Idris Elba takes on a new role as the charismatic and intimidating leader of a militia group in West Africa in his new war drama Beasts of No Nation.
Beasts of No Nation follows the story of a young boy named Agu, who fled to the jungle after he lost his family in a civil war. He is then taken by Elba’s character and turned into a child soldier. The story provides a glimpse of how the world of warring adults can turn a child’s life into a nightmare and how a war-torn country could force children to take up arms and fight. It also shows how a military commandant can brainwash young innocent kids under the guise of a fatherly image.
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It is an adaptation of the book of the same title by Uzodinma Iweala and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the director of True Detective TV Series. Elba is a charismatic commandant who is a combination of an intimidating leader and a father figure to his young recruits.
Elba said he likes playing his character because the Commandant is complex and “multi-layered,” and it gave him a chance to learn how leadership and charisma work hand in hand. He revealed that he studied such dictators as the infamous Adolf Hitler to get a grip on the kind of charismatic leader he needs to portray. Elba seems to understand the Commandant very much, as he describes his character as “wonderfully complicated.”
“He’s definitely not a one-dimensional villain. He really loves being idolized and he’s highly regimented. He can be jovial and then he just descends into darkness. Really, he was wonderfully complicated.”
The project is meaningful to the actor because, aside from being able to get in touch with his roots in Ghana where the film was shot, he was able to deliver an important message to the world through Beasts of No Nation.
Elba deemed it important to shed light on relevant issues like child soldiering in war-torn countries in Africa and in other parts of the world like Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
“I wanted to help make this movie because the perspective is told from the child, which is so unique. It shows that you can live with your family one day and then be snatched out of that the next.”
Beasts of No Nation has been shown at some of the most prestigious film festivals, including Toronto, Telluride, and Venice. Many people have been touched by the film and Abraham Atta’s acting lent depth to the film. Atta’s portrayal of Agu earned him the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the Venice Film Festival, a recognition given to up-and-coming actors.
The commandant’s wickedness effectively translates to the film, thanks to his co-stars and extras who took their parts seriously. He said his costars were very much engaged in it and they had been attending boot camp even before he got there. “And I show up and there’s a natural respect for me as an actor, Idris Elba! Great,” Elba elaborated.
His costars would salute him even after the camera stopped rolling, but he said it was a “very sweet, warming, engaging process.”
Elba is now considered a strong contender for awards season, and it looks like the film will take home awards as well. However, the actor is not expecting anything since it is an independent film, and he is aware that it is hard to get anyone to see it. However, he said he would be greatly honored if the people will get to see their film
“… So if we are being applauded, it means people will see it, and I am proud for everyone.”
[Image by Anthony Harvey, Getty Images]