English actor Idris Elba, still best known as Stringer Bell from David Simon's epic HBO series, "The Wire," tweeted this weekend, "Having one of the biggest meetings of my professional life today...meeting a very controversial director for a very controversial part." And the Internet pretty much lit up with speculation.
Almost immediately, tweeps and pundits started asking: what kind of potentially major role makes Idris Elba so melodramatic? Could it be the lead role in Quentin Tarantino's slavery epic, "Django Unchained"? After all, "Django Unchained" is a controversial powder keg of racial politics and what other African American roles have made this much of a stir of late? Our IndieWIRE brethren at Shadow & Act were the first to ask and pose this question and we'll be honest, the thought crossed our minds immediately as well.
But wait, isn't Will Smith in line for the lead part of an American slave who teams up with a German bounty hunter to track down his enslaved wife and wreak havoc and revenge on all those that cross their path? Yes, Quentin Tarantino went as far as letting Sony land foreign rights to the picture because Sony is essentially the home of Will Smith (the Weinstein Company has domestic rights, natch). So what's going on exactly?
Well, one of several things is possible, but of course this is all fun speculation, but here goes.
1) The role is too controversial for Will Smith's clean-cut, African-American version of Tom Cruise's image and he's decided to politely decline the role.
2) Elba could easily be auditioning for another role in the film, though yes, Django is the plum role in the film. Perhaps it's possible, that Samuel L. Jackson is not interested in the role of Stephen, the black slave who is the right hand man of the main villain in the picture, and Elba is auditioning for the part instead. Arguably, since Stephen is a house slave who colludes with his white master and hates on his fellow black slaves the role is more controversial than the Django character.
3) Elba is actually auditioning for Marvel's Luke Cage and has the internet all fooled. J/k.
4) Any # of things we all aren't privy too, an entirely different role, etc.
The hope is choice no. 1, frankly. While we still prefer our casting pick of fellow "The Wire" alumnus Michael K. Williams, almost any African American actor seems better than the squeaky-clean Will Smith. Yes, Smith can act when he wants to and taking the role could be a very subversive move and it ensures an major box-office both domestically and internationally, but as far as interesting and adventurous casting and letting a great thespian take the role, we can probably think of a dozen actors we'd rather see in the part.
So is Idris Elba auditioning for the lead or any part in "Django Unchained"? It's possible, but to say definitely would be speaking without any facts. To be honest, this writer would be pleased as punch if the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had moved on, but we assume we'll know more soon; these various reports will precipitate further news during this upcoming week.