Elba is set to star in and produce an adaptation of the novel “Ghetto Cowboy” through his own company.
Audiences aren’t unfamiliar to Idris Elba playing the father figure — Daddy’s Little Girls isn’t exactly one of his standout performances, but the next project he has lined up may be just that. Variety reports that Elba has joined the cast of Ghetto Cowboy, a film adapted from the 2011 novel written by Gregory Neri. The script has been penned by Dan Walser alongside Ricky Staub, who is also set to direct the project as his debut feature. Elba also intends to produce the story with his own production company, Green Door Pictures.
Inspired by tales of urban youths in Philadelphia who avoid gang violence by learning to ride horses, the focus of the novel is 12-year-old troublemaker Cole as he is sent from Detroit by his mother to live with a father he has never met. It’s essentially a street-set coming-of-age story concerned with the struggles of youngsters in escaping a life of crime. In the particular case of this film, contemporary cowboy ways lead Cole to learn what feels right by his own values, as well as nurture the relationship he has with his father.
This strain of narrative shares similarities with a number of previous productions Elba has produced through Green Door. Founded in 2013, the company’s primary aim is to “champion diversity of thought”. This resonates through their creations over the seven years it has been operating. Perhaps Green Door’s best-known production is Guerrilla, a Sky Atlantic miniseries which stars Freida Pinto and Babou Ceesay. The show profiles the racial and political tensions of 1970s London.
Green Door’s projects highlight Elba’s personal connections to his identity in his line of work. Emphasis on British locations, talent, and identity are prevalent. #TheIdrisTakeover season for the online UK BBC3 channel included titles such as Breaking Out In Bradford and Shogun, both of which chronicle tales of individuals in the respective British towns of Bradford and Paisley.
Despite such a home affiliation throughout these works, with Ghetto Cowboy Elba appears to be looking to extend his production reach and scale by telling tales outside the UK. This is also likely to capture a wider international audience. In relation to Elba’s previous productions, Ghetto Cowboy‘snarrative still contains a prominent sense of self-identity which is strongly associated with a locational place and the communities within.
These altered factors may be the ones which allow Green Door Pictures to introduce themselves to the wider world of international feature-length productions. Ghetto Cowboy thus seems the one for the company to do so with.
As for Elba’s on-screen role in Ghetto Cowboy, slipping back into a fatherly role should come with no hesitation. Although he has regularly played the family patriarch in such efforts as the movie Obsessed, the Playhouse Presents film King for a Term, the yet-to-air TV show In The Long Run, and of course, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, his credits are in no way limited to a paternal figure.
Visible for the slightest moment in Avengers: Infinity War, Elba’s Asgardian warrior Heimdall has been a standout in Thor’s trilogy. The likes of 2017’s Dark Tower and 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond have continued to demonstrate his ability to play fantasy roles. Voicing characters in Finding Dory, Zootopia, and The Jungle Book has shown him capable of using his infamous baritone voice to excel in such roles, and more dramatic features such as Molly’s Game and The Mountain Between Us have recently cemented him as a box-office mainstay.
A genre he truly appears most comfortable in, however, is the niche of sort-of-trashy, sort-of-amazing, all-guns-wielding gritty action-slash-thriller. 100 Streets, The Take, Takers, Luther, and Rock’n’Rolla are just a few examples. Maybe it’s the connection to the sense of realist British crime and identity jumping out — maybe he’s just the man for the job. All we know is that 007 producers might finally be ready to give him the peak role of the genre, according to The Independent. After Danny Boyle’s upcoming send-off for Daniel Craig’s Bond, it would be undeniably fitting to present the role to none other than Elba.
Nonetheless, charting recurring similarities throughout his career doesn’t signal a red flag. It isn’t as simple as using familiarity to stick to what he knows — his range of features outside of what he has planned for the future displays an abundance of skill. Elba’s ambitions with Green Door Pictures and Ghetto Cowboy seem true to his visions as a producer and an actor.