Idris Elba may be well known in Hollywood these days for his big-hitting performances in the MCU. The actor is also known for his scene-stealing work as the laconic Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012); wrapped in prosthetics as Krall opposite Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk in 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond; and — on a slightly lighter note — for his voice work as Knuckles the Echidna alongside the likes of Jim Carrey in this year’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
But Elba got his big break in British primetime television, originating the role of DCI John Luther in the long-running international hit crime series Luther, which bagged him a Golden Globe as well as four Emmy nominations during its nine-year run on the BBC. So successful was the show that it has not only been exported to dozens of markets across the globe but has also spawned adaptations in Korean, Russian, and French.
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Followers of Elba will know by now that the long-awaited Luther film is on its way to Netflix — but what can we expect? Here’s the lowdown on how London’s grittiest detective is making his way to the big screen.
Luther: The Plot
Hard-boiled types are common enough in the detective genre, but Luther’s dedication to his work approaches the obsessive. Elba’s depiction of him as a perennially haunted, emotionally damaged character not only adds depth but puts Luther’s uncompromising approach to justice — sometimes summarily dispensed by him in ways that have little to do with the law — into sharp relief.
Fans will recall that, for much of the original show’s run, Luther was obsessed with putting his arch nemesis, the psychopath and serial killer Alice Morgan, in jail for murdering her own parents. However, as Morgan died (or at least appeared to) at the conclusion of the final series, it is unlikely that the character, played by His Dark Materials star Ruth Wilson, will be returning (though that hasn’t stopped the show’s fans from banking on her return).
In fact, neither Elba nor the show’s creator, Neil Cross — who was planning to take Luther to the big screen as long ago as 2012 — has revealed anything about the film’s story. It has been hinted that it will be international in scope, as a period of filming beyond Luther’s usual confines of metropolitan London would also seem to suggest.
Luther: The Cast
Perfect World Pictures
Aside from Elba, the biggest names on the cast list are Andy Serkis and Cynthia Erivo. Serkis needs no introduction; his performances as Smeagol/Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake continue to set the standard for motion capture acting. Filmmaker J. J. Abrams lost no time casting him in yet another motion capture role, that of Kylo Ren’s master Snoke, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
Most recently, Serkis portrayed Batman’s butler Alfred in The Batman earlier this year to rave reviews. He is currently hard at work directing a new animated version of George Orwell’s satire on the nature of revolution, Animal Farm. Serkis will play the antagonist in the Luther film, though the character’s identity has yet to be revealed.
Erivo, meanwhile, has progressed from her beginnings in West End and Broadway musicals to bona fide A-lister status, having garnered an Emmy Award for her performance in the revival of The Color Purple in 2017 and an Academy Award nomination for her barnstorming turn as a former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ excellent biopic Harriet (2019). Earlier this fall, she starred opposite Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis’ live-action remake of Pinocchio as the Blue Fairy. Her latest role is as Elphaba in the cinematic adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, which is currently in production with an anticipated release date of 2024.
Other cast members include up-and-coming British actor Lauryn Ajufo (Boiling Point); Natasha Patel (Doctor Who); French actor Jess Liaudin; and Estonian actor and director Einar Kuusk. Irish actor Dermot Crowley (Return of the Jedi, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Death of Stalin) will reprise his role as DSU Martin Schenk from the television series.
A joint production between BBC Studios and Chernin Entertainment, filming for the movie began on location in London in November last year under the directorship of Jamie Payne, whose back catalog includes episodes of Outlander, Doctor Who, and historical drama The Alienist. Production then switched to Brussels, Belgium, before wrapping earlier this year. A firm release date has yet to be announced, but with the film well into post-production, a date sometime in early 2023 is widely anticipated.