Mr. Elba, with “Beast – Jäger sans grace” and “Three Thousand Years of Longing” you can be seen in two very different films these days. Does anything connect the two at all?
Maybe that both felt like new territory for me. I’ve made it a rule for a long time that I don’t want to repeat myself. Accordingly, I am always on the lookout for new challenges. But of course it’s also about who is telling the story it’s about. The director plays a large part in my decision.
In the 30 years of your career, did you often have the feeling that you were being pigeonholed?
Every actor is exposed to this danger, no matter how successful one is. Because our industry still works like this: if someone liked you in a role that might also have been successful, they will offer you a similar one again. You have to be careful if you don’t want to be tied to a certain type. But luckily, my fans appreciate it when I keep surprising them with new things.
Her parents are from Sierra Leone and Ghana respectively. You repeatedly emphasize your strong connection to the African continent. Did it also appeal to you that “Beast” was filmed in South Africa?
Yes, I love shooting in Africa. Making as many films as possible in African countries is definitely one of my goals. Not only so that I can spend time there, but also as an economic factor. But for “Beast” it was also important to be there from a narrative point of view. You can’t tell a convincing story about this impressive landscape and this remoteness when you are standing in front of a green screen in a studio and everything is only coming from the computer.
Was the filming dangerous?
Because of the animals? Of course, our lions weren’t real, they were computer-generated. We saw a lot of springbok and monkeys on the set, maybe a few snakes and hyenas too. That was all pretty safe. The bigger problem was the weather conditions. The sun was often so bright that we could only rehearse and not shoot. The light was usually only ideal for two hours very early in the morning and then again in the evening.
The film is primarily action entertainment, but it also touches on the subject of poaching. Have you dealt with it?
It is frightening how lions are now being hunted in the most perfidious way. The problem is almost impossible to get a grip on because the sums that are made on the black market in dead wild animals are enormous. It’s a huge business – and hardly any country is putting in the money that would be needed to really do something about it. The number of animals is declining alarmingly.
Let’s talk about some happier things, your second career as a DJ. How does that reconcile with acting?
It’s really tricky at times. I started my professional career as a DJ many years ago, and once acting really took off, DJing became just a hobby. But for a few years now I’ve seen this as a second mainstay, also because it’s the complete opposite of my other work. Working as a DJ takes me back to my youth and gives me enormous energy. If I play every weekend like this year at Club Hï Ibiza, that will be planned for all other jobs. At the moment I’m not only promoting “Beast”, I’m also shooting the next project, but in both cases the following applies: I’m not available on Fridays, I have to go to Ibiza.