Ridley Scott Reveals Moment Idris Elba Thought He Was Shot On Movie Set

by : Cameron Frew on :
Ridley Scott Reveals Moment Idris Elba Thought He Was Shot On Movie SetAlamy

Idris Elba once thought he’d been shot on the set of American Gangster, Ridley Scott has recalled.

The hit 2007 movie starred Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, a Harlem drug lord, and Russell Crowe as Detective Richie Roberts, who led the task force to take him down.


Elba played Tango, a dealer who faces off with Lucas in a particularly tense scene with a gun. Scott, who’s filmed a large number of grisly battle sequences and set-pieces with firearms, knows his stuff when it comes to safety – but the Luther actor still believed he’d been shot.

Idris Elba in American Gangster. (Universal Pictures)Universal Pictures

Spoiler alert for American Gangster: in the scene in question, Washington’s character walks up to Tango and places a gun against his forehead. ‘What you gonna do friend? You gonna shoot me, in front of everybody?’ he says, before Lucas pulls the trigger.

In order to make it as realistic as possible, Scott instructed Elba to lean his head against the barrel so he’d physically react to the barrel.


‘What happened was, I said to Idris, ‘Listen, when he puts the gun to your head lean on the gun,’ because by the way this is a gun with a solid barrel, there is no aperture, I would never risk it – but when you pull the trigger there’s a recoil, there’s no blank, nothing,’ he told the MailOnline.

The Blade Runner director had employed the use of a plugged-up prop firearm without any blanks, in order to prevent any accidents, such as Alec Baldwin accidentally shooting and killing Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust.

‘So I said, ‘I want you to lean on the gun.’ He pulled the trigger and it goes bang. Idris thought he’d been shot and dropped to the sidewalk and said, ‘I’ve been shot’,’ Scott said.


This effect was achieved using a UTM round, which still causes ‘blowback’ despite no blanks or danger to the actor, movie weaponry adviser Paul Biddiss told The Independent.

Ridley Scott. (Alamy)Alamy
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Explaining how the round works, Biddiss said, ‘What he was referring to by a solid barrel is a completely filled in barrel that no bullet would be able to pass through, so it was a completely deactivated impractical gun as far as firing anything was concerned.

‘But he was still able to create a recoil effect for the film’s purposes by using something used in films called a UTM round, which can be put in a weapon that has had the barrel completely filled, and it still causes a blowback. It is like a small silver case with compressed air that reacts. It can be used repeatedly for a recoil effect each time. It’s quite often used in close up execution shots in films.’


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Cameron Frew

Entertainment Editor at UNILAD. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best film ever made, and Warrior is better than Rocky. That's all you need to know.

Topics: Film and TV, guns, Idris Elba, Ridley Scott


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