EXCLUSIVE: Idris Elba has signed to play Dr. Alex Cross in Cross, a new installment of James Patterson’s bestselling murder mystery series that will be directed by David Twohy. Kerry Williamson wrote the script. Elba takes over the role originated by Morgan Freeman, who played the sleuth in the Paramount Pictures thrillers, 1997’s Kiss the Girls and 2001’s Along Came A Spider. Twohy is doing a rewrite.
In the novel, Cross tracks a serial rapist who may have murdered his pregnant wife years before. The film is being produced by Lloyd Levin, Belle Avery and Leopoldo Gout, along with the author and Steve Bowen.
Production will begin in 2011, likely in the spring. The film will be privately financed and distribution is being set. Paramount is a possibility.
There are few franchises out there with a black actor in the lead role. So this is a big star-making step for the British actor who emerged from the HBO series The Wire and into films like RocknRolla, American Gangster, Obsessed and The Losers. He just wrapped the role of Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor, and next stars in the Screen Gems heist film Takers, which opens August 27.
Elba has also kept his hand in TV. After a memorable arc in NBC’s The Office last season, he played the title role in the British detective miniseries drama Luther, and will next be seen in an arc of episodes playing Laura Linney’s love interest in the new Showtime series The C Word. Elba is repped by ICM, The Schiff Company and UK-based Ken McReddie Associates.