Idris Elba: 'Mandela' Role Was 'Massive Challenge'

September 10, 2013

Luther star Idris Elba portrays one of history's most iconic figures in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and he admits that playing the Nobel Peace Prize laureate came with a unique set of challenges.

"There were massive challenges, huge challenges, everything. From just the performance aspect, I don't look like Mr. Mandela, how do I encapsulate this man," Elba, 41, said at the film's weekend premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival. "Also just the weight of playing a living legend, someone that everybody can do some sort of impression of, you know. The challenges were varied," he said.

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The Emmy-nominated actor said he spent considerable time on location even before filming, to gain a true understanding of the South African freedom fighter's homeland. "I moved to South Africa for about three months prior to shooting, just so that I could understand what South Africa was like -- Capetown and JoBurg -- and compare the two and understand the tribes, and especially Mr Mandela's tribe," he said. "So the challenges were massive, but we embraced them. He had a very difficult life, so we weren't expected to make an easy film."

Also speaking at the premiere was Skyfall actress Naomie Harris, who spoke about the great honor of portraying Mandela's former wife, Winnie. "To meet Winnie was incredibly intimidating because she's a really formidable woman," Harris explained. "But she was incredibly generous as well. She said, 'Look, you've done your research and I trust you, so I trust you to create the role that you see fit.' So she gave me free reign, really."

Watch the video to also hear director Justin Chadwick describe his attempt to showcase Mandela's personal side in the big screen adaptation of his all-encompassing autobiography.

RELATED: First Look At Powerful Mandela Movie



More On: Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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