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Idris Elba discusses 'Pacific Rim' and starring as Nelson Mandela in a new biopic

Idris Elba says seeing director Guillermo del Toro's film 'Pan's Labyrinth' inspired him to get involved with the director for the movie 'Pacific Rim.' Idris Elba will also play Nelson Mandela in the movie 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.'

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Idris Elba (l.) stars in 'Pacific Rim' with Charlie Hunnam (r.).

Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

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British actor Idris Elba may be best known as an enterprising Baltimore drug lord on the HBO series "The Wire," but he has a growing presence in sci-fi films and will play South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela in his first biopic.

Elba, who starred in 2011's action-adventure "Thor" and 2012 sci-fi film "Prometheus," will next be seen as a general in Guillermo del Toro's epic sci-fi disaster film "Pacific Rim," out in U.S. theaters on Friday.

The London-born actor will star alongside Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Ron Perlman in the film about a battle between giant alien monsters who ravage Earth and giant man-made robots known as Jaegers.

Elba, 40, talked to Reuters about working with Del Toro, portraying Mandela and how music features into his career.

Q: What drew you to the character of Stacker Pentecost in "Pacific Rim?"

A: (Del Toro) has got a real big imagination. He is a kid in a man's body that has been given all these visual toys to bring his imagination to life. When you look at "Pan's Labyrinth," which is so delicate and so provoking ... for me, it was being able to work with a master filmmaker like him.

Q: Del Toro said he put the cast through their paces in the giant Jaeger simulators. How grueling were those scenes?

A: It was just very tough to have to be put in the big massive simulator all day long ... it was really, really tough. In actuality, if there was a real Jaeger program ... we would all be the most qualified to do it.

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