The 18-Year Trek to Madiba's Biopic

By Yates, Steve | New Statesman (1996), December 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

The 18-Year Trek to Madiba's Biopic


Yates, Steve, New Statesman (1996)


"To get finance for an independent movie, a big one like this, there are only ever ten movie actors in the world," says the director, Justin Chadwick. Anant Singh interjects: "For this role, there were only five." Chadwick and Singh are describing their journey towards making Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the new biopic of the late icon.

It is 18 years since Nelson Mandela indicated that he would like Singh, a South African producer and fellow veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, to have the film rights to his autobiography--the same length of time as Mandela spent on Robben Island. Eighteen years in which the screenwriter William Nicholson says he "met most of the big black actors" with a view to inviting them to play the title role. Denzel Washington was interested, and then Morgan Freeman looked promising--until he signed up to play Mandela in Invictus, Clint Eastwood's 2009 dramatisation of the pivotal 1995 Rugby World Cup.

"You approach actors, they look like they're going to do it, then they don't. You can lose two years doing that," says Nicholson, who wrote 33 drafts of the film. Some of these had two Mandelas, one young and one old; some told his tale in flashback; some ended with his release from jail.

"To a certain extent they were too reverential," Singh says. "It wasn't gripping. But also, Mandela's life is so grand. Which bits do you put in, which do you leave out?"

The version released into cinemas goes in a straight line from the 25-year-old Mandela (played with luminous power by Idris Elba) to his presidency and the split from Winnie (Naomie Harris), whose beefed-up role symbolises how wrong things might have gone if the wiser Mandela had not prevailed. Nicholson says: "Winnie represents one response to the struggle, which is to go violent; Mandela represents the other, which is to go towards forgiveness and reconciliation."

Other than with events surrounding the 1989 killing of Stompie Moeketsi, in which Winne was implicated--"Too complicated," Nicholson says; "you couldn't do it in less than ten minutes"--the film doesn't flinch from portraying Winnie's flaws. It shows her as a young woman thrown into hell and emerging with a ferocious spirit. Singh watched the film with her and says she is happy with her portrayal.

"She always pushed for violent reforms, as we've said. I had a discussion [with her] before we started, where I said, 'I'm going to show you in this film, whatever is true; I'm hiding from nothing.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The 18-Year Trek to Madiba's Biopic
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.