Idris Elba talks Olympics, 'Prometheus'

British actor Idris Elba will be shooting a movie in South Africa during this summer's Olympics. Mike Marsland/Getty Images

Here’s one reason not to scan the stands during the Olympics this summer: British actor (and London 2012 Olympics ambassador) Idris Elba won’t be there.

But he kindly asks for your forgiveness. Instead of seeing him walk the streets of his home country and celebrating victories in person, the smoldering Brit will be in South Africa filming perhaps his most important film to date: portraying former South Africa president Nelson Mandela.

And the 39-year-old actor says you better believe he’ll be taking in some matches on when he’s not on set. Olympics or not, you can still get your summer fill of one of Hollywood’s next leading men when he co-stars in iconic director Ridley Scott’s long-awaited latest, "Prometheus," which releases June 8.

Here’s what else Elba tells us:

What made you say yes to Prometheus?

Just another opportunity to work with Ridley Scott in his return to a genre that everyone loves him for. To be a part of that, for me, is kind of history making. I’m really, really a big fan of his film-making and I just wanted to work with him again.

You play in so many different worlds with sci-fi, action, romantic comedy. Do you have a place where you’re most comfortable?

I’m really comfortable in drama. I do so many different types of roles because that’s what excites me. I can create different people. I think that’s like a drug for me; I love the feeling of turning into someone else and being believable and not recognizable.

You once told me that you learned your biggest lessons playing pool with your dad. Instead of trying to hurry up and sink ‘em in, you step back and analyze what’s on the pool table...

Yeah, it definitely serves a foundation for how to navigate a career. I know what a bad career looks like, and I know I want to be an icon in this business. I want people to go, ‘Yeah, Idris Elba, he acted and he was very good at it.’ And to me that takes a lifetime to do; it’s not easy. You can’t do it overnight. I don’t want to be an overnight guy. I just love the challenge of trying new things. My dad’s philosophy of taking your time is definitely a foundation for me.

How difficult has that been for you? You have to be getting tons of offers, right?

Well, believe it or not, I don’t get offers to do absolutely everything.

They’re fools!

It’s still a grind. It’s interesting because as my career is flourishing, the system of the leading man is diminishing. So it’s not to say I won’t work, it’s just that they don’t make films based on one person anymore, as much. And I’ve been an ensemble actor most of my career, been in "The Wire" and more recently in "Luther" -- which is a bit more of a leading role -- but the idea for me right now is to choose projects that make me creatively happy. I’m at the point where I can produce stuff and stuff that I’m not in, and that’s a really satisfying part of my job at the moment is doing that stuff. And I love it.