British Elba brings depth to ‘The Losers’ 

A native Londoner, Idris Elba speaks with an almost undetectable British accent. It’s one he’s masked successfully as Stringer Bell, a Baltimore drug lord in HBO’s celebrated “The Wire,” and, most recently, as Roque, an ornery black-ops specialist in the action-comedy “The Losers,” which opens ­Friday.

Elba, 37, says he’s lived in the U.S. long enough to perfect his American dialect, but that he’s not entirely ­satisfied with it.

That comes as news to “Losers” director Sylvain White, who sought out Elba after admiring his work in “The Wire.”

“Stringer Bell was the first character I saw Idris play, and I was a huge fan of that series,” says White. “I didn’t realize he was British, at first. But he’d worked with some of the same producers I’d worked with, and I knew he could bring real depth to Roque, who has more layers than any other character in ‘The Losers.’”

For Elba, who befriended co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the “Losers” set, playing Roque was an easy decision, in large part because of the way his character was conceived in the screenplay.

“It comes down to words, words, words,” he says. “The writing offered the actors choices.

“Jeffrey and I had a huge challenge in making our relationship believable, so that when we fight in the end, not only are you seeing two professionals going at it, you’re seeing two friends — comrades who would die for each other. We didn’t get into any ‘Brokeback’ stuff, but we became close, and I’m lucky I had Sylvain and Jeffrey to guide me through that journey.”

Although Elba doesn’t want to reprise the inimitable Stringer Bell by playing another drug dealer, he hopes “The Losers” will do well enough to justify a sequel, in which he can team again with Morgan and White, and redeem Roque, who — spoiler alert! — goes rogue in the movie’s explosive finale.

“I liked the character, and that I had enough room to make it my own,” says Elba.

“The script was great — funny with a lot of larger-than-life action. I’ve worked before with Joel Silver, the producer, and I’m a fan of his movies, so that was another draw.”

“Idris is one of those go-to actors,” adds Silver, the producer who previously worked with Elba on “RocknRolla” and “The Reaping.”

“I always know he’s going to give a great performance, no matter what. He can do drama, he can do comedy, he can do action, and there’s all of that in this movie.  This is my third film with him, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.”

The Losers

Zoe Saldana, Jason Patric, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Holt McCallany
Written by Peter Berg, Andy Diggle, James Vanderbilt
Directed by Sylvain White
Rated PG-13
Running time 1 hour 38 minutes

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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