Idrissa Akuna Elba is an only child of a Sierra Leonean Father and a Ghanaian mother. Born September 6, 1972 in Hackney, London, England, Idris attended school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting, before he dropped out.
His father, Winston, worked at Ford Dagenham while his mother, Eve had a clerical duty.
With no formal training in drama, Idris has come a long way, starring in several box-office movies and has created a niche for himself as one of the very best in the art of acting.
His first acting roles were on the soap opera Family Affairs (1997), the television serial Ultraviolet (1998), and the medical drama Dangerfield (1995). His best known roles are as drug baron Russell “Stringer” Bell on the HBO series The Wire (2002) and as DCI John Luther on the BBC One series Luther (2010). He later starred in the films Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), Prom Night (2008), RocknRolla (2008), The Unborn (2009) and Obsessed (2009). He also appeared in the films American Gangster (2007), Takers (2010), Thor(2011), Prometheus (2012), Pacific Rim (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Beasts of No Nation (2015) and Star Trek: Beyond (2016). He voiced Chief Bogo in Zootopia(2016), Shere Khan in The Jungle Book (2016), and Fluke in Finding Dory (2016).
Idris was married to ex-wife Hanne “Kim” Norgaard in 1993, with whom he sired daughter Isan Elba, born 2002 who currently resides with her mother in Atlanta, Georgia. They got divorced in 2003.
He became a father for the second time at 41 when his girlfriend Naiyana Garth gave birth to their son Winston Elba on April 17, 2014.
One of his stand-outs was creating the persona of Nelson Mandela for the screen biography. He had never met Mandela but admits his father reminds him of what he imagined the sage to be; humor, presence, movement, elegance and all, while also turdy, a rock-solid guy. “I channeled my dad’s energies because he was a big fan of Mr. Mandela and a union guy who struggled for the working man. Instead of a liberation struggle, his struggle was “My guys deserve steel-toed boots and a lunch break.” But Mandela was always part of the discussion.”
Doing the bio, he had to spend a night alone on Robben Island in what was once Nelson Mandela’s isolated cell for 18 years, and it was quite a memorable experience for Idris.
“The place is haunted. At one point, I started to nod off, and this freezing breeze passed my face – it was the end of summer, not cold out at all – and it woke me up, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. I guarantee you it was a spirit.” He said.
A man from whom a lot of inspiration could be drawn from, Idris had quite some hurdles to scale in life’s journey before hitting gold. To support himself between acting roles, he worked in jobs such as tyre-fitting, cold call advertising sales, and working night shifts at Ford Dagenham. He worked in nightclubs under the nickname DJ Big Driis at age 19, but began auditioning for television roles in his early-twenties.
He gained a place in the National Youth Music Theatre – thanks to a £1,500 Prince’s Trust grant.
He also passed through the painful road of unemployment in the tides of life. ‘I’d had three or four years of unemployment, not getting acting jobs. I was watching Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes and saying, “I can do that. I can be right there with them.” My wife was about eight and a half months pregnant by the time I got the news I was going to be on The Wire (2002). If I didn’t get it, I was going to leave the US. We knew that if I didn’t have acting work after my daughter was born we would be up Shit Street.”
Idris is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). He is the only male that has ever appeared on the cover of Maxim magazine
Named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in April 2016, Idris was suggested by Daniel Craig to be the next James Bond, saying he would be fantastic.
In the 2016 New Year’s Honours , Idris Elba was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to drama.