Tilda Swinton & Idris Elba On Why Their Three Thousand Years Of Longing Roles Crush Stereotypes

Genies and magical wishes have popped up again and again in films over the last few years, but the upcoming film "Three Thousand Years of Longing" is a magical story viewers surely haven't seen before.

The film follows a woman who is dead set against making her magical desires come true. Though you'd think no human being would hesitate to have their three biggest wishes granted, Dr. Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is completely opposed to it. She has relied on logical reasoning to get her through life, so something of the supernatural just doesn't make sense to her. However, the mystical Djinn (Idris Elba) must grant her three wishes in order to free himself — but Dr. Binnie still isn't budging.

The otherworldly Djinn that viewers get to see is a character that actor Idris Elba spent years perfecting. "It was important to me to veer away from anything that we may have seen before," Elba said during a recent press conference that included The List. "Because this character's journey is only really believable to the audience if we feel like we have never seen anything like this before."

Elba and co-star Tilda Swinton wanted to make sure their characters were fresh and exciting for fans of the short story. At the conference, they explained how they worked to crush all of the stereotypes surrounding them in the project.

Idris Elba didn't know anything about genies before filming

Before ever stepping foot on set, Idris Elba didn't know much about the history of his mystical character. "I know nothing about djinns or genies," he said during the press conference. "That was also quite attractive to me."

In fact, he said, "It's a character I had never attempted or wanted to even try doing. It was controversial in a sense." That was in part because there's a big difference between genies and djinns. "To depict Djinn is like saying I'm going to play the devil versus an evil spirit," Elba explained.

Luckily, because he had no prior knowledge on which to base Djinn, he was able to create a character that was entirely his own. Between crafting his original character and creating the made-up accent viewers will soon see in the film, Elba admitted he wishes he could have been able to portray such a magical being even sooner. "As an actor, it was a gift — a complete gift," he said.

Tilda Swinton wanted her character to surprise people

When it came to the rational character of Dr. Alithea Binnie, actress Tilda Swinton knew it wouldn't be difficult to portray — if she didn't mind it being a conventional intellectual-type role. "It would be quite easy to work a stereotype with Alithea just as it would be easy to work with a stereotype with Djinn," she said during the press conference. But like her co-star Idris Elba, she wanted to challenge herself to create a character that audiences had never seen before.

Her scholarly character has chosen a rational worldview and is always thinking about situations from an analytical standpoint. "There are all sorts of ways of that being a slightly scary stereotype," Swinton said. "We were aware of that, always."

Seeing as the actress has played various supernatural roles over the years (like the White Witch in "The Chronicles of Narnia" films), she inserted these otherworldly characteristics to put her own spin on the otherwise average character. Though Dr. Binnie is adamant that she won't be tricked into making any wishes, she eventually asks for one that changes her life completely — and that's when a new adventure truly begins.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" hits theaters on Friday, August 26.