Idris Elba has moved on from addressing those rumors about becoming James Bond — Daniel Craig is already suiting up as the secret agent in 2019 — but there is one role he would absolutely say yes to for the big screen.
“’The Alchemist' is one of the first books I read that I loved,” the 45-year-old British actor told Fox News. “’The Alchemist' is a really beautiful story, and I really would love to play that character and be in that film. It’s a great, great story. Very simple, but it has a real touchstone and heart to it.”
But Elba, who shot to fame as drug kingpin Stringer Bell on HBO’s hit drama “The Wire,” doesn’t need much convincing to pursue acting. He insisted that when it comes to diversity in Hollywood, there’s progress in sight.
“Yes, yes, not just in Hollywood, but in life,” he explained. “You know, Hollywood is more and more affected by everyday people… and that’s a multicultural society for the most part. Especially in England where I live. There’s a massive move towards that. The progress is slow, but it’s permanent. And that’s really important. It’s the same thing both in the U.S. and the U.K. The progress is a slow move towards the right direction. And it’s a slow, permanent move.”
Elba is feeling motivated these days to take on new roles.
“My life is a creative one,” he explained. “I get to live a really full life through my work. I get to travel the world, meet people, and do creative things. That always keeps you motivated. I’ve been in love with acting since I was 10-years-old when I saw my first film. I thought, ‘I want to do that.’ And I still say this now, even as I turned 45-years-old.”
But Elba isn’t just moved by Hollywood. One of his many passions has been raising awareness on what he calls “the adult illiteracy crisis.”
Through Project Literacy, he befriended Wanda Steward, a former illiterate mother from Philadelphia who struggled to read her children bedtime stories. She then made up her own tales to match the illustrations she saw and created a character called ‘Pong-Pong the Brave.' The organization partnered with Steward to bring her stories to life in the form of a children’s book.
Elba isn't shocked by the United States' adult illiteracy issue.
“It doesn’t surprise me that it’s a worldwide problem, not just a U.S. issue. What you have to understand about illiteracy is that it’s very hard to admit it. And it’s easy to go around, pretending you can read or write… It doesn’t surprise me it’s such a huge problem because it’s almost undetectable.”
Elba became determined to help resolve the issue.
“Just having children [inspired me],” he explained. “Just being able to read books to my children. And the moment they recognized words, the moment they recognized the alphabet. That’s truly one of the purest moments for me.”
Elba also encountered the problem while working as an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, a U.K.-based charity founded by Prince Charles. The Metro reported Elba first received a grant from the organization at age 16 when he couldn’t afford to attend the National Youth Music Theatre.
“There’s an alarming amount of young people that cannot read or write,” he said. “And there’s an alarming amount of young people who cannot read or write in jail. I’m meeting these gentlemen and some of them become a common denominator — they cannot read or write. And as soon as they can read and write, that opens up a whole level of awareness for them, including their self awareness, which sometimes makes them not want to reoffend. And that’s really important here.”
And while Elba is gearing up to launch one of his next films titled "The Mountain Between Us,” which also stars British Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, he has zero plans to slow down on his fight to help place the spotlight on illiteracy.
“This is something I feel quite passionate about. It speaks to me,” he said. “I consider myself to be a self-taught person. Especially when it comes to my profession and pursuing the things I want to accomplish. I’ve always taught myself how do it. And illiteracy is a crisis amongst adults. I just want to raise some awareness around it.”