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Rising from anti-apartheid revolutionary and political prisoner to President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela is a courageous man with an incredible life story. It's one that has inspired a handful of biopics over the years, including two made-for-TV features starring Danny Glover in 1987 then Sidney Poitier in 1997, and Goodbye Bafana, a 2007 release in which Dennis Haysbert played Mandela. Then of course there was Clint Eastwood's historical drama Invictus, which earned Morgan Freeman an Academy Award nod for his portrayal of the internationally respected leader. But the latest, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is one based on the man's own autobiography. And though you can't make him out in the teaser above, Mandela is played here by the one and only Idris Elba.
Between winning a Golden Globe for his devastating drama series Luther and stealing scenes as the accordion-playing space captain in the polarizing sci-fi epic Prometheus, 2012 was a pretty big year for English actor Idris Elba. But 2013 looks like it should be even bigger. This weekend will see the release of the spectacular Pacific Rim, which has him in a role coveted by Tom Cruise. While the film's success is already being hotly debated, Elba will follow it up this fall with a sure-to-be hit, Thor: The Dark World. Then, following his reprisal of the mighty Heimdall will come the debut of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a role that is already earning Elba Oscar buzz. I know, I know, it's only July. But the man is playing Mandela. If that's not going to snag the Academy's attention, I don't know what will. Plus, this project has prestige written all over it.
Producer Anant Singh has been in talks with Mandela about this project since he was still behind bars, and acquired the book's rights from him in 1996 with Mandela's blessing. William Nicholson, who earned Academy Award nods for scripting Shadowlands and Gladiator, penned the film's screenplay. English helmer Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directed a cast that boasts not only Elba as Mandela, but also recent Bond Girl Naomie Harris as his wife Winnie. Then making this go from good on paper to a serious award season contender, The Weinstein Company picked up distribution rights to Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom early this year. As anyone who watches the Oscar race knows, TWC has a special talent for promoting their prestige pics all the way to Oscar gold. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Elba is an extraordinary actor with radiant screen presence.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will follow Nelson Mandela's story from his childhood in the village of Mvezo to his history-making ascent to the presidency of South Africa in 1994. Speaking to its themes, the newly released UK teaser quotes Mandela's book:
"I have walked a long walk to freedom. It has been a lonely road and it is not over yet. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin. People learn to hate. They can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart."
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will open in the UK on January 3rd, but Stateside we're expected to see it November 29th.