Watch: Idris Elba on how he reacts in times of crisis
Idris Elba says he was perfectly cast for his latest film, the survival adventure Beast. His character is tested to the limit by a giant marauding lion — and Elba thinks he always plays it cool in a crisis.
Talking about the dangers facing his character Nate — including the much-publicised scene where he punches the lion — Elba admitted: “I’m really not the kind of personality who panics in a crisis. I’ve been in situations where, if you panic, you just make the wrong decision."
Read more: Why Beast is more than just a monster movie
In Beast (in cinemas now) Elba a recently widowed father on holiday with his daughters on a South African game reserve. When poachers kill a group of lions, the lone survivor is one very angry male, which goes rogue and attacks every human it sees, including Nate and his family. It pursues them relentlessly, eventually leading to a one-on-one showdown between man and beast.
“I would say that Nate is very much a resourceful guy because he’s a doctor," Elba continues, "but I don’t think anybody is resourceful enough to fight a lion. If a lion like that is chasing you, what do you do?
"I think he does the right thing. He stays as calm as he and and stays protective of his fold. That’s what I would do.”
The story tests his cool to the limit. As well as being stalked and attacked by the giant lion, there’s car crashes, cold blooded poachers, other dangerous wildlife and an unforgiving terrain to contend with – all under the direction of Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur, who has a reputation for testing his actors to their physical limits in dangerous storylines.
Watch a clip from Beast
Films such as Everest and Adrift placed harsh physical demands on his casts, from high altitudes and freezing temperatures to vast oceans and unrelenting sun. Yet it’s never prevented him signing up the actors he wanted for his movies.
“I do think a lot of actors like to be challenged,” he said. “On Everest, there was one actor who was nervous and didn’t like the height and the lack of oxygen. I told him to just stay with me and we’d pull through. And he came to be on the last day of the shot and said it was the biggest adventure of his life.
"I think people like to challenge themselves, although they may not want it at the start, and they’re very happy that they’ve done it.”
While Kormakur was guarded about the identity of the actor concerned, in the run-up to the 2015 release of Everest, Josh Brolin talked about his hitherto crippling fear of heights and the film’s gruelling location shoot.
The director is proud of Beast, especially the climax which pits his leading man against the animal. “I think it had to come to that place where there is a mano a mano between the man and the lion. At some point you had to have them going up against each other.”
In the year when he put an end to the Bond speculation, Idris Elba has returned to the world of superheroes — Thor: Love And Thunder — and voice acting in Sonic The Hedgehog 2. With Beast in cinemas this week, and George Miller's Three Thousand Years Of Longing out next month, he’s also looking forward to the return of Luther, this time as a film. No release date has been confirmed yet, but speculation is pointing to later this year.
Beast is released in cinemas on Friday, 26 August.