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Video: Mandela on the big and small screens

The Weinstein Company

Nelson Mandela has been brought to life in various films over the years, played by actors from Sidney Poitier to Morgan Freeman to Idris Elba (left), star of the most recent biopic about the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon.


When the lights went up after the London premiere of the latest big-screen biopic about Nelson Mandela, Justin Chadwicke’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, the audience was informed that the South African leader had just passed away.

After the screening, the film’s star, Idris Elba, released a statement: “What an honour it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Elba is the latest actor to portray the internationally beloved figure, following in the footsteps of such performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Terrence Howard and others.

Here is a look back at the trailers of films about Mandela.


Oscar winners Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine played the title roles in 1997 TV movie "Mandela and de Klerk".

Bille August's 2007 film "Goodbye Bafana" (released on DVD in the US as "The Color of Freedom)", portrayed the evolving relationship between Mandela (played by Denis Haysbert) and prison ward James Gregory (played by Joseph Fiennes), who guarded his cell for twenty years.

Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" (2009) starred Morgan Freeman as Mandela and focused on the weeks leading up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted by South Africa just after the end of apartheid. In the film, President Mandela and the South African rugby team's captain (played by Matt Damon) try to rally the country's black citizens behind the mostly white team.

2009 British film "Endgame",  which chronicled talks held between the African National Congress and the Afrikaner National Party during the final days of apartheid, featured Clarke Peters (of HBO's "The Wire") in a small role as Mandela.

David Harewood played Mandela while British actress Sophie Okonedo starred as Winnie in the 2010 BBC TV film "Mrs. Mandela", which focused on the leader's former wife and her political activism.

Terrence Howard (most recently seen in "Prisoners") tackled the role of Mandela in "Winnie Mandela", a biopic focusing on the leader's controversial ex-wife, played by Oscar winner and singer Jennifer Hudson. The movie was finished over two years ago, but was released in the US in September to poor reviews and little word-of-mouth. 

The latest film about Mandela, Justin Chadwick's "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom", was released on November 29 in the US. The biopic, which covers Mandela's life from childhood to his election as president of South Africa, stars Idris Elba (best known for his role as Stringer Bell on HBO series "The Wire") as the anti-apartheid icon and Naomie Harris as his ex-wife and fellow politician, Winnie.

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