One of the most popular British shows to emerge in the last 15 years is Luther. Starring Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, the BBC One series lasted five seasons, was a critical and commercial success, and made an international star out of Elba, who frequently tops hypothetical lists of actors who would make a great James Bond. After a three-year absence, Elba returns to the role that made him famous with Luther: The Fallen Sun, a feature-length Netflix film co-starring future Wicked actress Cynthia Erivo and Andor‘s Andy Serkis.
Digital Trends got the chance to talk to Luther’s creator and writer, Neil Cross, and director Jamie Payne about how Luther has evolved throughout the years and what the future holds for the police detective. They also weigh in on the most pressing debate of 2023: can John Luther kick James Bond’s ass in a fight?
Digital Trends: Neil, you are the father of Luther. How does this movie represent the character’s evolution from when we first saw him in the first season of Luther more than a decade ago in 2010?
Neil Cross: I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m not one of those writers who puts deliberate arcs into a story because I’m not a real writer. I just make things up as I go along. So I look at it after I’ve done it. To me, the arc of the television show is the arc of a man who is forced by circumstances to look into and accept his own true nature. And the minute he accepts his own true nature, he can no longer be a police officer. That’s the end of the TV show. Luther: The Fallen Sun represents the same man having to accept who he now knows he is.
Jamie, you’re relatively new to the Luther franchise, correct?
Jamie Payne: Yeah. I directed season 5 and now this film.
How did you approach portraying this character in a feature-length format?
Payne: Well, when I directed season 5, I had four previous seasons to reference for clues as to who Luther was. There was also a novel, Luther: The Calling, that taught me a lot about who he was ahead of this film.
For me, it’s the story that comes first. There is no point in my process where there’s not something on the page. As a director, whether I’m doing episodic television or a feature film, I’m creatively responding to the writing. That’s the first part of the process.
My genuine passion for Luther as a character, my friendship with Neil and Idris, and the responsibility that I feel to the world they created together enabled me to use every single skill that I developed over 20 years of directing a wide variety of television programs to make sure that I was making the best movie possible.
Without spoiling anything, is this the last we’ll see of Luther? Do you both have anything planned. like another series or movie with Idris coming back? Or is The Fallen Sun the final chapter in the Luther saga?
Cross: I will be writing Luther until someone puts me in a straitjacket and drags me away and locks me away.
Payne: Even then, he won’t stop writing Luther stories. [Laughs]
There’s been some talk in the news about a scene in The Fallen Sun that gives, and I quote, “an extended middle finger to James Bond.” I have to ask: if Luther had to fight James Bond, who would win?
Cross: I’ve never been asked that question!
We can go through all the different Bonds too. For example, if it’s Sean Connery’s Bond versus Idris Elba’s Luther, who wins?
Payne: Wow, this is fun.
Cross: Well, I have to say that what Luther has in his favor against all of the iterations of Bond is that he’s always doing it for himself. Bond is ultimately doing it for the government. And I think Luther’s drive and passion are what ultimately give him the edge. Although if it’s Luther versus Sean Connery, I don’t actually know what the answer to that is, but I do know that I would quite like to watch it. That’s something that I would love to see.
I thought about this a lot recently. For me, Luther versus Connery’s Bond is a draw. Luther vs. Roger Moore? Luther wins. Luther versus Timothy Dalton? Luther wins. Luther versus Pierce Brosnan? Luther wins, but it’s a tough fight. Luther versus Daniel Craig? Craig wins because he will cheat and lie and fight dirty to beat Luther.
Cross: [Laughs] You know what? I grew up wanting to do stop-motion and you inspired me to go back and do some stop-motion movies just so that I can see Luther battle each of the Bonds.
Payne: I’d like to see Luther versus all the Bonds at the same time.
It’s 2023. We have the technology to make all that happen.
Luther: The Fallen Sun is now streaming on Netflix.