Art & Entertainment

Idris Elba: 'Beast' An Innovative Spin On Man Versus Animal Conflict

Hollywood star Idris Elba says bringing elements like grief, fear, anger and love together in a survival drama can be tricky, but his upcoming film "Beast" combines them all convincingly.

Idris Elba

Hollywood star Idris Elba says bringing elements like grief, fear, anger and love together in a survival drama can be tricky, but his upcoming film "Beast" combines them all convincingly.

Directed by Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur of “Everest” and "The Deep" fame, "Beast" follows Elba's Dr Nate Samuels who has to protect himself and his two teenage daughters from being hunted by a massive rogue lion during their trip to South Africa, where their recently deceased mother grew up.

The classic theme of man versus nature, the British star said, has been given an "innovative spin" in the film by combining it with an emotional story.

"If I'm honest, all the ingredients for this film are a little bit contradictory. It's like, 'Which film do we want to make?' A film about loss, a father-daughter relationship, fear or do we want to make a film about poaching or the environment?

"The challenge was trying to put all those ingredients into a cup, which I believe is an innovative spin on the man versus animal genre," Elba told PTI in a virtual roundtable interview.

The story of the film, shot extensively in South Africa, is based on an original idea by Jaime Primak Sullivan.

The 49-year-old actor believes it was important to have somebody like Kormakur, who has the experience of dealing with survival dramas, at the helm of the project.

"Putting all those ingredients was trying to do quite a lot. And that was a challenge. But I think that was what attracted me to it, working with someone like Baltasar, who has had real experience in survival films," he added.

What was also new for Elba, the star of action films such as "The Take", "The Dark Tower", "Hobbs & Shaw", "Pacific Rim" and "Prometheus", was an opportunity to play an ordinary guy caught in an extraordinary situation.

"I've done quite a bit of action, but playing a character that isn't an action hero (was challenging). But making the whole film, it was sort of satisfying to try and pull it off."

In "Beast", which will arrive in Indian theatres on Friday, the actor said they have consciously tried to not succumb to the usual tropes of survival dramas, where the beasts are usually villainised.

"This is not a beast... This is an animal who has been sort of thrown into this predicament by human beings, which is based on some realities in that part of the world.

"It was important that we kept that reality as closely balanced as we could, because I didn't want to villainise the animal," he said, adding they wanted to handle the subject sensitively but without "laying it on too thick as a message".

The makers, Elba said, created a backstory for the lion as it is uncharacteristic of them to attack humans.

"Separation, anger and desperation" were used to draw a connection between his character Dr Samuels and the animal.

"I definitely believe there is a symmetry between the man and the lion. They are connected by grief, loss, separation, anger, desperation. We wanted not to just villainise the lion. It needed to have a reason as to why it's doing this as it's very uncharacteristic for lions.

"So it was important to layer its backstory, which turns out quite similar in many ways to Nate's backstory. All of that stuff sort of seeps into who they both were in the film," Elba said.

"Beast", a Universal Pictures project, also features Leah Jeffries, Sharlto Copley and Iyana Halley in pivotal roles.

Will Packer and James Lopez have produced “Beast” via their Will Packer Productions.