Hollywood has a long tradition of turning actors into directors and vice versa. Go as far back as the golden-age director Raoul Walsh, the brilliant artist behind White Heat, High Sierra, Gentleman Jim, and The Roaring Twenties, who started directing shorts around the same time he started acting, cresting in his uncredited role as John Wilkes Booth in D.W. Griffith‘s repugnant yet amazing The Birth of a Nation. Charles Laughton only directed one film in his career but that movie was The Night of the Hunter, one of the best American films to ever be released; Orson Welles directed at least five of the best films ever made, and funded many of them by appearing in other people’s movies. Then there’s John Cassavettes, Warren Beatty, Ida Lupino, Dennis Hopper, Clint Eastwood, Terry Gilliam, George Clooney, Bill Duke, Angelina Jolie, Sarah Polley, Robert Redford, and the list goes on and on.
Add Idris Elba‘s name to that list as of this afternoon, as the imminently watchable Beasts of No Nation star is set to direct his first film later this year. In an interview with StudioCanal CEO Danny Perkins, Screen Daily confirms that Elba will take on Victor Headley’s novel Yardie for his directorial debut, working from a script by Brock Norman Brock, who co-wrote Nicolas Winding Refn‘s manic Bronson. Here’s how the book is synopsized:
D, a courier carrying cocaine from Jamaica to London, decides to go it alone and disappears into the mean streets of Hackney carrying a kilo of white powder that his erstwhile friends are anxious to recover. But D’s treachery will never be forgotten – or forgiven.
It’s a story that could end up being hugely engrossing, but I’m most fascinated to see how Elba will work in his own personal ideas and politics into the filmmaking itself. It’s all well and good to make a drug-trafficking thriller-drama, but one would hope that something more gut-level and intimate stirred Elba to take this material on. No casting or crew announcements have been made as of yet, but here’s hoping that Yardie ends up being closer to something like Duke’s Deep Cover or Steven Soderbergh‘s magnificent Traffic than something as trifling as Layer Cake or Blow.