Idris Elba open casting in Haggerston ‘shut down’ after huge crowds turn up

Local lad: actor Idris Alba at a recent Ebola conference. Photograph: Jessica Lea/DFID via Wikimedia Commons

Local lad: actor Idris Alba at a recent Ebola conference. Photograph: Jessica Lea/DFID via Wikimedia Commons

A casting call put out by Hackney-born actor Idris Elba was cancelled midway through by organisers last night after hundreds of hopefuls gathered outside the venue.

Police attended as crowds of people queued up for hours in Haggerston to audition for roles as paid extras in an upcoming film, to be directed by Elba, set in the borough’s Afro-Caribbean community in the 1980s.

Two hours into the casting, which took place at Whitmore Community Centre on Phillipp Street, a member of staff reportedly called the police amid concerns about the number of people who had turned up.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “Officers attended the location and spoke with staff. The planned event – an audition – has been cancelled by the organisers following discussion with police.”

Hollywood star Elba posted a video on his Instagram account during the casting call to explain the situation. He told followers the event was likely to be cancelled and urged those who hadn’t auditioned to send him headshots instead.


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Twitter users who attended the audition were divided, with some calling it “a mess” and “pure chaos” and others describing the atmosphere as “lovely” and “positive”.

One attendee, Katherine Elizabeth, told the Citizen: “This was not organised at all. Actually, I lie. The queue of patient Londoners was very organised, even though there was not an official representing Key Casting or the production company to be seen. A complete waste of our time and money.”

Another said: “Its a shame the casting went bad after numbers grew to unexpected amounts. How it is unexpected I do not know. Security was very low – no barriers and a venue that was too small.

“Idris Elba is not a small-time name. How was this not thought out? I hope I still get my chance to work with such a great actor.”

A statement from Key Casting, the agency involved in the project, read: “As you can imagine we have had a huge response to this and are trying to process all the information! We will absolutely do our best to get back to everyone, but please bear with us while we go through all the information.

The company, which has casted actors in films including Star Wars: Rogue One, invited those who were not able to audition to create a profile at, selecting “HACKNEY” in the ‘How did you hear about us?’ section.

The statement, in the form of an automatic email reply, continued: “To those who were able to attend the casting, thank you very much for coming down. We are so grateful for you showing your interest in the film and regret that we were unable to see everyone. We aim to be in touch with everyone in due course. Again, thank you so much for your interest and your patience.”

Idris Elba was born in Hackney in 1972 after his mother moved to London from Ghana, and his father from Sierra Leone, spending the first 11 years of his life there before moving to Canning Town.