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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Idris Elba, Will Packer Talk Teaming Up Again for Beast, What's Next In Their Careers

The safari-themed suspense thriller roars its way to theaters on August 19.

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Idris Elba, left and Will Packer attend the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Idris Elba, left and Will Packer attend the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Bennett Raglin for BET (Getty Images)

What do you get when you combine a superb action star like Idris Elba and a blood-thirsty, CGI-created lion hellbent on revenge?

You get the latest pulse-pounding thriller Beast, which tells the story of a father and his two teenage daughters who find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the savannah has but one apex predator.

Produced by Will Packer, Elba portrays Dr. Nate Daniels, a recently widowed husband who returns to South Africa—where he first met his wife—on a long-planned trip with their daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries) to a game reserve managed by Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley), an old family friend and wildlife biologist. But what begins as a journey of healing jolts into a fearsome fight for survival when a lion, a survivor of blood-thirsty poachers who now sees all humans as the enemy, begins stalking them.

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And while the notion of Elba going to toe-to-toe with the King of the Jungle may seem fantastical and slightly absurd to imagine—fictional or not—it’s an arguably alluring premise filled with enough nail-biting moments and scares to lure you to the theater just to see how it all plays out.

“We were going for thrilling for sure, maybe a little bit anxiety-inducing but not too much, right? I want to get you right to the edge of a heart attack then bring you back,” Packer jokingly explained to The Root.

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“One of the things that I love about this movie is that it’s exactly what you said. It’s a thrill ride. To me, that’s one of the reasons why you go see a movie on the big screen. It needs to be something that immerses you, something that makes you feel like you’re in the action and apart of it. Everything isn’t necessary for the theatrical experience, but I think this movie is,” he added.

The Root recently got the chance to chat with both Elba and Packer about the new film, what it’s like teaming up with each other again, and what’s still to come in their respective careers.

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Image for article titled Idris Elba, Will Packer Talk Teaming Up Again for Beast, What's Next In Their Careers
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Studios

The Root: What was it about this script, this storyline that made you both emphatically say yes?

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Idris Elba: It was something to do with this character who had gone through mourning. I’m a dad and so when I watch movies about father-daughter, father-son relationships, it always, always pulls at my heart. At the same time, with this film, there’s a big thrill aspect to it: man vs. beast. And so I just found that there was a lot of combinations here that, for a movie that has an African-American family at the heart of it, I just felt that it felt different. And something that could really bring audiences to the cinema to watch it and take the whole family and just go for a ride.

Will Packer: I think it’s fun. I think it’s a fun man vs. nature, man vs. beast, survival movie about a family that’s in peril. I love the fact that it happens to be a Black family, it just happens to be a Black dad with two Black daughters. I always want to have really inclusive imagery in all my work and make movies that feel like the world in which we live. So that was important to me and Idris certainly gravitated towards that as well.

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TR: You’ve worked with Idris on numerous occasions over the years, from films like Takers, Obsessed, and No Good Deed to the throwback The Gospel. What do you enjoy most about teaming up with him time and time again?

WP: I think we trust each other. We’ve got a true friendship even beyond the movies. We’re close, our families are close, we know each other’s kids. He’s just a good all around person in general. As an actor, he’s somebody that brings it the way nobody else can. He’s a consummate professional, always looking to expand what he does and do things differently than he’s done before.

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That trust factor though is really important, because when I bring him a project, I think that he believes that I’m not gonna set him up to fail. Conversely, I’m going to set him up to win. We’ve got a shorthand, we talk a lot about the audience, we talk a lot about what’s realistic and organic, we talk a lot about characters. We do that before filming, while we’re filming and even after filming. We see the world a lot of the same way, frankly, but there are things that we have different perspectives on. Which I just think makes our partnership even stronger.

Image for article titled Idris Elba, Will Packer Talk Teaming Up Again for Beast, What's Next In Their Careers
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Studios
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TR: You both have been in this industry for a long time and have had your hands in some amazing projects, from TV to film and everything in between. What are you both still looking forward to doing at this point in your careers?

IE: I think any creative person is as good as the next creation they’re about to start or do. Any opportunity I get to even make a film, or produce one or direct, or encourage one—it feels like a new day. I would definitely like to direct a bit more. I haven’t directed myself in a movie so I feel like I want to do that and see what that comes with. I think probably be less of an actor for hire and more of an actor/director in the future, who knows? I love making music, I’m making a lot more music in my DJ space, I have some businesses that I’ve been running. I’m sort of living the dream, if I’m honest. But I certainly feel like, in terms of filmmaking, I’m going to be a bit more of a director.

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WP: I’ve been very blessed and very fortunate. I’ve had an amazing career, I really, really have. If I stop tomorrow, I can look back on it fondly and say ‘You done good,’ as we say in the South. But I got more stories to tell. I think about legacy at this stage in my career, I think about people that I can influence. I look at people that have worked for me and interned for me and have gone on to do amazing things and that’s a point of pride for me for sure. I’d like to continue that. I look at new mediums, content and the business is forever-changing. So that creates new challenges and I’m always somebody that’s up for a challenge. So I feel like I got more work to do.

You can catch Beast, starring Idris Elba, in theaters now.