We’ve seen Idris Elba in quite a few perilous situations on the big screen, but his latest film, Beast, promises something unique story-wise and also when it comes to the behind-the-scenes wizardry necessary to make it work.
Elba leads the film as Dr. Nate Samuels. He’s a recently widowed man eager to heal so travels to the place where he and his wife first met, South Africa. Along with his two daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries), Nate meets up with an old family friend (Sharlto Copley) who’s also a game reserve manager. While out exploring the region, the group encounters a dangerous anomaly, a rogue lion hellbent on killing the beings that slaughtered his pride — humans.
With Beast making its way into theaters on August 19th, I got to chat with Elba about his experience bringing the story to screen.
Yes, the team behind Beast did want to embrace the fact that this is a wild adventure that goes big in a number of ways, but it was also of the utmost importance that the film was still grounded via its focus on the Samuels family dynamic, and that was a challenge Elba was especially eager to tackle. He explained:
“The big challenge was, this is a big, fantastical story. Lions don’t attack human beings and it’s very rare for something like this to happen, so we wanted to inject some reality into it and that was obviously a marriage between the acting and the filmmaking, the style, the production, everything. But at the same time, we wanted to have a story that you cared about in the midst of this, and this is a family dynamic that happens. So all these little ingredients in one pot to try and make this a film that people can go as a family and go, ‘Let’s go get thrilled!’”
What exactly did it take to deliver that thrill? A VFX miracle. Yes, Elba has had a good deal of experience working with digital effects at this point in his career, but Beast was, well, a different beast. Here’s how he put it:
“In this we fight a lion, but obviously we’re not. We’re fighting a stunt performer with a mask on and stuff, and the marriage between what the animators need to see and feel and what you actually have to do in order to put that together was really different from what I’ve done before. Typically you’re in a spaceship and then you look out the window and there’s a planet there, but this was interacting, and parts of me ended up being animated as well in order [for that to be] seamless and it was incredible.”
In addition to discussing the VFX feats, Elba took a moment to indulge a “what if” question. If Elba himself were trapped in a car being stalked by a rogue lion, which past two co-stars would he most want with him to give himself the best chance of surviving? His first pick? His The Mountain Between Us co-star, Kate Winslet; “She’s super smart and we survived a plane crash in a movie.” From there, Elba turned to Prometheus; “Michael Fassbender because he has magic.”
The combination of Elba, Copley, Halley, and Jeffries is extremely easy to get behind and root for in Beast, but I’d also happily bet on a team consisting of Elba, Winslet, and Fassbender as well.
Eager to hear more from Elba about his experience working on the movie and his hopes to direct again? Be sure to check out our full conversation in the video at the top of this article!