It's been a little more than a week since the trailer for Cats dropped, but the internet is not likely to forget anytime soon. We've still got months to go until director Tom Hooper's adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's beloved musical hits the big screen, and that leaves plenty of time to quiz its stars about what it was like to make the movie and, of course, what exactly is going on in it. This week, thanks to an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, it was Idris Elba's turn.
Elba was on the show to promote his new action blockbuster Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, in which he plays a superhuman villain opposite Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham's title characters, but Colbert could not let the appearance go by without at least mentioning Cats, in which Elba will play Macavity, The Mystery Cat. According to Elba, the Cats experience started to haunt him even before he showed up to work on the film, because he made the mistake of telling Johnson and Statham that he was working on it immediately after Hobbs & Shaw. That led to some amusing moments on the first film's set, as both Johnson and Statham made a running joke out of getting Elba to admit what his next project was. He said it tended to bring him out of his "black Superman" vibe a bit while getting ready for those action scenes.
"This was their favorite thing to do as I walked on set," Elba said. "We're doing this big fight scene, I'm walking in looking all bravado, and they'd be like 'Hey Idris, what are you doing next?' And the crew would be like 'What are you doing next?' And I went '(coughs) Cats.' I don't know, Hobbs & Shaw, Fast & The Furious....Cats."
While they were on the subject of Cats, Colbert admitted that he'd never actually seen the stage version of the musical, and asked Elba if he could offer up an explanation of the plot.
"What a way to throw me under the bus there," Elba joked. He did then attempt to give some kind of actual plot description, which made it clear that even one of the film's cast members has at least some trouble describing it.
"I guess it's about a cat. How am I doing? And it's one cat's journey towards what is essentially cat heaven," Elba said. "And the idea is that we all, you know, we aspire to get towards cat heaven, there's this young cat, and she gets sort of taken on this story about how to get to cat heaven, or what you should do to get to cat heaven. How am I doing? Does anyone know what the story is?"
Though he did seem to be struggling, and at the end of his description actually asked the audience for help, Elba wasn't actually that far off from the story of the musical, which is about a tribe of cats who must select one member of their group to ascend to "The Heaviside Layer," which is indeed essentially cat heaven (though it's a bit more complicated than that, depending on who you ask). As the trailer suggests, the film version seems to be adding more of a viewpoint character's perspective to the story via Francesca Hayward's young cat character, Victoria, but Elba was at least on the right track.
Fast & Furious Present: Hobbs & Shaw is in theaters Friday. Cats is in theaters December 20, which leaves Elba and his castmates with at least a few more months to perfect their descriptions of the plot.