BFI London Film Festival: Jay-Z and Idris Elba among stars at opening night premiere

·4-min read
BFI London Film Festival: Jay-Z and Idris Elba among stars at opening night premiere

The BFI London Film Festival returned to the capital on Wednesday with a star-studded premiere of Idris Elba and Regina King movie The Harder They Fall.

The stars of the Netflix western, which was directed by Londoner Jeymes Samuel, took to the red carpet at the headline gala at the Royal Festival Hall.

The movie, based on real-life figures from American history, is about an outlaw - played by Jonathan Majors - who discovers his enemy (Elba) is being released from prison and reunites his gang to seek revenge.

Music superstar Jay-Z, who serves as producer on The Harder They Come, was among the famous names at the world premiere.

He has said he wanted to “see us represented” as he discussed his producing role in a new film about black cowboys.

Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, said: “Just to see us represented, you know, with a lot of films we didn't see ourselves in westerns, as if we didn’t exist.

“It is almost odd, people think that it's like a caricature, that they are playing roles, but they’re not playing roles.

“These names like Stagecoach Mary, all the actors in this, they really existed in this time, so just see us represented and see that we have voices.”

Beyonce later posted a series of picture on Instagram of her and Jay-Z after the premiere.

Elba, who attended with his wife Sabrina and daughter Isan, said he hoped to draw attention to the real historical figures who inspired the movie.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s really interesting that these characters really existed one time. No-one ever knows about them.

“Any western fan would be like 'Really? I never heard of Rufus Buck' but he was a real guy so it's very special.”

His co-star Jonathan Majors said: “It’s righting wrongs and it's also uncovering a little bit more of what the truth is.

Actress Zaria poses for photographers upon arrival at the opening of the London Film Festival (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Actress Zaria poses for photographers upon arrival at the opening of the London Film Festival (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

“Women, Mexicans, Asians, Mexican, Asians, or I'm going to miss a group, but everybody had a hand in the building of the west so they belong in a western so it's a home for everybody.

“It's not just a step forward, it's a leap forward.”

Earlier, Elba, 49, announced he had tested positive for coronavirus in March 2020 and said the experience had an impact on his new movie.

He said: “Considering what happened to us during the pandemic...I got Covid and people were like 'Stay over there, don't come out of your your house for three months!’

“It gave us an opportunity to really think about what we are doing here, The Harder They Fall, we were told right there this movie is going to stop right here, we were thinking the world was going to die and it was a virus that was going to kill us all, but we stood back up.

Regina King, Idris Elba, Edi Gathegi and RJ Cyler were among the stars at the event (Getty Images for BFI)
Regina King, Idris Elba, Edi Gathegi and RJ Cyler were among the stars at the event (Getty Images for BFI)

“I was thankfully healthy and well, and it really gave me a life-changing perspective. So, I think I ended up injecting some of that maturity into that character that you see.”

The festival was largely virtual in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the highlights at this year’s in-person festival in London will be the premiere of the third series of US drama Succession, the unveiling of Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales in Spencer, and Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch, starring McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lea Seydoux and Benicio Del Toro.

Screenings will be held at capacity and Festival Director Tricia Tuttle said she expects it to be a heightened experience for many attendees.

She said: “People who’ve been to theatre will have experienced this, if you’ve seen Bond on a big screen you’ll have experienced this, but that first moment you walk into a packed auditorium, it is a little bit freaky – we haven’t been there in two years, really.

“But then there is also something really electrifying and magical, the thing that happens when you sit in a dark and watch a film with other people is irreplaceable.

“It really is special, it does transform the way that you watch the work. So I can’t wait. I think people are going to be quite moved, I think it’s going to be quite emotional and so much fun.

“I think what you see with Bond and what you see with the festival is that right now people are still cautious, but if it’s something that feels like a real event, they do want to go out.

“We might be part of opening up this experience for people again, and… cinemas are really safe and really, really, really working hard to keep audiences safe as well.”

The BFI London Film Festival runs until Sunday October 17.

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