Overnight, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the biopic about the life the global icon, Nelson Mandela, went from being just another contender on the long list of award-caliber films to arguably the must-see movie of the season.
The news of Mandela’s death came as The Weinstein Company, along with Long Walk to Freedom’s stars, director and producers, were in the midst of promoting the film, which currently is playing in only four theaters (two in New York City, and two in Los Angeles.)
Although the film is now receiving more buzz than ever, a publicist for the Weinstein Company tells theGrio that they are sticking to their original plan of expanding Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom into a larger number of theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.
According to Jake Coyle of the Associated Press, “when it [Long Walk to Freedom] opens wide on Christmas, it’s sure to draw larger crowds moved to remember Mandela. The Weinstein Co.’s challenge is to not appear to be capitalizing on Mandela’s passing, but celebrating his life.”
Last night, TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein released a heart-felt message on Mandela’s passing.
“One of the privileges of making movies is having the opportunity to immortalize those who have made a profound impact on humanity. We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela’s story and legacy,” Weinstein stated.
“I have had the privilege of spending time with President Mandela and I can say his sense of humor was as great as his optimism. We are deeply saddened by his loss; our hearts go out to his family and the entire South African nation.”
Idris Elba, who brings the South African president’s story to life on the big screen, added, “What an honor 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.”
Mandela has been played by the likes of Danny Glover in the 1987 TV film Mandela, Sidney Poitier in the 1997 TV film Mandela and De Klerk, Dennis Haysbert in 2007’s Goodbye Bafana, Morgan Freeman in 2009’s Invictus, and most recently by Terrence Howard in Winnie Mandela.
In November, director Justin Chadwick discussed Mandela:Long Walk to Freedom with theGrio, and said what distinguishes his movie from all other Mandela films is that it’s the first biopic approved by Nelson and Winnie Mandela.
Chadwick also opened up about an afternoon he spent with Mandela prior to filming Long Walk to Freedom.
“We’d taken him an iPad as a gift just before his 94th birthday. He was like electricity,” Chadwick said. “It was inspiring. I sat next to him and we had this iPad, and we had all these images on the iPad of his life and people he had met along we way. He loved it. He was so sharp. He knew every single date, person, and where he was exactly.”
“Unfortunately just as I was getting the final cut ready he was very ill and he had just come back home, but he saw the very last shot.”