Idris Elba's Nelson Mandela Biopic Gets a Start Date

After years of production hold-ups, A Long Walk to Freedom finally begins filming May 26. 

Posted: 03/21/2012 08:00 AM EDT
Idris Elba, Nelson Mandela, Black Hollywood, Film News

After sitting in development limbo for 15 years, a  Nelson Mandela biopic based on the South African president’s autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, is finally moving forward with a May 26 start date.

Golden Globe-winning actor Idris Elba (Luther, The Wire) and actress Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Pirates of the Caribbean) will portray Nelson and Winnie Mandela in the film which will be directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl). The project is being backed by South African producer Anant Singh, who originally acquired the movie rights years ago, as well as Sarafina! co-producer David Thompson.   

The film, which has Mandela's full support, is based on a script by William Nicholson and will cover the entire life and political career of the iconic president, including the 27 years he was incarcerated. Filming will occur over 15 weeks in key locations in Mandela's life: The Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal, as well as the infamous Robben Island Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons where Mandela was imprisoned. “It will be the largest South African production ever mounted and will provide an opportunity for thousands of South Africans to participate in the making of the film, including the best of South Africa’s acting talent,” Singh told The Hollywood Reporter.

This will be the third film about the South African president in recent years following Clint Eastwood's Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman (who was once considered for Long Walk in place of Elba), and Darrell Roodt's yet-to-be released biopic Winnie, starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011.

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