The long road to the Luther movie

Idris Elba as Luther
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Luther: The Fallen Sun is released in March – and it arrives over a decade since there was first talk of Idris Elba headlining a Luther movie.

Spoilers for the Luther TV series lie ahead…


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Do you not worry you’re on the Devil’s side without even knowing it?

This line from the first series of Luther perfectly summarises the tone of the series that has had fans hooked for over a decade. Of course, it stars Idris Elba as the titular troubled detective who goes to great lengths to battle his own demons and catch killers on the streets of London. Luther over time has become one of the BBC’s most successful crime dramas, so much so that we’re about to see the release of Luther: The Fallen Sun, the long-awaited feature film in the series.

But this feature film didn’t come out of the blue. Far from it.

Rumours of a feature-length adaption have been present not long after the series began in 2010 when show creator Neil Cross was said to have created a script for a prequel movie. The script would have seen the return of key characters from series one, such as Indira Varma returning as Luther’s ex-wife Zoe Luther and Stephen Mackintosh as corrupt police officer Ian Reed, with the film ending where the first series began. While this project never entered production, it was still highly publicised.

In 2011, Neil Cross himself wrote the novel Luther: The Calling, a prequel and the inspiration for the film.

At a similar time to this, in 2012, Cross said he was interested in a spin-off series focusing on Alice Morgan, a murderer and associate of Luther. Talk of this spin-off always spawned into another long-running rumour. Alice appears to have left the franchise after her eventual demise. However, she escaped her apparent ending previously, so perhaps a surprise return in the big-screen adaptation would not be out of the question.

Star Idris Elba had been vocal about the prequel coming to life in many interviews. An article in the Guardian in 2013 even went into detail about the cast of the film and what areas of Luther’s life it was going to explore. This was around the time that Elba was taking on the role of Nelson Mandela on the big screen, in the film Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom.

In fact, Elba couldn’t get enough of getting fans excited by letting them know that a Luther film would be happening. While many were always happy to be injected with hope for the film, the lack of development became a frustration. There’s an argument that the prequel film was so regularly discussed that it killed its own momentum. Constant reminders of its possibility without any real progress began to frustrate fans, with many just happy to see Luther return to television screens.

Progress continued to be slow though, and it’s telling that it’s taken up to 2023 for the movie to finally happen. It can be assumed that the script for the proposed prequel had very little influence on the new film in the end. Logistically, by now most of the actors would be too old to play younger versions of the characters they portrayed 10 years ago. Plus, there are only two characters who have appeared in each series, John Luther and Dermot Crowley’s Martin Shenk.

Luther: The Fallen Sun. Idris Elba as John Luther in Luther: The Fallen Sun. Cr: Netflix © 2023

Luther: The Fallen Sun

The upcoming film also has a much more modern feel with Andy Serkis playing a billionaire moonlighting as a serial killer, using technology and surveillance to achieve his murders. The technology within the story appears to be leaps and bounds ahead of the more grounded storytelling from the beginning of the series, and presumably much different from the 2013 screenplay.

It was almost out of character for the series to be so vocal about having grand plans for the future of the franchise when each series of the show was announced one at a time. Fans never knew how and when they would see Luther don the jacket again, but his return was always greeted as treat. The development and direction of the show always felt to come organically, and the film struggled to become a natural fit.

Rumours of Luther’s return circulated not only in Britain but also overseas. A planned American remake was talked about for some time, with Marlon Wayans offered the role. When he passed on the part the studio looked at Mahershala Ali and Rosario Dawson before ultimately passing on the project. Luther has gone on to be adapted in Russian, Korean, French and Indian.

After series five of the show, it was revealed that there were no formal plans to make another series of the show, but Elba once again expressed his desire to return as Luther in a film adaptation.

After a decade of speculation, the Luther film was finally announced in September 2021 and makes its Netflix debut in March 2023.

No matter how rocky the road has been, how many deaths there have been and how many red ties have been used, the Luther film is finally here. If we have learned one thing from the series, is that speculation for a continuation of the character’s journey is nearly inevitable, and most viewers will finish the film and utter the words that are used to end four out of five series of the TV show…now what?

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