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On The Late Show, Idris Elba manages to keep his sexiest man alive cred, even as a cat

Stephen Colbert, Idris Elba
Screenshot: The Late Show

Look, if anyone is going to emerge unscathed from the upcoming (sort of like a hairball) movie version of Cats, it’s Idris Elba. Confronted with a still from that trailer for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical extravaganza that’s been haunting your summer heatwave nightmares on last night’s Late Show, damned if Elba didn’t still manage to look badass and, well, sexy. Elba showed off the goofy, eyebrow waggle he’s found is his involuntary response anytime anyone mentions his ongoing reign as People’s Sexiest Man Alive to Stephen Colbert, and damned if that wasn’t sort of working for the former Stringer Bell, too. (He’s also DJ-ing every weekend in Ibiza, just to maintain the necessary sexiness.) Taking mock offense when Colbert intimated that his rule as the sexiest sentient being in the universe was ending in November, Elba corrected that the “alive” clause meant that he was officially in charge of all things sexy for the rest of his natural life, which, fair enough. (Of course, he’s no Blake Shelton or anything, but Elba squeaks by.) He also mocked 2016's supposed sexy monarch Dwayne Johnson (or Dwayne “The Dwayne” Johnson, according to Colbert) for still futilely trying to hang onto his title, saying, in sexy deadpan, “It’s sad.”

Not that the erstwhile The Rock didn’t do his best to cut his successor down to size on the set of their new movie, the Fast And The Furious spinoff action-and ampersand-fest Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Elba told Colbert that the formerly sexy Johnson (and perennial sexy also-ran Jason Statham) took turns making Elba confess to the nature of his next (furry, crooning) role right before commencing one of their burly, bashing fight scenes. (According to the clip he brought, the Fast And The Furious franchise continues to spin out into deliriously bananas koo-koo town, with Elba playing some sort of Terminator-type villain? Anyone?) Elba got his own back on The Late Show, though, pronouncing co-star Statham more of a real-life tough guy (“He’s just, like, wiry.”), while saying that Johnson is more of a hugger, really. Sort of a pussycat, you might say.

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And while Colbert didn’t dare press the issue of the justifiably horrified reaction audiences seem to be having to the sight of people like Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, and the inevitable James Corden strutting about on oversized sets in form-caressing CGI catskins, he did playfully swat at Elba over his look in the trailer. (Which, one more time, Elba sort of pulls off.) Asking for some cat lessons akin to those the film’s director Tom Hooper insisted his illustrious cast go through in preparation for the film version of one of the most deliriously overwrought and plotless musicals of all time, Colbert was instructed on the shoulders-heavy strut necessary when you’re the sexiest cat alive. (Elba’s playing Macavity, who is a character in Cats, as everyone no doubt knows.) Elba didn’t address any lingering sheepishness over being a cat (although he did confess to not understanding what the hell the plot is), referring obliquely to the “wonderful magic of moviemaking” involved, and duly and ably whipped Colbert’s paw-licking feline impression into shape. Not sexiest cat alive shape or anything, but Colbert at least had the right teacher.

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.