Tyler Perry in, Idris Elba out of Alex Cross reboot: Producer explains why -- EXCLUSIVE

Tyler-Perry-Idris-ElbaImage Credit: Janet Mayer/PR Photos; Charles Norfleet/PR PhotosLast August, when news broke that The Wire‘s Idris Elba was to follow in the footsteps of Morgan Freeman (Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider) and reboot the James Patterson detective character Alex Cross on the big screen, we were psyched — and this was before we’d seen his Golden Globe-nominated turn as a detective in the miniseries Luther. EW chatted with Elba last October about the film, which was to then have been directed by David Twohy (A Perfect Getaway, Pitch Black), and all he would reveal was that the script was “phenomenal” and if he could pick his dream costar/nemesis, it’d be Joaquin Phoenix. So cut to the news today that cameras will be rolling this June on I, Alex Cross with Tyler Perry in the titular role and director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious and xXx) at the helm. What happened? 

Elba’s rep had no comment, but Bill Block, CEO of QED International (District 9), which acquired the rights and the initial script by Kerry Williamson and Patterson late last year (and hired Marc Moss, who worked on the previous Cross films, to refine it for Perry and Cohen), just filled us in: “When we came on, we looked at it freshly, and just built it from the bottom up,” he tells EW. “Sure, Idris is a great actor; Tyler Perry is a phenomenon. Tyler Perry is one of the most significant entertainers in all of media. He is a huge cross-media talent and presence — and he’s a terrific actor whose range is going to be shown here. You’re going to see Tyler Perry like you haven’t seen him. He’s 6’5″, he is a linebacker. He is an awesome physical presence and is just going to tear it apart here. It’s an intense, dramatic role.” Block says the film — “a kickass, crusading action picture” — will be the first of several Alex Cross films. “This is going to be the new Tyler Perry franchise, a worldwide one,” he says. “That’s the other thing: Tyler Perry is going to take this to the worldwide audience. It’s just a very different, much bigger opportunity.” (It’s worth noting that Block was, in fact, phoning us as he arrived at the airport, about to fly to the European Film Market in Berlin to sell global distribution rights.) “We went to him,” Block says. “If you can get Tyler Perry or Will Smith, you try.”

Now I imagine most people, myself included, think of Elba and Perry as being two very different actors, and naturally find this to be a bemusing, almost amusing turn of events. The question is: Are you more or less interested in the film now? With Elba, I was looking forward to him getting a quality leading man role with mass appeal and bringing some heat. With Perry, I’m curious to see how he’ll handle a serious car chase (I assume there will be one), and whether his Madea fans will follow him when the makeup in the movie isn’t drag but deadly. Yes, we’ll all be dying to see the trailer. But is it the kind of curiosity that’s satisfied in two minutes or two hours?

While you ponder those questions, I’ll leave you with this: You can critique an actor’s performance after the film opens, but you can’t ever fault someone for wanting to try something new and show his range. I have no idea what kind of relationship Elba has with Perry, who directed him in 2007′s Daddy’s Little Girls, but that notion is something I’m confident Elba would agree with (at least on some level). Talking to us last October about the diversity in his credits, Elba said, “I would never be fearful of any character. I think there’s a tendency for actors like myself, and I don’t mean to generalize myself, but I’ve played ‘men’s men,’ if you will, characters that are simmering [with] rage and calculated. There’s a trend not to play anything that is opposed to that. I remember when I left Stringer [on HBO's The Wire], one of the films I did was Tyler Perry’s Daddy’ Little Girls, which was about a man doting over his three little girls. I remember there was talk, ‘Why? Why would you do that? Play gangsters. Play ruthless.’ It’s really funny because the same people who loved me as Stringer Bell were the same people that were watching Daddy’s Little Girls literally in tears. Some people don’t like the film, but some of the guys that came up to me and said, ‘Yo, I want to see you play gangsters’ were the same ones that were in tears because they had either strained relationships with their children, or they loved their children so much and they were watching a character that they could relate to. I don’t mind playing characters that are opposite of what people think I am.”

Comments (414 total) Add your comment
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  • bill

    That’s like replacing Meryl Streep with Tara Reid.

    • Hannah

      Ha! Well said.

    • Kat

      Agreed!!!!

      • KC

        …but Alex Cross isn’t gay!!!!!
        *ducks*

      • AK

        @KC: It’s called acting!
        *hits low*

      • KC

        He can’t act either.

    • Nathan

      It’s like replacing Meryl Streep with Tyler Perry.

      • APFW

        That’s even funnier. I would definitely prefer Idris for this role.

      • Mr. Holloway

        LOL!

      • Kris

        LOL WIN!

      • KC

        That’s like replacing Steven Tyler with Paula Abdul!
        *crickets*

      • M. Harrison

        Honestly, I could see Alba playing Alex Cross and Perry playing Samson..his partner!

      • Jay

        @M Harrison – Now THAT’S a great suggestion!

      • E. Irwin

        M.Harrison, I agree with Perry playing Samson that was my first thought when I got the email from the Patterson Com today, but I would not have put him as Alex, though, nor can I see Elba playing the roll. Didn’t mind Freeman in the role either but think Samuel L could play a better part. When I started reading the books, wow 12 years ago, Sam L was always the person I pictured playing Alex

      • Buck

        Someone here said “Its like replacing Meryl Streep with Tara Reid.” America has to get over this belief that Meryl Streep is the greatest actress that ever lived. She is not! She is but one of several competent actresses alive today. I know that Helen Mirren, Frances McDormand, Diane Keaton and any number of other actresses her age can do any role she has done, plus they are better looking. As for Tyler Perry replacing Idris Elba, Tyler will do fine. Idris worked for Tyler in one of his films and did a great job. I believe the name of the Tyler film that Idris appeared in was “Daddy’s Little Girls.”

    • K

      Not a great director, so maybe Idris dodged a bullet. But, yeah, now there’s no way in hell I’m seeing it.

      • Lindora Smith

        You are right about Mr. Perry not being a great director. He is an excellent director and there will be more that will see the production than will not. Everything he does or has his little finger in let alone his hand is gold. We are going for the gold and platinum.

      • therealeverton

        he’s talking about Rob Cohen, the replacement director, not Perry’s directing skills.

        There won’t be more who see this film than not. Perry is an unknown outside of North America, where the sum total of all his films’ grosses is a little over $1.3m. Elba has been in films that have made more than that, as well as a star 3 TV shows shown around the world; (critically accamed shows at that).

        Also before this film comes out audiences will have seen his extended cameo in Thor (which will be at least fairly successful; and in Ghost Rider, which again will make at least $200m worldwide, even if it isn’t that good.

        All that is before his l

    • Craig

      Hahahaha good one Bill!

    • Thad

      ditto

    • Kevin

      Cheers to that. One of the best comparisons on this board ever…

    • Chele Belle

      Much truth to what this means for Idris Elba and Tyler Perry. In the immortal words of Big Daddy Pollitt: There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity!

      • DivaSoulSista

        I absolutely love the fact that you just quoted from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!

      • rae

        I love you for quoting Cat on a Hot Tin roof….

      • rae

        ookkkk so i didnt see that someone already posted what I said…. but hell…… People who love COAHTR are in a cult….. and we love when we spot each other

      • stawaite

        here, here

    • LC

      Exactly! LOL

    • Elizabeth

      Good one. But I agree.

    • saviaj

      Exaclty!

    • Large Marge

      One of the few times most EW posters are in agreement. I mean, what is this #$@!?

    • Me

      Agree. Completely ruined the franchise out the gate. Won’t be seeing it.

    • Amanda

      BINGO!

    • Prunella Von Schleidlhaagen

      You said it. Dumbest recasting ever.

      • textumbleweed

        Close but Katherine Higel in the Stephanie Plum role is still my big issue! I’ll still read the books because I love ‘em, but seriously doubt I’ll be buying a ticket for the movies.

      • therealeverton

        Why? Is she too young, too old, wrong colour? The consensus here seems to be that Perry is a mediocre actor who has replaced an extremely good actor; but as Hiegl has been regarded as a very good actress for over a decade, unlesss she’s replacing Cate Blanchett or Meryl Streep (and even then) it can’t be as big a deal as this replacement.

        For the record i have no idea about Perry’s acting ability, although the producer seems to be saying that acting won’t be important in this crusading action film, so I’ll reserve judgment on going to see the movie based on whether it looks like it’s worth seeing. My issue is with the replacing of Elba and the laughable justification this Producer guy is giving for it.

    • german

      funny.. and true..

    • popculturemngr

      Let’s see how this turns out… If Oprah doesn’t endorse u know its a disaster. Next thing they will make Janet Jackson the love interest.

    • marky mark

      I really like Tyler Perry, however, there’s no way that I’d buy him as Alex Cross. NO WAY!

      • macey

        Four words: “Michael Keaton as Batman.” You honestly just never know. And Perry IS pretty appealing in roles in his dramas.

    • Marie

      Spot on, Bill! Count me out now.

    • Melissa

      Agree! Yuch!

    • Melissa

      I always pictured Carl Lumley as Alex and Ving Rhames as John. Vanessa Bell Calloway as his wife, the Principal, who gets kidnapped while pregnant with his baby. Maybe these guys are too old now, but those were my thoughts when I began reading James Patterson about 10 years ago.

      • E

        Oooh, Carl Lumley – awesome thought!

    • Laura

      As much as I like Tyler Perry, I’d have to agree with you.

    • Shiny

      I guess Cedric the Entertainer wasn’t available? What a travesty.

      • Mike

        That’s funny!

    • pjm

      You’re comparing Tyler Perry to Tara Reid? That’s an insult to Tara Reid.

    • Diane

      Perfect.

    • carmen elly

      hahaha! great!

    • Charles

      They should have replaced Idris Elba with Madea. LOL LOL

    • Sammy Shawn

      LMAO. That is so true! Im no longer interested. I will wait for HBO

      • Jay

        The movie is going to be called “I, Alex Cross(dresser)”

    • Katie

      Lol! Perfect comment…what a crap casting job.

    • MO

      Perfect comparison!

  • Mike

    Thanks to Tyler Perry being in this, zero chance I see it. Tyler Perry is awful.

    • Thomas

      zero interest suddenly, they’ve seen this guy “act” right? No idea how something this ridiculous happens.

      • David

        Well if you can get tyler perry or will smith, you got to get one of them…

      • @David

        I’m not a fan of Will Smith’s more recent film choices, but the fact that this guy so nonchalantly put them together as equals in the same sentence, AND put him on a comparable acting level with Idris….I just…what?

      • mscisluv

        Will Smith would assure that I absolutely would see this movie. Tyler Perry does the opposite.

      • AT

        @mscisluv – I agree. Will can pull off drama and action. I was looking forward to seeing Elba in this role. The thought of him being replaced with Tyler frickin Perry just killed all desire I had to see these movies.

    • Frank

      I was looking forward to seeing it – I guess I can wait for it to make to television now – should only take 6 weeks after opening.

    • troy

      My wife & I won’t be seeing this one.

  • Fiona

    Aw, man……..I was SO looking forward to it with Idris Elba. Now. Not so much. Or even at all.

    • levelheaded

      That’s exactly how I feel. This was such a dumb choice to me.

      Nothing against Tyler Perry, but Idris is by far a better casting choice for this project.

  • Cass

    Seriously…. Tyler Perry is sooooo lame. Sad sad news.

  • sunny

    disappointing for sure, i wonder if they’ll have to rename it “Tyler Perry is Alex Cross in I, Alex Cross”

    • Audrey

      Or “Tyler Perry Presents: I, Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry as Alex Cross”

      • dogboy

        LOL

      • sunny

        haha yes, i think your idea is probably more likely!

  • Traceman

    I am VERY upset! James, how could you do this to me? I am a HUGE Alex Cross fan and I loved Morgan Freeman’s interpretation of the character. I was seriously looking forward to Idris Elba taking over. Nothing against Tyler, but I just do not see him as Alex Cross. I don’t think audiences will by him as Alex either. He’s a bit typecast as Mr. Sweet and wholesome, not a hardened detective in the one of the nation’s toughest cities. I mean a supporting character, Tyler could pull it off no problem. This is like replacing Wesley Snipes with Urkel! Come on James, do us right, please! Your fans are speaking, please listen to us!

    • Beeyotch Please

      I thought he was typecast as “sassy old lady.”

    • Lilo

      I agree. I have nothing against Tyler but they could have chosen ANY, I mean ANY other Black actor to do the role…Taye Diggs, Mekhi Phifer, Boris Kodjoe, Denzel, Laurence Fishbourne,etc. And the fact that the director put Tyler and Will on the same level just irritates me…oh well, guess I won’t be seeing this franchise. This is very SAD news.

      • Carmen Truth

        Oooo Lawrence Fishburn would be perfect for this…you gave me goosebumps by saying that.

      • Shiny

        Yikes, so true and so sad. WTF is this producer thinking? He must be snorting bath salts.

    • Suzanne

      I doubt James Patterson has any Pull where Casting is Concerned. I love Tyler Perry and I love his Movies, But Honestly I do not see him in this role at all. Lawrence Fishburn Yes, Idris Yes, Or Even Denzel Washington But Not Tyler..

  • reason

    Even the director switch seems lowbrow, a Perry requirement

  • Jeff

    Bummer. Are you kidding? How could you even ask the question? I’m much MUCH less interested now. Really I’ve gone from being very interested thanks to the involvement of Idris to not interested at all with this news. I won’t see this now, I can pretty much guarantee that.

  • Sheila G

    Idris Elba is fantastic. No Idris no me. Or maybe if they had chosen ANYONE but someone who only acts in huge makeup suits…and I actually like TP’s movies. But this is WRONG!

    • stormie71

      Sheila….the first thing I said as I read the replacement line was “No Idris, no me” (out loud), I just don’t think Perry fits this role, but “Luthor” would be great

  • jen_s

    I could maybe see Tyler Perry as Sampson, but not Alex Cross. Nothing against Tyler Perry, he just doesn’t look dark/edgy enough. Idris Elba would have been so good.

    • mari

      Exactly, Perry as Sampson would work better since Sampson is supposed to be huge.

    • Maine

      Great minds think alike. Tyler can play John Sampson but in no way Alex.

      • tickles

        Maybe his size would be a fit for Sampson but both Alex and John are supposed to be very good looking. Sampson is NOT the comedy relief!

      • netta

        Oh I agree, Tyler would make a great Samson…
        Alex, not so much, no offence to Tyler. Alex is hardened, wizened, and a ladies man’s man. Will Smith,
        Cuba Gooding Jr, of Terrence Howard easy. Tyler, sorry, no. Next time Mr. Director, ask a woman who has read all of the books and knows Alex Cross.

    • Patterson Lover

      Have you actually read these books? I have read every one of them and he can’t come close to being Sampson either. He could have a walk on role in my opinion but not a lead or supporting role.

  • Tracy

    Not a good decision! Idris Elba would have made a great Alex Cross. At least I still have the books.

    • Marsha

      Amen to that. The thought of Tyler Perry as Alex is causing me to shudder. Jeez, who the hell was responsible for this!?

  • Kelsey

    I’m disappointed that Elba is out, but … are we trashing Perry just based on the Madea movies? Because I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be anything like that as Alex Cross. :-/

    • Thom

      To be fair, do we really have anything else to base Perry on?
      I’m certainly no Perry aficianado, but I thought he mostly dealt in heavy handed melodrama and broad comedies.
      I can’t see somebody like that as Alex Cross. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, but as of now, I’m definitely LESS interested now that Idris is out.

      • Me

        Well said!
        Perry would have to dig deep into his inner “Color Purple” and bring it.

    • Mr. Razastein

      actually, they saved money, Tyler Perry will also play Alex’s wife, and his mother

      • kryptogal

        LOL! Good one!

      • Pede

        Actually… he could Nana Mama, Alex, Sampson, and possibly Alex’s son Damon. Instead of the Klumps, it’s the Crosses as played by Tyler Perry.

      • Marsha

        OMGoodness! LMFAO

      • Patterson Lover

        Peed my pants laughing!!! :)

      • tickles

        Nana! Maybe he could pull her off.

      • sheila

        You made me LOL for real!!!!

  • Yo Yo

    Wait, Alex Cross is now a cross-dressing granny? So confused…

  • Ray

    I seriously thought this article was a joke. Alex Cross books are serious thrillers, not explosive action stories. With Elba, they had a chance to rebuild the franchise into something fans could care about – now they just ripped it all away to make a quick buck. I predict a major flop…very disappointed.

    • Hahaha

      I seriously thought this comment was a joke. “Alex Cross books are serious thrillers”? Please. James Patterson’s books are penny dreadfuls, with cheap thrills and implausible twists galore.

      You can tell from the ridiculously short length of his book chapters that he is catering to literally-challenged readers with a short attention span.

      • Jeff C.

        Agreed. Patterson is pulp entertainment, nothing more.

      • Strepsi

        @Jeff C. your post is as long as most Patterson chapters.
        CHAPTER IV
        She stripped to the waist and turned on the shower.
        CHAPTER V
        And then she saw the gun.
        CHAPTER VI
        She screamed.
        CHAPTER VIII
        Again.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Right, it’s not like Patterson is a sacred text.

        For me this is extremely dispiriting because this was going to be a great choice for the IMMENSELY talented Idris Elba to have a breakout leading man role on the big screen.

      • Mathieu

        And the fact that you know this suggests that you’re one of the ‘literally-challenged’ (I think you mean ‘literary-challenged’) who read James Patterson books. Don’t be such a snob. There’s nothing wrong with punchy chapters. There’s nothing wrong with pulp entertainment. The Godfather’s source material was pulp. There’s no reason why a talented director can’t take a solid potboiler and use it as a skeleton for something more interesting. Unfortunately, Rob Cohen is the polar opposite of a talented director…

      • Hahaha

        Yup, I read a couple of them when I was 16. By 18 years old I had gotten sick of the formulaic plots and terrible prose.
        And nope, there’s nothing wrong with pulp entertainment, except that people shouldn’t be going around calling them “serious thrillers” and acting like Tyler Perry is unworthy of the franchise.

      • Crowded Room

        Hey Strepsi, what happened to Chap VII?????

      • Todd

        If you don’t like the way the books are written then don’t read them

  • Sam

    What a way to kill off my interest in Alex Cross. Only Elba could have pulled off such an amazing character (besides Morgan Freeman of course!).

    • Samantha

      Agreed… I was actually excited to see Idris Elba continue a role that Morgan Freeman made great to begin with. Now, not so much… but who knows, maybe Tyler Perry will surprise us.

      • TJ

        He won’t.

    • Peggy

      I’m a big fan of Morgan Freeman, but he was too old to play Alex Cross before and he’s too old now. Tyler Perry is completely wrong.

      • Maine

        Totally agree

      • Maine

        Totally agree Morgan was too old the first two times and Tyler is an insult to the fans of the Alex Cross series. Besides that let another actor who is believable make some money.

      • tickles

        I never understood Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross in the first place. Alex was in his early 40′s and hot! Both Jezzie (Along Came a Spider) and Kate (Kiss the Girls) fall for Alex.

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