Idris Elba has described the “life-changing perspective” his experience with Covid-19 gave him and how the pandemic helped him mature as an artist.

The 49-year-old British actor was one of the first high-profile stars to confirm he had tested positive for coronavirus in March 2020.

However, he said his experience during the global shutdown was formative for his performance in his new film.

Elba plays real-life outlaw Rufus Buck in the western The Harder They Fall, which also stars Regina King, Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo and LaKeith Stanfield, and will have its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.

Speaking at a press conference for the film, he said: “One of the hardest things about doing a western is not doing western acting.

“I think there is only one moment where I really do some western acting – I’m riding a horse and I had to do the eye squint, I just had to.

“I think that my performance would be different had we not gone through the pandemic; there was something that changed in us, matured within me as an artist that informed Rufus Buck, especially in terms of compassion and in terms of the ruthlessness, and what it looks like on camera.

“On the page he’s scary, but we wanted to dig deeper than that and figure out who he is underneath that.”

Idris Elba with Regina King and LaKeith Stanfield in The Harder They Fall (David Lee/Netflix/PA)

He added: “Considering what happened to us during the pandemic… I got Covid and people were like ‘Stay over there, don’t come out of your your house for three months!’

“It gave us an opportunity to really think about what we are doing here, The Harder They Fall. We were told right there this movie is going to stop right here, we were thinking the world was going to die and it was a virus that was going to kill us all, but we stood back up.

“I was thankfully healthy and well, and it really gave me a life-changing perspective, so I think I ended up injecting some of that maturity into that character that you see.”

The Harder They Fall will premiere at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Wednesday evening and will also screen at cinemas around the country.

The film will also be shown to audiences at Chapter Cardiff, Edinburgh Filmhouse, Glasgow Film Theatre, HOME Manchester, Showroom Cinema Sheffield, Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, Warwick Arts Centre, Queen’s Film Theatre Belfast, Watershed Bristol and Broadway Nottingham at the same time as the London unveiling.

– The Harder They Fall is released in select cinemas on October 22, and on Netflix from November 3.