“Is that me?”: Mandela on Idris Elba’s portrayal of him in new movie to be released on November 29, 2013
By Karissa Donkin, GTA
Special to USAfricaonline.com, CLASSmagazine and USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston. Follow Twitter.com/Chido247, Facebook.com/MandelaAchebeChido, Facebook.com/USAfricaChido , Facebook.com/USAfrica247
When ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ producer Anant Singh showed Nelson Mandela a few early clips from the movie last year on an iPad, the South African political hero pointed at the screen and smiled.
“Is that me?” he asked.
The man on that screen was actually Idris Elba, the 41-year-old British actor who has taken on the large task of portraying one of the world’s most beloved men.
Because Mandela has been ill, Elba hadn’t gotten to spend much time with the man he was trying to emulate. But before the movie began filming, he travelled to South Africa anyway, to soak up the things people said and thought about Mandela and to understand the country better.
“I just plugged into the energy of Mandela and the way people respect him. That helped me craft my performance,” Elba said during a TIFF press conference to promote the film on Sunday afternoon, a day after the movie had its red carpet premiere.
Elba doesn’t look like Mandela, though the two are the exact same height.
But it wasn’t looks that convinced director Justin Chadwick that Elba was the right man for the role.
When Mandela enters a room, he radiates energy and electricity. Elba, Chadwick said, was able to capture that spirit in the film.
But he almost didn’t get the chance. The movie nearly wasn’t made, because Chadwick was hesitant to take on the story.
“I was very resistant at first because how do you even begin to tell that story in a two-hour film? It was a responsibility because I knew how important it was to South Africa and I knew how important it was to the rest of the world,” Chadwick said.
Like Elba, Chadwick travelled to South Africa. He met with people on both sides of the conflict and with Mandela’s family.
He even got to spend time with Mandela himself, who gave his blessing to the film.
After that meeting, Chadwick was sure about how he was going to approach the story in his film. He would portray Mandela not just as an icon but also as a human being.
Elba also felt the blessing of South Africa to tell the story. When he visited, people encouraged him to make the movie. They also looked him in the eye and warned him that he only has one shot to get Mandela right.
“That speaks about the culture, that they hold this story dear to their hearts,” Elba said.
When you watch the movie, you’ll see Mandela’s finest moments, but also dark ones. Mandela himself encouraged an uncensored portrayal.
“You should tell my story totally honestly,” he told Singh during a visit.
“I didn’t want to deface Mr. Mandela in any way but I didn’t want to play him in a way that wasn’t honest,” Elba said. “I think we achieved it gracefully and honestly.”
Forthcoming 2013 book: In this engaging, uniquely insightful and first person reportage book, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Footprints of Greatness, about two global icons and towering persons of African descent whose exemplary livesand friendship hold lessons for humanity and Africans, USAfrica Founder Chido Nwangwu takes a measure of their works and consequence to write that Mandela and Achebe have left “footprints of greatness.”
He chronicles, movingly, his 1998 reporting from the Robben Island jail room in South Africa where Mandela was held for decades through his 20 years of being close to Achebe. He moderated the 2012 Achebe Colloquium at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell (where he was held for most of his 27 years in unjust imprisonment) at the dreaded Robben Island, on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief executive of the CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first official trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to this island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela”, notes Chido Nwangwu, award-winning writer, multimedia specialist and founder of USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned U.S-based newspaper published on the internet, in his first book; he writes movingly from his 1998 reporting from South Africa on Mandela. http://www.mandelaachebechido.com/
Margaret Thatcher, Mandela and Africa. By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica, and the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com. Click for newscast video of London-based SkyNEWS, the global, 24-hour British international tv network’s interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu on April 11, 2013 regarding this latest commentary http://youtu.be/G0fJXq_pi1c )
FULL text of this tribute-commentary at USAfricaonline.com click link https://usafricaonline.com/2013/03/22/long-live-chinua-achebe-by-chido-nwangwu/