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Under the Radar: Idris Elba of 'Ghost Rider 2'

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Feb 13, 2012 | 10:30am EST

ALTIt’s hard out there for a Ghost Rider. This week , the comic book hero once again has to battle the forces of evil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. But this time around, Nicolas Cage’s motorcycle-riding dark hero won’t be the only badass on screen.

Joining him in the fight against the overwhelming dark forces (including Satan himself) is a gun-toting vigilante named Moreau, played by British actor Idris Elba The actor, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite performers, has amassed an incredible body of work in both film and television. Here are a few of his choicest roles, as he is right on the cusp of becoming a household name:

The Losers

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2010 was the year in which we saw the resurgence of the guys-on-a-mission genre. like The A-Team, The Expendables, Predators, and The Losers were released, all revolving around diverse, specially trained individuals carrying out a mission or moving toward some unified objective—and all while racking up a hefty amount of collateral damage along the way. The Losers, based on a graphic novel, told the story of a group of CIA operatives who must discover the identity of the person who set them up and left them for dead. Elba’s character, Roque, is a headstrong bruiser who constantly lobs attitude at the leader of the group played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He’s definitely the most fascinating member of the group.

The Office

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When the American version of The Office was in its first couple of seasons, it didn’t venture to the heights of unchecked absurdity for which it is currently known. Its characters started off as only slighted exaggerated interpretations of people you would normally encounter in any given workplace. As the show ran into the latter part of the fifth season, its primary characters seemed more like caricatures; enter Idris Elba as the newest Dunder Mifflin CEO. He was such a stern, severe boss that, while he was admittedly pretty unlikable, he refocused the show in many ways and provided one of the better character arcs the series had ever seen.

RocknRolla

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As many of you know, prior to taking the reins on the new Hollywood Sherlock Holmes franchise, director Guy Ritchie’s forte was British gangster films. With movies like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in his repertoire, he quickly established himself as the new voice in that genre. In 2008, he added the musically charged RocknRolla to that list. The film centers on a local gang of hoodlums who get entangled in a lucrative scam that end up putting them at odds with the London mob. Idris Elba plays Mumbles, the trusted lieutenant of the gang’s leader, played by Gerard Butler. The movie is full of wild, rip-roaring cinematography and endless personality, much of it to be found in the back-and-forth between Elba and Butler.

Thor

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Last year was a super one for Marvel Studios. 2011 saw the release of Captain America, X-Men: First Class, and Thor. Thor of course is based on the comic book about the thunder god of Asgard and the film finds him in a feud with his brother Loki. Idris Elba plays Heimdall, the guardian of the rainbow bridge that allows passage both in and out of Asgard. While Elba’s part in the film was not especially huge, a great deal of the movie actually takes place on Earth, but his larger-than-life screen presence provides powerful evidence of his suitability as a major movie star.

The Wire

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Easily one of the greatest shows of the last decade, HBO’s The Wire is a brutal, gripping depiction of Baltimore’s criminal underworld. Idris Elba plays Stringer Bell, the mastermind behind the biggest gang in the city. What is so compelling about Stringer Bell is that he is a brilliant businessman, one who actually attended business courses, and skillfully applies a Fortune 500 approach to selling narcotics. However, this brainy quality fails to make him any less intimidating. He still retains the power to command a room into terrified silence with his threatening words. Interestingly Elba auditioned for the role without telling the producers that he was British, reading his scene using a flawless American accent, and was so convincing that it wasn’t afterwards that they even knew he wasn’t a native.

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