by The Telegraph, July 31, 2018
Idris Elba, the actor, on spending a night in Nelson Mandela’s former prison, exploring beautiful Rwanda, and the next destination on his travel bucket list.
I saw England like I’d never seen it before
I flew a two-seater plane as part of an aeronautics competition, which was nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. But it allowed me to realise just how beautifully green England is from above. It looks like a carpet of grass and greenery. It's unbelievable.
For sheer beauty
It’s hard to top God’s Window in Blyde River Canyon, South Africa. I was filming out there and it’s just an enormous structure of natural rocks that frames the view. It’s just mind-blowing.
I spent the night in Nelson Mandela’s former prison
When I was filming Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom I wanted to understand what it was like to be confined in a jail because Nelson Mandela spent nearly 20 years in that prison on Robben Island. His actual cell is a monument but I slept in a nearby wing and my cell was tiny.
It definitely felt like there were spirits
His cell was empty but I heard clanging and groaning. I felt very panicked but somehow managed to fall asleep. I came out of there the next morning feeling very appreciative of my life and my freedom. I felt like I had a deeper understanding of what Mandela went through.
Rwanda is such a beautiful place
I remember having this incredible steamed fish dish in Rwanda, cooked wrapped tin foil with onions and garlic, which was amazing, as was the country itself. Rwanda has amazing climate with such lovely people.
Kuala Lumpur is so cool
I love Malaysia. The people were so nice and the hospitality was so great when I visited Kuala Lumpur. I’ve never been to Malaysia before and it was incredibly beautiful, as was Thailand where I also travelled this year.
I love the cultural richness of Jamaica
I spend time there filming my directorial debut film Yardie. We shot in an area called Rose Garden, which is a big area of gangland conflict. We were very fortunate that they called a ceasefire to allow us to film there for four nights. The two opposing ganglands apparently just said “Look, let them film”, which felt really unifying because we got to bring two warring neighbourhoods together and they loved it. But who knows how things were after we left. I imagine business as usual, but at least for a brief moment there was unification.
I enjoy Miami for sun and silliness
People go out there to get dressed up and look a bit fancy. It’s just great for a good time with lots of good parties and plenty of food and drink options.
Palm Springs was so much better than I thought
I expected the Californian city to be boring but it’s pretty funky with cool interior designs in its restaurants. On the other hand, I thought the Dominican Republic was going to be amazing but it was just lacklustre - felt really boring to me.
I’ve been going to Ibiza for a very long time
I’m in the middle of a 16-week Sunday night residency at Lio club/restaurant. I’m mainly there to work as a DJ, so am usually just in and out during my gigs. But if I’ve got some time I’ll rent a boat and explore a little. Lio has a really cool vibe with dinner and entertainment. But if you’re looking for something more full-on with a party atmosphere, head to San Antonio.
Berlin is one of my favourite cities
I opened [as a DJ] for a Madonna concert in Berlin. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see many sights during that time, but I do love the city.
I don’t get much time off when filming
But I’ve had some good fun with my fellow actors while shooting Thor: Ragnarok in the Gold Coast with the actors Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth. They’re good lads. It’s a lovely part of the world and we had a good time.
It feels like you’re walking onto a film set
I love the Petit Ermitage hotel in West Hollywood. It’s really quirky with a very old school Mexican vibe. It’s super cool.
I was amazed by the service in Dubai
I stayed in this hotel there (I can’t remember which) and they’d actually made me these personalised chocolates that replicated the poster of every single film I’ve ever done. They presented them like they were almost little DVDs and put them on a tray. There were about 40 of them, which is a lot of chocolate. I felt a bit sick afterwards.
Yoghurt is the best sunburn soother
The worst pain I’ve ever felt was on a holiday in the south of France when I was about 12. I got a severe rash from the extreme heat there. My skin felt like it was literally being fried and the only way the doctors could soothe the pain was to put yoghurt all over my stomach. It felt pretty strange but it did seem to do the trick.
My scariest flight
I had to fly in this tiny plane with Kate Winslet to get to a filming location while shooting The Mountain Between Us. We were flying over the Rockies, with mountains that appeared to be just below us. Luckily it was a pretty smooth flight.
Lots of people drink too much booze on a plane
I try not to. Good nutrition and the right kind of liquids always makes me feel a lot better, when I’m on and off a plane so I’ll refuel with the right balance of water and other drinks to keep myself from getting dehydrated.
The next place on my bucket list
I want to visit the Bahia region in Brazil, which looks so beautiful. I’m really interested in exploring the area.
Idris Elba is an ambassador for Purdey’s, a multi-vitamin energy drink. For more information, see purdeys.com.
Interview by Nick McGrath