Why 'Luther' is the coolest character Idris Elba will ever play: 'He's a flawed superhero'
Idris Elba doesn’t need a tux, martini or license to kill. He gets to wear the heavy tweed coat of his own British icon.
The charismatic English actor reprises his role as weathered TV cop John Luther in the Netflix movie “Luther: The Fallen Sun” (streaming now), and Luther’s a guy with wide appeal, even for newbies. “There's always something intriguing about someone meant to be on the law side but is a bit of a rule-breaker,” Elba says. “It's kind of naughty. He’s a flawed superhero.”
Whether you're a rookie or a die-hard fan, here's what you need to know about Elba's brooding detective.
Idris Elba’s antihero John Luther faces past misdeeds and a new baddie
“Fallen Sun” is a continuation of the BBC crime drama “Luther,” which ran for five seasons in the 2010s. (The series is now streaming on Hulu.) Elba’s character took on serial killers, pedophiles and other baddies, often bending the rules in the name of justice. That comes to bear in the new movie as Luther is locked up for his transgressions but has to find a way out to solve an old case and face a cyber-psychopath (Andy Serkis).
The film takes Luther to his "lowest possible point,” says writer and series creator Neil Cross. “He’s a man with a drive to do things in the world, and we put him in a place such that he is unable to do that. But it was perversely liberating because it allowed us to unshackle the character from the limitations of the genre from which he emerged.”
Andy Serkis takes on the role of internet supervillain
Serkis’ creepy, theatrical antagonist David Robey does some seriously bad things using people’s online habits against them. “I wanted to have a shower afterward,” he says with a laugh. “He is a deeply isolated, lonely individual who can only connect with humanity through observing their very simplest movements, as they walk to their kitchen to make themselves a cup of tea or something as shaming as watching pornography. But it's the mundanity which is frightening.”
But the hallmark of Luther’s rogues gallery – including fan-favorite archenemy Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) from the TV show – is that “all of the villains are real,” Serkis adds. “They're not fantasy. They're all around the corner or under the bed.”
Cynthia Erivo’s crusading cop is out to catch Luther
Robey is also a problem for Detective Chief Inspector Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo), who has not keen at all about getting Luther’s help when he calls her from prison – or especially when he escapes lockup. “I hadn't seen Black women in that position in a police drama,” Erivo says. “She starts off looking like she might be the hero, but actually she's a bit of both. She also has darkness and has to reckon with that side of her.”
Odette changes her tune on Luther, too. “She's put in a situation where she has to do something questionable, she then realizes it's not so cut and dry,” Erivo says. “He might be a good person, and she may have been wrong.”
‘Luther: The Fallen Sun’ works in a cheeky James Bond joke
In one scene, Luther refuses a martini – a nod Cross included after years of speculation that Elba might be the next 007. “It took 30 seconds to write and five days to agonize about whether or not to keep it,” Cross says. Director Jamie Payne says “it's a naughty wink” but also “a character moment.”
Elba’s first response was “it’s a bit on the nose,” the actor says, laughing. For him, Luther “hopefully embodies the same sort of real estate in people's imagination as me playing the character that everyone has said it'd be great to see me play.”
Get ready for a worldly ‘Luther’ film franchise
While “Luther” has been replicated in different countries, including India, Russia and France, “I embodied the original. That makes it very cool for me,” Elba says. But his “ultimate ambition” is using Bond as a model for a globe-trotting movie series where Luther might, for example, have to solve a murder in New York City or deal with a political situation in Kenya. ("Fallen Sun" hints at this, taking the character to Iceland.)
In the London of Cross’ show, “everything's Gotham-esque, slightly elevated, dark, rainy. I'm really excited about seeing Brazil, Chile or Paris in that sort of Luther Land lens but with the culture wherever he happens to be,” Elba says. “We have taken the story as far as we can go in terms of Detective Inspector John Luther. He's always going to be a guy that has a detective spirit, but now perhaps he can work in other departments."
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