The news of the death of Nelson Mandela broke during a royal gala screening of the biographical film Long Walk to Freedom in London.
Report by BBC
The screening was attended by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as two of Mandela’s daughters.
Idris Elba, who plays the former leader in the film, called it an “honour to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela”.
Prince William, who attended the screening, said the news was “extremely sad and tragic”.
The film is based on Mandela’s autobiography, published in 1995, and recounts his life from his childhood, through his 27 years behind bars, mostly in Robben Island prison, to becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Two of Mandela’s daughters — Zindzi and Zenani — were at the screening at the Odeon in Leicester Square when they were told of the death of their father.
Although they left the cinema, they insisted that the film continue. Producer Anant Singh, who Mandela personally awarded the book rights to, announced the death at the end of the screening, and asked for a moment of silence.
British actor Elba later said: “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.” Also at the screening was Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, whose film company is behind the movie. “We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela’s story and legacy,” he said.
“It’s been an honour to have been granted such proximity to a man who will go down as one of the history’s greatest freedom fighters and advocates for justice.
“I have had the privilege of spending time with President Mandela and I can say his sense of humour was as great as his optimism.”