‘Top Gun’ Maverick Was Gunning for ‘Beast’ Movie Role That Went to Idris Elba, EP Reveals [Exclusive]

Jaime Primak Sullivan, the executive producer for the upcoming thriller movie Beast, revealed that a certain Top Gun “Maverick” eyed the lead role, which ultimately went to Idris Elba.

The movie Beast follows Dr. Nate Samuels, a widowed American doctor (Elba) who takes his two teenage daughters on a sightseeing trip to Africa. What began as an adventure turns into a horrific nightmare when they are stalked by a blood-thirsty lion. The action-packed thriller twists and turns, becoming a test of survival.

The story came from Sullivan’s imagination and she told Showbiz Cheat Sheet she didn’t envision any particular actor in the main role. “When I first had the idea it was never about the actor,” she said. “It was about the survival.”

A certain ‘Top Gun’ Maverick was also about the survival

Tom Cruise, who played Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun is known for his action-survival films. Sullivan brought her idea of Beast the movie to a brilliant writer to write the screenplay. “Ryan Engle wrote one of the most captivating screenplays I’ve read in a very long time,” she said. “And there were a lot of people circling the script, a lot of big-name actors, even a Maverick … actor,” Sullivan teased.

Idris Elba at the Cannes Film Festival. Tom Cruise attended the premiere of 'Top Gun'
Idris Elba and Tom Cruise |Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/Ken Ishii/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Even with blockbuster actors, like Cruise vying for the role, Sullivan said they had a specific vision for the lead role. “That’s how good the script was,” she said. “But ultimately, we wanted to be able to tell a relatable family survival thriller with an actor of color because we don’t get to see that. We’ve seen every Liam Neeson survival thriller, so we know that white men know how to survive.”

The ‘Beast’ movie didn’t need a ‘Maverick’ but instead Idris Elba

While the box office hitmaking actors were tempting choices, Sullivan and the other producers wanted to feature a Black actor in the lead role. “And we just thought, let’s do it differently,” she explained. “Let’s find a movie star who doesn’t look the way every other survival thriller movie star looks. And, we found our leading man in Idris. And I mean, what a leading man he is.”

Sullivan said that People’s Sexiest Man Alive is everything and more than his moniker. “Sitting next to him in South Africa in the bush [sigh],” she said. “Just like sitting next to him and he would just be talking to me with his very British accent. You forget he’s British. By the way, he is not African American and he will correct you quickly because he’s not American. So he’s Black.”

Elba’s talent also blew her away. “Just sitting next to him, I mean, you just really get why the world is in love with him. And it is amazing,” she said. “It really is amazing how when a director says action how he goes from like the British guy talking about his DJing career and the video games he loves to play. And all of a sudden he’s this American doctor and his children are in deep jeopardy. And you’re just like … ‘Save me, Idris.'”

‘Beast’ movie came from Jaime Primak Sullivan’s imagination

Sullivan described Beast the movie as Jaws but with a killer lion. “Or it’s Cujo with a lion,” she said. Sullivan shared how she dreamed up the film story. “So one thing you should know about me and my journey in storytelling is when I was in fourth grade, I wrote a story about a young girl being abused by alcoholic parents who locked her in a closet and she had to survive in that closet,” Sullivan shared.

“I turned it in,” she added. “And they called my mom to the school. And my mom was like, ‘What?’ They were like ‘We just want to make sure that everything’s OK at home.’ And she was like, ‘Jaime.’ And for me, it was not about the realism. It was about the survival.”

“Could you survive being locked in a closet?” she wondered. “And I never stopped telling survival stories. Almost every story I’ve ever created is putting someone in absolute peril and showing you that you can survive.”

Beast, the movie starring Idris Elba, comes out in theaters on August 19.

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