Idris Elba has revealed that he wants to explore DCI John Luther’s backstory on the big screen.
“It would be an origin story,” he commented at a screening at Bafta of Luther’s third series. “It’s definitely a goal for the writer Neil Cross and myself to make a movie and we’ve talked about it at length. The spine of the film will probably come from The Calling, which is the book that starts at the beginning and explores who Luther is and where he’s come from. We do want a new audience, but we also want to keep the fans interested, so we have to tread very carefully.”
Neil Cross’s book, which won the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, is a prequel that focuses on a traumatic case involving a child killer and culminates in the events portrayed at the start of Luther’s opening series.
But despite Elba and the show’s creator having a desire to take the troubled cop to the cinema, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Luther’s days on BBC1 are numbered. “My personal ambition is to see Luther as a film, but I’m very loyal to those who have been loyal to us. So if the audience demands another series or a special episode then I think it should happen,” said the actor. “At the end of this season, we’re left tantalised as to what could happen next. So it would be quite interesting to see that.”
Of Luther’s place among the roster of TV detectives, Elba reasoned that his character was larger than life and even possessed some superhero qualities: “Luther never changes his clothes and nobody really mentions that! That’s very much a superhero thing. So we definitely love the idea that he’s slightly bigger than life. But we also felt that he needed to be held accountable for his actions after two seasons of terrorising people and breaking the law.
“So we’ve brought in a nemesis who holds Luther up the collar and says, ‘what the f**k are you doing?’. Personally, I can’t sit here and say that John Luther’s conduct is correct all the time, but once you embrace the fact that he has these superhero qualities, you loosen those moral parameters. Well, I have anyway.”
In the frankly terrifying opening episode of the new series, Luther finds himself investigating a creepy fetishistic killer while also being surreptitiously observed himself by an anti-corruption squad headed by former colleague Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her boss DSU Stark (David O’Hara): “This season was waiting to happen,” commented Elba. “The fans have been asking how long Luther can away with doing what he does. And now it’s all going to come to a head.”
During the Q&A that followed the screening, it quickly became obvious that the 40-year-old actor, who first experienced fame as drug lord Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire, relished the chance to lead his own primetime BBC1 drama. But when asked about taking on a soon-to-be vacant role in another UK hit – that of Doctor Who – he seemed more reticent: “I’d look silly in a bow tie,” he joked.
It looks like the psychopaths of London rather than the Daleks of Skaro are going to have to watch their backs for a good while longer yet.
Luther returns to BBC1 on Tuesday 2 July at 9pm