Idris Elba delivers a stellar performance in the film.
Q: What attracted you to the project?
Elba: Well he’s a great man, it’s a great story and it’s a gift of a part. I get to play him from the early 20’s into his 70’s. I get to show some range.
Q: Can you tell me about being in South Africa and how that lent itself to your performance?
Elba: Yeah, I was prejudiced about South Africa when I got there. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I really was really surprised. They opened their arms for me, showed me a lot of love and just gave me the food I needed to bring this character alive. I enjoyed it, I even asked for a passport. They didn’t give me one. yet!
Q: Is there one specific part of Nelson Mandela that was the hardest for you to nail?
Elba: His voice was really tricky, the voice is very distinctive, everyone knows what he sounds like. And so I really spent a lot of time trying to figure that out. I have a very London accent and my voice is nothing like his, nowhere near as distinguished and I had to sort of figure out a way to make that real.
Q: Was there a certain vowel or a certain word or sound that once you mastered that, you knew you had it?
Elba: Well he does…do you know what a slur is? A slur is when you say…”um, uh, but,” that’s a slur and…he does lots of slurs and I had to get his slur right and once I got that right, I could say anything.
Q: Did you watch a lot of footage of Mandela in your preparation for the role?
Elba: Yeah I watched a lot of footage, I listened to his voice a lot. I kind of watched his body language. I also watched the people and how they reacted to him. There were lots of people going ‘Ah,’ and that was what I realized his essence was about.
Q: Is there a building in the world that inspires you?
Elba: Wow, that’s a good question. I love architecture. When I’m in a car, especially when I’m going back to London I’m loving looking at the terraced houses. They’re all stuck together, but when you look at them it’s kind of magical the way they’ve got all these houses in one. There’s not one building that I love except for the Shard. The Shard’s really beautiful as well.
Q: Can you tell me something that struck you during the filming that you hadn’t known about Nelson Mandela before?
Elba: Well it’s a tidbit thing, but Nelson Mandela is supremely tidy. I mean like he’s anally very tidy. Everything he did is folded and in his desk, he could not have things that were slightly crooked or anything like that. He was…a little bit OCD.
Naomie Harris looked stunning in Burberry at the screening.
Q: What was the greatest challenge 0f playing Winnie Mandela?
Harris: I think just finding her was a huge challenge because there’s just so many conflicting views about who she was and who she is and amongst all of that to find the real woman was my greatest challenge.
Q: Can you tell me about being immersed in South Africa?
Harris: It really, really helped us to shoot in South Africa because we had a lot of South African people involved, particularly in crowd scenes and people like my accent coach for instance and everybody on set. Everybody had a different story about their experiences with apartheid or their families experiences with apartheid. People were really generous. They’d come up and tell you stories about their experience. It’s one thing to kind of read about apartheid in a book and it’s a completely different experience to have someone tell you face to face and look you in the eye and tell you their intimate stories. And it really helped to bring the history to life for me.
Q: Can you talk about working with Justin Chadwick?
Harris: Well I worked with Justin on another film, it was like a small indie film that we shot in Kenya and it was called “The First Grader” and I really enjoyed that experience. So when he asked me to come along and play Winnie I was like, ‘Yeah absolutely,’ because I love working with him. He’s a brilliant director. Also, what I love about him is he’s really sensitive to the local community that he films in, so I knew that he’d do justice to this story.
Justin Chadwick directed “Mandela.”
Q: Is there a scene that stands out?
Chadwick: There’s not one particular scene that stands out. Every scene for me stood out because every scene felt real and true and true for the men and women we were representing. So it’s incredibly exciting and an exciting experience to film there. I think one of the scenes that do stand out is obviously when he’s released from prison cause half of those extras that were there and the people that were there on the day when Mandela was released so that was very, very emotional, but everyday was emotional.
Q: Why is “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” more important than ever?
Chadwick: There is never more of a time that this story is more relevant to a modern audience. When we need leaders …there is a man, a man that stuck by his principles. It wasn’t that Mandela came to the world. Mandela went into prison with a set of principles and the world came to Mandela. He never gave up. They took everything from him and he never gave up. He’s inspiring to a modern generation, to hold true to what they believe. In a time when there is injustice, there is massive…differentiations between how people live in poverty and not and wealth. Mandela gives you hope and gives you something to do with that anger and that frustration that things are not right. He’s also true. He never manipulates the press, he was true to his own principles and the fact that he was able to do it with such humility and forgiveness with everything he did. He paved the way for modern leaders. Mandela has a lesson for all of us in terms of what he is as a man and the fact that he was able to take that country through a transition, relatively peacefully, I don’t think there’s another example in history of a leader being able to do that. And I know he was helped by thousands of other men and women but he enabled that to happen in that country and it’s a massive, massive achievement for a man that lives in the time we live. What an inspiration.
Q: Why was it important for Weinstein Company to distribute this film?
Weinstein: You need movies that mean something. Our young people need to see something that means something and this movie means a lot. This movie is about change and this movie is about a revolutionary. This movie is exciting and this movie has got action and adventure and a love story and U2’s music, so you can’t go wrong.
Q: What do you admire about Justin as a filmmaker?
Weinstein: He’s a fabulous filmmaker, he just gets it right. He’s got a big scope and he does it perfectly.
Guests from the film included Idris Elba (wearing Burberry), Naomie Harris (wearing Burberry), and Director Justin Chadwick (wearing Burberry). Additional guests included hosts U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr) & Anna Wintour (wearing Burberry), Zenani Mandela, Guy Oseary, Iman, Helena Christensen, Tina Brown, Zac Posen, Martha Stewart, Juliette Lewis, Gina Gershon, Chanel Iman, ASAP Rocky, Grace Coddington, Salman Rushdie, Billy Connolly, John Varvatos, Jessica Stam, Anne V. & Matt Harvey, Alyssa Miller, Julie Henderson, Vivi Nevo, Kelly Rutherford, Neve Campbell, Deborah Norville & Karl Wellner, Carrie Preston (True Blood), Sami Gayle (Blue Bloods), Diego Klattenhoff (Homeland), Alysia Reiner (Orange is the New Black) & David Alan Basche, Tracy Letts (August: Osage County, Homeland), Fisher Stevens, Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live), Sway Calloway, Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station), Condola Rashad, Christian Campbell, Theophilus London, Carrie Keagan (VH1), Bobby Flay, Huma Abedin, Frederic Fekkai, Garrett Neff, Olivia Palermo, Johannes Huebl (wearing Burberry), Zani Gugelmann (wearing Burberry), Maggie Betts, Candy Pratts Price, Andre Balazs, Meredith Melling-Burke, Jourdan Dunn, Ajak Deng, Genevieve Jones (wearing Burberry), Tabitha Simmons, Hannah Bronfman (wearing Burberry), Frederique van Der Wal, Tali Lennox, Adam Lippes, Adam Glassman, Dan Abrams, Amy Sacco, Debbie Bancroft, Steve & Christine Schwarzman, Nina Griscom, Alex Lundqvist, Shala Monroque, Sesilee Lopez, Carlos Leon, Sante D’Orazio, Sam Talbot, Renee Rockefeller, Marina Rust Connor, Valesca Guerrand-Hermes, Daniel Benedict, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and David Zinczenko.
“Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” is now playing.