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Idris Elba Didn't Read The Novella Behind Three Thousand Years Of Longing For Good Reason

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" hit theaters in August 2022. This unique film tells the story of Alithea (Tilda Swinton) accidentally uncovering a djinn (Idris Elba) inside a glass bottle she purchased in Istanbul. Brilliantly breaking down the traditional narrative of wishing being used as a cautionary tale, Alithea, and her djinn didn't go down the expected path.

From Disney's "Aladdin" to the horror franchise "Wishmaster," a story that revolves around asking a djinn to perform miracles never ends well for the wisher. While some are portrayed as friendly and kind (Genie from "Aladdin") and some are malevolent and purposefully deceitful, most stories about wishing for anything end in a tough lesson learned. "Three Thousand Years of Longing," however, explores 3,000 years of history through the djinn's experience.

"They encounter each other in a hotel room in modern-day Istanbul, but the narrative spans 3,000 years," George Miller explained his intention for the film during an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "So, in ways that I hope are fresh, the film looks at why it is we are hardwired for story. How do we know what is real or not? What are the gestures that define love?"

Miller, the writer and director that created "Mad Max," was heavily inspired by a novella in a collection of stories by A.S. Byatt, "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye." According to Idris Elba, Miller had fallen in love with the story years prior, and it eventually provided the building blocks for the screenplay.

George Miller was inspired by the novella, but Idris Elba wouldn't read it

While George Miller adored the work of A.S. Byatt, Idris Elba readily admitted to not reading her work prior to filming. "I actually didn't read the novella — I didn't want to be tainted or influenced by it because this was quite independent from my perspective as an actor," he told Entertainment Weekly. The British actor is no stranger to playing fantastical roles. He even played the Norse God Heimdall in Marvel's "Thor," but he considers this to be a unique role in his career, like nothing he's done before.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" tells a unique story of a djinn's experience with humanity throughout history and how he's slowly learned to feel as a human feels. More often than not, he's the one suffering at the hands of deceit and trickery rather than being the more stereotypical djinn that would be inflicting such things on his master.

"Any literature about djinn was off the table for me. I didn't want it to pre-empt my character-building," Elba elaborated. It was essential for him to give as authentic of a performance as he could, and he felt that being swayed by other characters and ideas would ruin his own. He wanted his interpretation of the screenplay to be as loyal to his vision as possible. And for him, the screenplay was all he needed.