Stars pay tribute to Madiba - Nelson Mandela's passing coincides with premiere of 'Long Walk to Freedom'

Published: Saturday | December 7, 2013 Comments 0
This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Idris Elba, as Nelson Mandela, left, and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela in a scene from 'Mandela: Long walk to Freedom'.
This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Idris Elba, as Nelson Mandela, left, and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela in a scene from 'Mandela: Long walk to Freedom'.
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Nelson Mandela during the second of two Hanukkah receptions in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington on Thursday.
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Nelson Mandela during the second of two Hanukkah receptions in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington on Thursday.
Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of Nelson Mandela, poses for photographers as she arrives to attend the UK premiere of the movie 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' at a cinema in London Thursday.
Zindzi Mandela, the daughter of Nelson Mandela, poses for photographers as she arrives to attend the UK premiere of the movie 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' at a cinema in London Thursday.
A man points at a painting of former South African President, Nelson Mandela in Lagos, Nigeria yesterday.
A man points at a painting of former South African President, Nelson Mandela in Lagos, Nigeria yesterday.

Stars rushed to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela after he passed away on Thursday. The South African activist and former President died at 95 in his home, Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by family.

Mandela was, for millions, a symbol of hope and freedom for his battle to overcome apartheid in South Africa and win equal rights for black people, which saw him jailed between 1962 and 1990.

Just hours before his passing, a Royal Premiere was held in London for the film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, based on Mandela's 1994 autobiography, starring Idris Elba as the political figure.

Speaking at the event, Idris told ITV news: "I think he means freedom and forgiveness. I think Mandela's legacy for me is forgiveness."

His co-star, Naomie Harris, who portrays Nelson's wife, Winnie Mandela, added: "He is an incredible individual who, despite having 27 years of his life taken away, still had compassion, understanding and forgiveness when he came out of prison. That's just extraordinary. It is healing for South Africa and the world as well."

Current South African president, Jacob Zuma, broke the news of Mandela's death, saying: "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."

Many people were moved to pay tribute to the political icon.

Simon Cowell tweeted: "So sad to hear about Nelson Mandela. Rest in peace."

Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie wrote: "Meeting Nelson Mandela at his house in Johannesburg was a truly memorable moment in life for me. He was an angel."

Actor Samuel L. Jackson said: "Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country."

Political leaders were also quick to offer their sympathies, with UK prime minister, David Cameron, saying: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time."

President Obama's address

US president, Barack Obama, gave a TV address, where he said Nelson had "achieved more than could be expected of any man."

He continued: "We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with.

"I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example set by Nelson Mandela."

Idris Elba tried to capture Nelson Mandela's "aura" when filming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

The star thoroughly researched his role as the South African civil rights activist and former president, and says his acting was helped by understanding the gravitas he is held in.

Getting into character

Speaking at the UK Royal Premiere of the movie, on Thursday, Elba told BANG Showbiz: "I was more of a journalist than an actor when I first got the role (as Mandela). I didn't know as much as I'd like to about him, there is so much to learn.

"Especially about his aura, about the way people feel about him because you can't really act that. You just have to have some understanding of it, so that's what I did.

"The pressure of taking on someone that everyone knows is insurmountable - ultimately you've got to own it yourself. I don't look like Mandela so I have to ask the audience to come along on a journey and say this is my interpretation."

The screening was attended by Prince William, Duchess Catherine, director Justin Chadwick, producer Anat Singh and Nelson's daughter, Zindzi Mandela.

Harris, told how she met Nelson's wife, Winnie, and asked her how she wanted to be portrayed on-screen.

She said: "I found that when I met her she was very warm, very open. She was very open with intimate details of her life, which I was really impressed by.

"In terms of what she asked for in the film - she didn't ask anything. I said to her, 'How do you want to be portrayed', she replied, 'All I want is for you to tell the truth'. She didn't tell me to play in a particular way, which I was really shocked by, and it really helped me."

AP Photos

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