Morgan Freeman: Mandela Was 'Accessible'


As the world mourns the passing of the legendary Nelson Mandela, we're flashing back to our December 2009 interview with Morgan Freeman, who portrayed the South African leader in director Clint Eastwood's Invictus and called the larger-than-life leader, whom he had met several times, "very accessible."

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"There's a threshold between you and meeting any great person," Freeman told ET's Leonard Maltin. "Once you get past that threshold … then you're just meeting another person, and he doesn't step down off of any pedestal. He's not on one, so you just meet a man who is very accessible."

"In all of the history that he has, it's not on his shoulders," Freeman added. "You're just meeting Nelson Mandela. You're meeting Madiba -- it's a different person."

"Madiba" is the name of the Xhosa tribe to which Mandela belonged, and in South Africa it is considered an act of honor to refer to someone by their clan's name.

Invictus dramatized the inspiring true story of how Mandela joined forces with Francois Pienaar, the captain of South Africa's rugby team (played by Matt Damon), to help unite their country.

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At the junket, Eastwood also weighed in on the real-life Mandela, saying, "He's still one of the more charismatic people you could meet. When he gives you that million-dollar smile you know that he's in the room."