Idris Elba Talks About Operating Camera for Directorial Debut ‘Yardie’ & More

Idris Elba has opened up about his experiences while making his directorial debut Yardie, and also his career as a disc jockey.

According to THRYardie is adapted from the Victor Headley novel of the same name, which “centers around a young Jamaican man unable to move on from the murder of his older brother and caught up in a life of crime. The film’s journey through 1970s Kingston and 1980s London shines a light on the dawn of sound-system culture, meaning there’s no shortage of reggae-infused beats throughout.”

About his love for music, Elba said at the New York premiere of the film on Sunday at Crosby Hotel, “Music — reggae music especially — has been in my bones since I was four. So when it came to picking tunes for this, I had it in my head.”

About this directorial debut, he said he worked hard to find songs that were “married to film” in a “romantic” way, adding that this caused him to become enamored with the film’s sound. “[It] inspired me to make more music,” he said. “Historically, I’ve made an album for my Mandela film, an EP for Luther. And it’s something that I’m going to continue to do for the rest of my career, which is called character albums.”

He added that he wrote “Stand By Me” for Yardie‘s main character and his love interest. “There’s only person I want / A real Jamaican,” Kranium and Tanika sing on the track, which was just released as a single and will also be a part of an EP out in May.

About not being Jamaican and making a film about people from that culture, he said he grew up around Jamaican culture and ultimately felt that he was “positioned to be able to tell this story. It was a book that I read when I was 14; one of the first books I read. It [had] a character that I could relate to living in London at the time.”

About making the film he continued, “This film didn’t feel like too much of a departure for me for my directorial debut. I’ve been making movies for a very long time as an actor, and I wanted to step in as a director and I wanted to tell a story that came from my heart. And Yardie is it.”

About his multi-hyphenated career, he said, “You’re first in, last out as a director. You’re the smartest man in the room in terms of what the story is about and every aspect of the visual. As an actor, you sort of come in at a certain part of the process and a lot of that work has already been done. As a director, you’re there from the beginning.”

Due to what he called a “happy accident,” Elba took on another new role for Yardie: B camera operator. “We couldn’t afford, really, to have a two-camera set-up but some of the set-ups definitely needed that. I decided to learn very quickly how to operate,” he said.

About how this gave him a new perspective on the film, he said, “When you’re looking at someone through the iris and you’re following their movements, suddenly you can see where the floors are a lot quicker because you’re like in tune with what they’re doing. That made the experience of directing this movie way better, because I was actually holding that second camera and it was a blessing to be able to do that.”

Yardie hits theaters Friday.

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