Idris Elba is starring in Concrete Cowboy on Netflix, a new film inspired by the very real Fletcher Street Stables and urban African-American horseriding in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It's a modern-day cowboy film, a father-son drama, and so much more. Concrete Cowboy is a must-watch when it's released on the streaming platform on Friday, April 2. Interestingly enough, it was a trip to Philly completely unrelated to Hollywood that inspired Elba to make this film.
A few years ago, Elba was in Philadelphia looking for musical talent. In addition to being a world-class actor, he's also a talented musician who literally looks anywhere and everywhere for new talent. It was on this trip that he noticed a black cowboy, wearing a hat and riding a horse down the street. It definitely piqued his interest but it wasn't until 2019 when the actor realized the full story behind Philly's black cowboys and the potential for that story to make a great film.
A script came to his production company, written by a local Philadelphia filmmaker -- Concrete Cowboy's writer and director Ricky Staub. At that point, no one had expressed any interest whatsoever in his script. Not to mention the fact that he had really only made one 15 min short film in his career so his experience was definitely lacking. But Elba dove into the script, still curious about that black cowboy he had seen years ago and was hooked on the story. Staub was astonished when Elba called him saying he wanted to star in his film. He must have really freaked out when Elba's attachment led to Lee Daniels signing on to produce.
The fictional main story of the film follows Harp (Elba) who takes in his estranged son Cole (Caleb McLaughlin -- you might recognize from Stranger Things) and teaches him all about the local urban cowboys. The film also co-stars Jharrel Jerome, Byron Bowers, Lorraine Toussaint, and Clifford "Method Man" Smith. Similar to Elba, Staub was first inspired to write the script after seeing a black cowboy riding his horse down the street. After doing his own research on the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, he wrote his screenplay with Dan Wasler, based on the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri.
Filming was kept as authentic as possible, all in North Philadelphia. They really wanted to get the community involved and make them feel like they were telling their story as authentically as possible.
"It was really more like making a documentary than making a film. The community was super excited about us being there -- but they weren't going to allow us to become Hollywood. They made sure we were there to depict them truthfully," Elba told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
"We spent a lot of time, just in the architecture stage, on how we were going to achieve it, and that really meant embracing the community input," Elba added, "from the casting right down to the improvisations."