Idris Elba: I Felt I Didn’t Have The Attributes To Play Nelson Mandela

Idris Elba: I felt I didn’t have the attributes to play Mandela

With Oscar buzz intensifying, theres no hope of a let-up. As far as my career is concerned it is the pinnacle but its all relative, he says. Getting The Wire, going from not having a job to getting a massive job on HBO, was one ofthe best moments of my life. Thats much bigger than getting a pat on the back for a performance because its part of your personal journey. Naomie Harris and Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Picture: supplied) People keep asking how I feel about the Oscars and Im, like,how can I celebrate when Ive not even been nominated yet? Not to sound disgruntled, he adds, sounding disgruntled, but first they love you, then they hate you, then they love you again: that is my life asan actor. The 41-year-old has certainly had a long walk to stardom: he started out doing Crimewatch reconstructions and his first credited role was as a gigolo in Absolutely Fabulous.
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Making Nelson Mandela ‘Safe’

White South African leader Frederik deKlerk shaking hands with Nelson Mandela in 1992. (Copyright photo by World Economic Forum --

His politics are presented in soundbites while the context is provided in lazy montage form, which is always distancing, and although there is the odd attempt to portray him as less saintly and more human that womanising incident, for example such attempts always feel half-hearted, an afterthought. The best portion of the film, by far, concerns his relationship with Winnie (Naomie Harris), as there is proper chemistry at work, even proper sexual chemistry, but their diverging views and eventual estrangement are then dealt with in about two minutes flat. Let me tell you something: when Mandela is visited in prison by his and Winnies teenage daughter, whom he hasnt seen since she was a baby, and they touch hands though the glass, I did not cry. Because I felt nothing. I checked, double-checked, triple-checked, turned out my pockets, but, no, nothing. Elba and Harris cant surmount the material, particularly Elba with his distracting, Eddie Murphy-fat-woman face who made the prosthetics? A four-year-old obsessed with Norbit? and there is not a single pocket of humour, even though I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who once sat two seats away from Mandela at a dinner, and said he had a real twinkle in his eye. (We all know someone like that first someone if you are not yourself that first someone, right?) Anyway, by the end, Mandela has become the gracious grandfatherly figure we so love, espousing the message we so love peace, forgiveness, reconciliation even though the film shows us nothing about how he got there.
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‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ is a very, very long walk indeed


Kohls Now That He Is Safely Dead is a poignant poem that was written by black poet/musician Carl Wendell Hines soon after Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. The poem has since been appropriately associated with the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of nonviolent struggle for black liberation, freedom, equality, economic justice and the pursuit of happiness for all. The poem reads: Now that he is safely dead let us praise him, build monuments to his glory, sing hosannas to his name. Dead men make such convenient heroes. They cannot rise to challenge the images we would fashion from their lives. And besides, it is easier to build monuments than to make a better world. White South African leader Frederik deKlerk shaking hands with Nelson Mandela in 1992. (Copyright photo by World Economic Forum And now the same thing is happening to Nelson Mandela


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