How Prince Charles helped actor become The Wire star that he is today
Idris Elba, 47, is among Britain’s finest acting talents – having featured in a wide array of global hits from US show The Wire to gritty crime thriller Luther and even the Marvel superhero franchise. Recently, he was one of a list of celebrities to champion coronavirus awareness and stigma reduction after revealing he had tested positive on March 16. But far from his fame of today, Idris grew-up in a “poor” immigrant family and shared his fair share of hardships – including nearly being burned alive by a bully. In an unearthed interview, the Londoner revealed how he likely would have never made it as an actor without the assistance of Royal Family member Prince Charles.
The acting star, born Idrissa Akuna Elba, attributes much of his success today to a humble upbringing in Canning Town, London.
While his parents, Sierra Leonean father Winston and Ghanian mother Eve, were not wealthy by any means they were always supportive of him.
Long before his dreams of appearing on the big-screen were realised, they encouraged him to pursue his passions – including a brief flirtation with becoming a professional footballer.
But after leaving school without little idea of what he was going to do, the future star would stumble upon his life’s calling, as he told the Guardian in 2009.
In a telling-reveal, Idris explained that his commitment and determination to become a success could have led him into any profession.
He said: “I think the thing for talented people is that they can turn themselves in any direction. I’m one of those people who’ve been able to do anything.
“If Idris had been a footballer now, he’d have been coming to the end of his career now. I could have been like Vinnie Jones.”
While the statements could be seen as arrogant by some, Guardian writer Stuart Jeffries claimed Idris “doesn’t say this boastfully” but in a “realisation of the proposition’s truth”.
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Idris confessed that when he told his parents about his plan to become an actor they “couldn’t see any money in it” but he continued on the path nonetheless.
He applied for a grant from The Prince’s Trust, which helps people aged 11 to 30 to find work and supports them in courses.
Over the past decade, they claim to have returned £1.4 billion into society, assisting everyone from those who have found themselves homeless to launching the careers of future stars.
Among those to have received funding from Prince Charles’ charity are rock band Muse, Dynamo the magician and Idris.
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Idris was awarded £1,500 by the Prince’s trust, which helped him to financially afford his place at the National Youth Music Theatre in 1988.
He explained that his parents “always cared” about his “welfare” but were unable to do everything for him.
Idris said: “They were poor. When I passed the audition to get into the National Youth Music Theatre, my mother said: ‘You can’t go. We haven’t got the money.’”
It was his school drama teacher who advised him about the monetary aid programme and thankfully the future star was awarded it.
Idris added: “Without that £1,500, I don’t know what I’d have become. It got me into drama school.”
In later life, the actor would go on to repay the favour by taking on the role of anti-crime ambassador for The Prince’s Trust in 2009.
His work would lead to his knighthood after being listed for an OBE on the Queen’s 2016 New Year’s Honours List.
Idris previously revealed he never imagined himself receiving such a prestigious accolade on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ in 2009.
He cast out any thought of an OBE because of off-the-cuff comments he had made about Prince Charles, including dubbing him a “gangster”.
Idris was also revealed to have doubted his chances due to his personal lifestyle choices in Nadia Cohen’s 2016 biography ‘Idris Elba: So, Now What?’
He said: “The way I live my life, I’m two drinks from being in the tabloids every day. I’m no national treasure. I’m a f***ing dutty rude boy.”
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