Idris Elba’s Entire Cats Performance Is Apparently a Jack Nicholson Impression

Macavity’s not there! Photo: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As if it were at all possible to make the upcoming movie adaptation of the musical Cats sound more absurd, we have a delightful new morsel of information upon which to chew. In Vanity Fair’s extensive cover story on Idris Elba, you learn that the actor, who is playing the roguish Macavity the Mystery Cat, based his performance in the movie on actor Jack Nicholson, who, according to director Tom Hooper “has that ability to be scary and comedic and unpredictable in the same moment.” Okay, sure! For those who aren’t familiar with the intricate details of the Broadway show, Macavity, a.k.a. the Mystery Cat, the Hidden Paw and Napoleon of Crime, is a master thief who scares all the other cats as they compete to be sent to the Heaviside Layer, a sort of cat heaven or place of resurrection.

Is Macavity a villain? Sort of, though mostly he’s sung about by the female cats Demeter and Bombalurina (in this production that’s Taylor Swift), who are both horny for and afraid of him, up until the point where he tries to abduct one of them and they fight him off. Elba tells Vanity Fair that Macavity has only one of his nine lives left, so he’s desperate to be acknowledged, and he’s slightly unhinged, and he’s obviously met death a few times and gotten past it.” That’s a plot point that doesn’t come up in the stage production, but which could give a little more dynamism to the movie. Does Macavity ultimately face off with Grizabella? Will Idris have more cat-sized fight scenes? This is Cats (2019)! Anything could happen.

Idris Elba’s Cats Performance Is a Jack Nicholson Impression