The actor weighs in on the importance of trust, those Dark Tower reviews, and maybe doing a comedy. (Warning: Some spoilers ahead.)
Maarten de Boer / BuzzFeed News / Getty Images
TORONTO — “Sorry,” Idris Elba apologized for yawning while he was still mid-yawn. His polite fatigue was understandable. Elba had just gotten off a long flight from London to Canada, where he filmed his latest movie — The Mountain Between Us — and where it was about to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The Mountain Between Us follows two survivors of a plane crash, surgeon Ben Bass (Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet), who have to survive the brutal cold together with extremely limited resources. As time passes and the situation grows more dire, they’re forced to reconcile their feelings about their own lives — and, consequently, their growing affection for each other.
“It’s two people struggling with their lives,” Elba said. “And then survival turns into love.” But it’s not your typical movie romance — it’s darker than that, a little less rosy. “There’s nothing you can’t say to the person you think you’re gonna die with. Trust. That is where the beginnings of love lie,” Elba said. “You feel free; it’s quite liberating when you can tell someone anything.”
The movie was filmed over 45 days in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia, and the conditions were harsh: Temperatures dipped into the negatives and the elevation exceeded 10,000 feet. Many layers of clothing, lots of coffee, hand-warmers, and hugs kept the cast and crew from freezing. “It’s really healthy with Kate,” he said of working with Winslet. “She’s a strong personality and she’s a communicator. She’s a lead actor, so she leads a crew.” And they found ways to laugh together. “She takes the piss out of me quite a bit, I take the piss out of her quite a bit. We had a good time.”
Elba in The Mountain Between Us.
20th Century Fox
Elba has grown accustomed to working with CGI as much as he has with real people, but that wasn’t a concern with The Mountain Between Us. “I think what’s special about this [is] you have two human beings talking to each other, no CGI.”
Alongside his grittier dramatic roles that are similarly grounded in realism — the ’00s HBO series The Wire, the 2013 biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and the soon-to-conclude British crime series Luther, to name a few — Elba has racked up a substantial resumé as a sci-fi actor. He starred in 2013’s Pacific Rim and 2012’s Prometheus, and he’s a staple in Marvel’s Thor universe as Heimdall. He even played the central villain in 2016’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, the crown jewel of sci-fi franchises — but big-budget genre film is not all he sees for himself.
“It wasn’t on purpose; I wouldn’t consider myself a genre actor.” Elba paused. “I think that, if I’m honest, I’m fortunate to have such a varied career. I love that. It’s what keeps it exciting for me.”