From malevolence in Star Trek: Beyond, to the dark humour of Rock’N’Rolla.

 After it was reported that Will Smith has stepped down from his role as Deadshot in the upcoming sequel to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, many have expressed concern as to who will fill the actor’s military-grade boots. According to reports, Idris Elba is in talks with the studio to replace Smith in the sequel.

Given how much charisma Smith’s Deadshot brought to the first Suicide Squad, Elba certainly has some pressure resting on his shoulders. This said, the actor has long been admired for his cool, knife-edged intensity, and many of his roles so far point to his capability to take up the gauntlet as the taciturn hitman. Here are five performances that have proved that so far.

Star Trek Beyond – Krall

Elba’s bad guy persona is on top form in Star Trek: Beyond. As the formidable squad chief Krall, he’s strikingly unnerving, and it’s easy to see his progression from his supporting role here to something as physically demanding as the upcoming Hobbs and Shaw. It’s also a great foundation for building a case for Elba as Deadshot, demonstrating that sense of professional dangerousness Smith showed in Suicide Squad. 

Where to watch: Netflix

American Gangster – Tango

Though his appearance is only brief in Ridley Scott’s Denzel Washington vehicle about a drug cartel who smuggles heroin into America using the bodies of deceased Vietnam soldiers, this scene is one the best examples of what makes Elba a good choice for Deadshot. As Tango, he’s confident, abrasive and shruggish in the face of death – all key components to Deadshot’s notoriously unruffled character.

Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play

Legacy – Malcolm Gray

For the role of black-ops professional, Malcolm Gray, Legacy director Thomas Ikimi said that he wanted an actor who was strong in his occupation, while showing vulnerability as a human being. As Legacy’s protagonist, Elba balances those aspects nicely. While Deadshot isn’t ‘vulnerable’ per se (numb is perhaps a better word), the first Suicide Squad definitely showed an interest in investigating the mercenary’s strained relationship with his daughter. Of course, it’s not necessarily in the interests of Gunn’s film to become a detailed character study, but Elba’s role here does show how the actor could expand on that flawed, human nature Ayer’s movie quietly hinted toward.

Harshvardhan Rane as Neel | Teaser | Haseen Dillruba

Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play

Rock ‘N’ Rolla – Mr. Mumbles

So far, this list has looked at the serious, level-headed intensity that makes Elba capable of assuming a role like Deadshot. Though that same unperturbed nature surfaces again in Rock ’N’ Rolla in the form of Mr. Mumbles, it’s infused with a sense of fun that nudges toward the showmanship that often motivates Deadshot in the comic books. Sure, that showmanship is intrinsically linked to the guy’s burning desire for a spectacular death, but Elba here implies his ability to handle the character’s darker interior thoughts with welcome humour. 

Where to watch: YouTube, Google Play

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw – Brixton

Technically, we can’t see Elba’s full performance in Hobbs and Shaw until it releases in August, but the trailers so far see the actor come as close as he has so far to tackling the role of the supervillain. As cool, genetically-supercharged “bad guy” Brixton, Elba has so far exhibited the shruggish, dignified persona Smith presented in the first Suicide Squad. Levelling easily with the all-out action performances of genre veterans Jason Statham and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the role also demonstrates that the actor is more than capable of taking on a role as physical as a DC movie, and have rather a lot of fun doing it.

The Suicide Squad sequel is set to release on 6 August 2021. James Gunn will write the script, and is rumoured to be directing. According to IMDb, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto will reprise their roles, with Idris Elba in talks to star as Deadshot.