13 Fascinating Facts About Idris Elba

Alexander Koerner, Getty Images
Alexander Koerner, Getty Images

Since first rising to fame as Stringer Bell on HBO's critically acclaimed series The Wire, Idris Elba has cemented a solid place for himself as one of Hollywood's most in-demand (and bankable) actors. The British star has dabbled in comedy, become a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, lent his voice to a few animated films (including Zootopia and Finding Dory), and won a Golden Globe for his role as a brilliant-but-headstrong London detective in Luther. And though it doesn't seem like Elba is even interested in becoming the next James Bond (he'd like to see the role go to a woman), that hasn’t stopped fans from rallying for it to happen.

Here are a few things you might not have known about Elba, who will next be seen alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, which arrives in theaters on August 9.

1. "Idris" is not his full name.

Like many actors before him, Elba made a slight tweak to his birth name when choosing his professional moniker. Which is how Idrissa Akuna Elba became known as Idris Elba.

2. Elba is also a musician—and a very successful one.

Idris Elba performs at Yuma Tent during the 2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 13, 2019 in Indio, California
Rich Fury, Getty Images for Coachella

Besides being an actor, Elba is an experienced DJ who formerly went by the name DJ Big Driis. Elba became interested in music as a child and began to work as a DJ at weddings and other events as a teenager, then continued picking up gigs when he moved to New York City in the 1990s. Even when his acting career took off, Elba continued to make time for music.

"Once The Wire came in, I tried to DJ as much as I could," Elba told Rolling Stone earlier this year. "My profile went up and the money went up along with it. It definitely fell second place to acting but then I got serious about it. I got myself an agent, a DJ manager, and it was like a second career, a side-hustle."

In 2018, Elba launched his own record label, 7Wallace Music, and he played a DJ set at this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. "Doesn’t matter how big my name is on the poster," he told Rolling Stone of making the Coachella lineup. "This is massive for me!"

3. He is one of Hollywood's highest-grossing actors.

Though Elba has been choosy with his roles, and has regularly gravitated toward smaller, personal films, he currently holds the 20th spot on the list of actors whose films have grossed the most amount of cash. (He's wedged right in between Mark Ruffalo at number 19 and Ian McKellen in the 21st spot.) Elba's role as the all-seeing Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no doubt largely to thank for Elba's box office totals.

4. Elba has appeared in several music videos.

Given Elba's love of music, it isn’t entirely surprising that he has acted in a few music videos, including projects for Fat Joe and Giggs. In 2012, Elba even co-directed and starred in the Mumford & Sons music video for "Lover of the Light."

5. Elba earned a prestigious honor from the Queen.

In 2016—the same year Elba earned both Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for his work in Beasts of No Nation—the actor landed a spot on Queen Elizabeth II's annual New Year's Honors List, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work as an actor.

"Awards and honors come in all shapes and sizes and all as significant as the other," Elba said at the time. "But this is beyond special as it comes from Queen and country, and I couldn’t be more proud for receiving this right now. What a year. On me head son."

Other stars who have received OBEs include Eddie Redmayne, Keira Knightley, Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, James Corden, and David Beckham.

6. Elba is a major soccer fan, and has done promos for his favorite team.

Like many Brits, Elba is a devoted soccer (a.k.a. football) fan, and is very vocal about his support for the Arsenal Football Club in particular. The actor recently even starred in an advertisement for the team, making a cameo in a promo for Arsenal's collaboration with Adidas.

7. Elba has a crush on Meryl Streep.

While some actors like to play coy on which fellow celebrity they might have a crush on, Elba has been quick to reveal his: Meryl Streep. In 2016 he told US Weekly how starstruck he was by the Oscar legend, saying, "When I met her, my tongue swelled up in my mouth!"

8. When he lost the Golden Globe in 2012, Elba's daughter hand-made him one.

In 2012, Elba took home the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for his role as DCI John Luther in Luther. It was Elba's second consecutive nomination in the category for the same role, yet he hadn't been so lucky the first time around; he lost the award to Al Pacino for You Don't Know Jack in 2011.

In 2012, Elba tweeted a photo of the Golden Globe his daughter made for him after that initial loss. Fortunately, he made good on his promise that he'd be bringing her home a real one that night.

9. He broke a nearly 90-year-old land speed record.

In 2015, Elba proved himself a real-life superhero yet again when he hopped into a brand-new, super-powered 626-hp Bentley Continental GT and broke a UK land speed record that had originally been set by Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1927 (back when George V was still king). Elba broke the "Flying Mile" record by reaching a speed of 180.361 mph while speeding along Wales's Pendine Sands beach. (The previous record, set by Campbell, was 174.8 mph.)

"I'm absolutely elated to have broken the 'Flying Mile' at Pendine Sands," Elba said in a statement at the time. "It’s an honor to have taken on the challenge, and to successfully follow in the footsteps of the illustrious Sir Malcolm Campbell." It was all captured on camera as part of Idris Elba: No Limits, a Discovery docuseries.

10. He is a trained kickboxer and mixed martial arts fighter.

As if Elba didn’t have enough talents, he showed off that he could get physical in 2017, when he debuted his year-long journey of training in kickboxing and MMA with a documentary called Idris Elba: Fighter. The actor ended up winning his professional kickboxing match debut.

“It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to fight professionally,” Elba said when the documentary was first announced. “Entering the ring to further test myself as a human being is a challenge I have been looking to take on for quite some time.”

11. His feature directorial debut earned him a sundance Grand Jury Prize nomination.

In 2018, Elba directed Yardie, a British crime drama based on Victor Headley's 1992 book of the same name. The movie made its debut at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it earned Elba a Grand Jury Prize nomination in the World Cinema - Dramatic category. The film was also named Best Drama by England's National Film Awards.

12. He was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by time Magazine.

In 2016, TIME Magazine included Elba on its TIME 100, an annual list of the world's most influential people. Elba was included in the "Artists" category, alongside such names as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Oscar Isaac, Kendrick Lamar, Ariana Grande, Ryan Coogler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Yayoi Kusama.

13. Elba was also named People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive."

In 2018, two years after being honored by TIME, Elba earned an accolade of a different nature when he was named People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, following in the footsteps of Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and other Hollywood heartthrobs.

“I was like, ‘Come on, no way. Really?,'” Elba said when he was told the news. "Looked in the mirror, I checked myself out. I was like, ‘Yeah, you are kind of sexy today.’ But to be honest, it was just a nice feeling. It was a nice surprise—an ego boost for sure.”

12 Good Ol' Facts About The Dukes of Hazzard

Getty Images
Getty Images

When The Dukes of Hazzard premiered on January 26, 1979, it was intended to be a temporary patch in CBS’s primetime schedule until The Incredible Hulk returned. Only nine episodes were ordered, and few executives at the network had any expectation that the series—about two amiable brothers at odds with the corrupt law enforcement of Hazzard County—would become both a ratings powerhouse and a merchandising bonanza. Check out some of these lesser-known facts about the Duke boys, their extended family, and the gravity-defying General Lee.

1. CBS's chairman hated The Dukes of Hazzard.

CBS chairman William Paley never quite bought into the idea of spinning his opinion to match the company line. Having built CBS from a radio station to one of the “Big Three” television networks, he had harvested talent as diverse as Norman Lear and Lucille Ball, a marked contrast to the Southern-fried humor of The Dukes of Hazzard. In his 80s when it became a top 10 series and seeing no reason to censor himself, Paley repeatedly and publicly described the show as “lousy.”

2. The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee got 35,000 fan letters a month.


Getty Images

While John Schneider and Tom Wopat were the ostensible stars of the show, both the actors and the show's producers quickly found out that the main attraction was the 1969 Dodge Charger—dubbed the General Lee—that trafficked brothers Bo and Luke Duke from one caper to another. Of the 60,000 letters the series was receiving every month in 1981, 35,000 wanted more information on or pictures of the car.

3. Dennis Quaid wanted to be The Dukes of Hazzard's Luke Duke—on one condition.

When the show began casting in 1978, producers threw out a wide net searching for the leads. Dennis Quaid was among those interested in the role of Luke Duke—which eventually went to Wopat—but he had a condition: he would only agree to the show if his then-wife, P.J. Soles, was cast at the Dukes’ cousin, Daisy. Soles wasn’t a proper fit for the supporting part, which put Quaid off; Catherine Bach was eventually cast as Daisy.

4. John Schneider pretended to be a redneck for his Dukes of Hazzard audition.

New York native Schneider was only 18 years old when he went in to read for the role of Bo Duke. The problem: producers wanted someone 24 to 30 years old. Schneider lied about his age and passed himself off as a Southern archetype, strutting in wearing a cowboy hat, drinking a beer, and spitting tobacco. He also told them he could do stunt driving. It was a good enough performance to land him the show.

5. The Dukes of Hazzard co-stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat met while taking a poop.

After Schneider was cast, the show needed to locate an actor who could complement Bo. Stage actor Wopat was flown in for a screen test; Schneider happened to be in the bathroom when Wopat walked in after him. The two began talking about music—Schneider had seen a guitar under the stall door—and found they had an easy camaraderie. After flushing, the two did a scene. Wopat was hired immediately.

6. Daisy's Dukes needed a tweak on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Bach’s omnipresent jean shorts were such a hit that any kind of cutoffs quickly became known as “Daisy Dukes,” after her character. But they were so skimpy that the network was concerned censors wouldn’t allow them. A negotiation began, and it was eventually decided that Bach would wear some extremely sheer pantyhose to make sure there were no clothing malfunctions.

7. Nancy Reagan was fan of The Dukes of Hazzard's Daisy.

Shirley Moore, Bach’s former grade school teacher, went on to work in the White House. After Bach sent her a poster, she was surprised to hear back that then-First Lady Nancy Reagan was enamored with it. “I’m the envy of the White House and I’m having your poster framed,” Moore wrote in a letter. “Mrs. Reagan saw the picture and fell in love with it.” Bach sent more posters, which presumably became part of the decor during the Reagan administration.

8. The Dukes of Hazzard's stars had some very bizarre contract demands.

Wopat and Schneider famously walked off the series in 1982 after demanding a cut of the show’s massive merchandising revenue—which was, by one estimate, more than $190 million in 1981 alone. They were replaced with Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer, “cousins” of the Duke boys, who were reviled by fans for being scabs. The two leads eventually came back, but it wasn’t the only time Warner Bros. had to deal with irate actors. James Best, who portrayed crooked sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, refused to film five episodes because he had no private dressing room in which to change his clothes; the production just hosed him down when he got dirty. Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” the mechanic, briefly left because he wanted his character to sport a beard and producers preferred he be clean-shaven.

9. A miniature car was used for some stunts in The Dukes of Hazzard.

As established, the General Lee was a primary attraction for viewers of the series. For years, the show wrecked dozens of Chargers by jumping, crashing, and otherwise abusing them, which created some terrific footage. For its seventh and final season in 1985, the show turned to a miniature effects team in an effort to save on production costs: it was cheaper to mangle a Hot Wheels-sized model than the real thing. “It was a source of embarrassment to all of us on the show,” Wopat told E!.

10. The Dukes of Hazzard's famous "hood slide" was an accident.

A staple—and, eventually, cliché—of action films everywhere, the slide over the hood was popularized by Tom Wopat. While it may have been tempting to take credit, Wopat said it was unintentional and that the first time he tried clearing the hood, the car’s antenna wound up injuring him.

11. The Dukes of Hazzard cartoon went international.


YouTube

Warner Bros. capitalized on the show’s phenomenal popularity with an animated series, The Dukes, which was produced by Hanna-Barbera and aired in 1983. Taking advantage of the form, the Duke boys traveled internationally, racing Boss Hogg through Greece or Hong Kong. Perhaps owing to the fact that the live-action series was already considered enough of a cartoon, the animated series only lasted 20 episodes.

12. In 2015, Warner Bros. banned the Confederate flag from The Dukes of Hazzard merchandising.

At the time the series originally aired, little was made of the General Lee sporting a Confederate flag on its hood. In 2015, after then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley spoke out against the depiction of the flag in popular culture, Warner Bros. elected to stop licensing products with the original roof. The company announced that all future Dukes merchandise would drop the design element. Schneider disagreed with the decision, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes ... Labeling anyone who has the flag a ‘racist’ seems unfair to those who are clearly ‘never meanin’ no harm.'”

8 Surprising Facts About Paul Newman

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

With roles as varied as pool shark “Fast” Eddie Felson in 1961’s The Hustler (and 1986's The Color of Money) and alcoholic lawyer Frank Galvin in 1982’s The Verdict, Paul Newman never conformed to type. The versatile actor spent decades as a movie star, auto racer, and part-time salad dressing pitchman. In honor of what would have been Newman’s 95th birthday on January 26, 2020, take a look at some lesser-known details of the performer’s life and career.

1. Paul Newman originally wanted to be a football player.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Paul Newman was the offspring of Arthur, a sporting goods store owner, and Teresa, whose love of theater eventually proved contagious. But Newman originally had his sights set on a sports career. He played football in high school and college before enlisting in the U.S. Navy Air Corps, where he served as a radio operator (as he was ineligible to be a pilot due to being colorblind).

When Newman returned home in 1946, he attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio on a football scholarship. After getting arrested for fighting and being kicked off the team, Newman decided to shift his major to theater. He eventually wound up in summer stock and then the Yale School of Drama before heading off to be a full-time actor in New York.

2. Paul Newman thought his first film was the worst movie ever made.

After stints on stage and in television, including roles in Playhouse 90, Newman was offered the starring role in 1954’s The Silver Chalice, about a Greek slave who crafts the cup used during the Last Supper. While the $1000 weekly salary was welcome, the film was not. Newman later asked friends to sit through it while drubbing it as the worst film ever made. He had better luck two years later when he played boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). In 1958, Newman earned his first of 10 Academy Award nominations for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

3. Paul Newman was often mistaken for Marlon Brando.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward standing outdoors, circa 1962
Paul Newman and wife Joanne Woodward, circa 1962.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Early in their respective careers, Newman was regularly approached by people who thought he was Marlon Brando. Rather than correct them, he would oblige their request for an autograph by signing, “Best Wishes, Marlon Brando.”

4. Paul Newman frequently enjoyed faking his own death.

Newman, who was described by most who knew him as an affable man, had a mischievous streak that often manifested in practical jokes on his directors. A frequent target was George Roy Hill, who directed Newman in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1973’s The Sting, and 1977’s Slap Shot. Newman cut Hill’s desk and car in half during filming of the first two films. While making Slap Shot, he crawled behind the wheel of a wrecked car and pretended he had been in an accident, much to Hill’s horror.

While making 1960’s Exodus, Newman pranked director Otto Preminger by tossing a dummy off a building knowing Preminger would think it was him: Preminger collapsed in shock. He repeated the joke during shooting of 1973’s The MacKintosh Man, tossing another dummy off a 60-foot building in front of director John Huston.

5. A movie introduced Paul Newman to racing.

It was starring in the 1969 racing film Winning that led Newman down a path of competitive racing in his private life. In 1972, Newman started driving on an amateur level before winning his first professional race in 1982. At age 70, he was part of the winning team in the 1995 Daytona 24-Hours sports car endurance race and continued to drive through 2005. The hobby was one of the few things that could get Newman, who was notoriously press-shy, to open up to media. “I’ll always talk about racing because the people are interesting and fun, the sport is a lot more exciting than anything else I do, and nobody cares that I’m an actor,” Newman said. “I wish I could spend all my time at the racetrack.”

6. Richard Nixon considered Paul Newman an enemy.

Actor Paul Newman is pictured in Venice, Italy in 1963
Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images

President Richard Nixon, who was no stranger to controversy, liked to keep tabs on people he considered volatile and in opposition to his politics. While that normally included political figures, his “enemies list” also included Newman. The actor earned the honor by supporting 1968 presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey and being an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. Oddly, Newman and Nixon had some personal history: Both men shared use of a Jaguar on loan from an automobile dealer. When Newman learned that Nixon was driving the car during part of the week, he left a note saying Nixon should find no trouble operating a car with a “tricky clutch,” a nod to Nixon’s “Tricky Dick” nickname. When Nixon gathered his list of rivals in 1971, Newman’s name was on it. The actor later got a copy and had it framed.

7. Martha Stewart helped put Paul Newman’s salad dressing on the map.

Today it's not uncommon for major actors to lend their images to food and alcoholic beverages. In the early 1980s, it was unusual, though Newman wasn’t looking to make history—only salad dressing. The actor enjoyed mixing an oil and vinegar blend and giving it out to friends and family around the holidays. With friend A.E. Hotchner, Newman bottled a batch and dispensed it over the 1980 Christmas season. Martha Stewart, who was then a caterer, was living in Newman's neighborhood at the time and reported a blind taste test was in favor of the dressing. Newman agreed to put his face on the bottle and call it Newman’s Own. The dressing and the foods to come—including spaghetti sauce—generated profits that Newman donated entirely to charity. As of 2015, the company has delivered an estimated $430 million to charitable causes.

8. Paul Newman once offered part of his salary to a co-star.

While making the 1998 film Twilight with Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon, Newman was surprised to discover that both he and Hackman were making considerably more than Sarandon, despite all three receiving equal billing. Sarandon told the BBC in 2018 that Newman then offered to give up a portion of his salary to make things equitable.

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