Today he is the coolest man on telly as cop John Luther — so cool, in fact, that even the US PRESIDENT wants to be him.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, 40-year-old Idris tells of his encounter with Barack Obama at the White House, where the President revealed he has become an unlikely fan of the BBC1 drama.
But he is not so keen on the cult role which first brought the British actor recognition in the US — businesslike crime baron “Stringer” Bell in ground-breaking TV series The Wire.
Idris recalls: “The Obamas invited me to the White House and I had fun, a good time. David Cameron and his wife were there — he is a Luther fan and so is Barack Obama. When I saw the President I said, ‘Mr President, I hear I am not your favourite character in The Wire’, and he said, ‘Well, yeah, but Luther — that’s me’.”
And it’s not just the Obamas who make the Elba address book a cut above everyone else’s — he is also pals with everyone from Prince Charles to rap mogul Jay-Z and is Daniel Craig’s first choice to take over his role as James Bond. His 800,000 Twitter followers would certainly pay to see him in that role.
Idris has also been hand-picked by Nelson Mandela’s family to play him in a forthcoming biopic, and from this week he can be seen in the starring role — originally earmarked for Tom Cruise — in the £130 million action blockbuster Pacific Rim.
It is his role as Mandela in the official film adaptation of the former South African President’s autobiography Long Walk To Freedom which brings him most pride and satisfaction. The film is out later this year — and is already a hot Oscar tip.
Idris says: “It’s the biggest honour of my life, to know the Mandela Foundation have chosen me and said, ‘We would like him to depict our national hero’.
“It remains humbling, even after I have made the film. I have to pinch myself — ‘Is that really real?’ I am just a fella from east London.”
Pentecost is a deadly serious man who rarely cracks a smile. He is in charge of a defence programme featuring robots 25 storeys high which are piloted by humans.
They battle with equally massive monsters called Kaiju, who are attacking Earth via a space portal deep under the Pacific ocean.
With its amazing 3D visual effects, Pacific Rim is the most fun film I have seen in ages.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, whose previous credits include Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, it’s pure popcorn in the vein of Independence Day and Jurassic Park.
Idris shines throughout. In fact, his ability to pull off such great performances is the reason Daniel Craig has said he should eventually take over as James Bond.
Idris diplomatically plays down his chances, saying: “I actually haven’t been offered the job. If it is ever to happen it is the will of the nation.
“To have me play the role would be another reset for the character, it’s such a national and international treasure.”