re meant to portray. “‘Listen man, I’m in the armed forces man,'” says Elba, relaying what he was told by their Navy SEAL adviser. “‘If you did it like that man, everyone would just laugh and turn the film off. We don’t like to see movies where the soldiers are not represented properly.'”
During the junket, similarities between The Losers and The A-Team were brought up, though this cast isn’t afraid of those boys and are happy with their movie, which arrives in theaters first. “Are you serious?” he responds when I ask which team would win in a fight. I’m not. We both know the answer and have a laugh over the television A-Team exploits, a group of soldiers who never managed to kill anyone. The Losers, on the other hand, are absolutely deadly.
Deadly, but somewhat unknown. As a comic, many of the actors involved hadn’t read it, or heard of it, and I think this extends to the audience. But, as a comic film, we have to talk about comics. As a younger man, Idris read “Spider-Man” and “Superman,” like we all have, though he admits to preferring graphic novels now and, even then, isn’t a huge fan of them.
“I love the graphic novels, but I’d rather read a book.”
Though, that doesn’t mean he’s opposed to comic books, obviously, and deep down he’s got a secret desire buried in him. “I want to see Blade come back,” he says. “I want to be Blade.” Here I do declare that would be awesome. The Blade movies are pretty decent, but with Snipes having moved on and that franchise seemingly (un)dead, it might be time for a relaunch. If Marvel could reclaim the Blade rights, they could make a real kick ass movie with Idris Elba in the title role. If Marvel can’t, well then, just reboot it anyways with Elba as Blade. I’d watch that in a heartbeat.
As time winds down, things switch briefly to Thor, but this Asgardian warrior is honor-bound by a legal contract to prevent him from talking about much. He’s confident in director Kenneth Brannagh and says of his character, “my Heimdall is a real frickin’ beast.” I press for more on the costuming of the character, but he’s explicitly forbidden from discussing that. Elba does, however, refer me to the comics and assures me that they’ve followed the source material closely. After describing the film as “epic,” we turn to other projects and run out of time.
We’ve decided to dedicate another article to those other projects, which sound righteous, so be sure to check in for more on Idris Elba and what he’s got in store.