Did you know actor Idris Elba was once a drug dealer?
It’s true. We wouldn’t make this stuff up.
In the October issue of GQ, Elba says that was a drug dealer when he first moved to New York.
That’s right. Before Elba blew up, before he appeared on HBO’s hit series The Wire, Elba was a struggling actor, trying to pay the bills and dealing drugs to make ends meet.
“I was running with cats. I mean, I was DJ’ing, but I was also pushing bags of weed; I was doing my work. I had to,” Elba, the 41-year-old London-born actor told GQ. “I know that sounds corny, but this is the truth.”
Elba said he was even selling drugs at the New York comedy club, Carolines, where Elba was a doorman and would usher in people like D.L Hughley and David Chappelle.
“All those black comedians,” he said. “They knew me as a doorman.”
And while Elba was selling drugs to pay bills, he was also forced to live out of his van after he broke up with his girlfriend.
“The apartment we had lived in together was in Jersey City,” he said. “So when I left, I was sofa-hopping here and there and got to a place where I was parking it in Jersey somewhere and just camping down for the night.”
But times have changed.
Elba will play iconic leader Nelson Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” an upcoming movie that chronicles Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
While there have been several films about aspects of Mandela’s life, like Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, with Morgan Freeman as Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom is truly unique because Mandela commissioned it himself, according to NBC News. He personally selected South African filmmaker Anant Singh to produce it. A project that Singh says started 25 years ago, when he first sent a letter to Mandela, while he was still in prison, raising the possibility of making a movie about his iconic life.
“It has been a huge responsibility,” Singh told NBC News about the 35-million-dollar production. Not huge by Hollywood blockbuster standards, but the biggest budget film ever done in South Africa by South Africans.
“I think audiences around the world are ready for this epic biopic,” Singh said. He’s just back from the Toronto film festival, where the entire movie was shown. He says the audience gave a standing ovation that lasted through seven minutes of closing credits. The film, he said, “is touching people’s hearts.”
Elba has come a long way. The only thing he’s dealing now is scripts.