Anant Singh, CEO of Videovision Entertainment, has announced that Golden Globe winner Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) will play Nelson Mandela in upcoming biopic Long Walk To Freedom, with Justin Chadwick (The First Grader, The Other Boleyn Girl) to direct.
Singh acquired the much sought after film rights directly from Mr Mandela and it is the only film that, officially and legally, has the full support and endorsement of Mr Mandela, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
On granting the film rights to his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom to Singh, Mr Mandela commented, “Anant Singh is a producer I respect very much. Given the resources and backing, he will produce a work of the highest standards and excellence, and it is for that reason, I opted for him.’
Long Walk To Freedom is an epic motion picture spanning Mandela’s exceptional life journey from his early years to his inauguration as the first democratically elected President of South Africa. The film will be shot at authentic locations throughout South Africa, including the infamous Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons where Mr Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years; the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal. Long Walk To Freedom provides an ideal opportunity to showcase South African history to the world.
Idris Elba, born to Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian parents, landed the coveted Mandela role and, like Mandela, Elba is over six feet tall and forms a striking figure, exuding the Mandela-like charisma. Elba gave a powerful performance as the lead in Raoul Peck’s Sometimes In April which is based on the Rwandan genocide.
Singh reunites with director Chadwick after the multi-award winning The First Grader. Chadwick has won over massive audiences across the country for his excellent direction of The First Grader, including many people who were involved in the liberation movement who he has had an opportunity to meet in his research for Long Walk To Freedom.
Singh also announced that Pathe UK has acquired distribution rights in the UK and France and will handle worldwide sales.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the South African film industry, and being the largest local production ever, it provides an opportunity for thousands of South Africans to participate in the film,’ said Anant Singh. “It has taken many years to find the right actor, however Idris is perfectly cast to play Nelson Mandela – he has the passion, the African roots and, of course, his growing star power! We are currently auditioning two local actors to play the child at 8 years old, and the younger Mandela, to work alongside Idris Elba. We are also delighted to be working with Justin Chadwick once again as he did a brilliant job with the First Grader. We are thrilled to be involved with Pathe, who have steered global critical and box office successes such as Slumdog Millionaire (winner of 8 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director), The Iron Lady (winner of 2 Oscars – Best Actress and Best Achievement in Makeup) and The Queen (winner of the Best Actress Oscar).’
Cameron McCracken, managing director of Pathe UK, said: “I have been aware of Anant’s obsession with this project for the past 15 years – it reminded me of Richard Attenborough’s 20 year struggle to get GANDHI made – I can think of nothing more satisfying than finally to be part of Anant’s dream becoming a reality. The life of Nelson Mandela deserves to be celebrated on the biggest of screens in the biggest of multiplexes!’
Auditions are currently underway in South Africa for roles in the film, ensuring that the film will feature the best available talent the country has to offer.
Writer of Sarafina!, William Nicholson who has been working with Singh on the project for 15 years has written the screenplay.
The film is currently in pre-production and is scheduled to commence principle photography at the end of May.