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Idris Elba's 'Mandela' Picked Up By Weinstein Company (2014 Oscars Looks Big For Black Actors)

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 22, 2013 10:11 AM
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If Harvey Weinstein wants it, he seems to usually get it; and if he gets it, you can also usually guarantee that it'll go wherever he wants it to go - and that often means doing strong box office (relative to budget), and excelling during awards season.

So that should bode well for Idris Elba's Nelson Mandela biopic, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, which the Weinstein Company has acquired North American, Australian and New Zealand rights to, announced early this morning.

A project we've been following since inception, directed by Justin Chadwick, and co-starring Naomie Harris as Mandela's wife, Winnie, the film is based on Nelson Mandela's autobiography of the same name, and is said to currently be in post-production. 

The autobiographical work, highlights Mandela's early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison.

The project will reportedly have an "epic sweep," from a script written by GladiatorShadowlands and Les Miserables writer William Nicholson.

By the way, director Chadwick and Harris have worked before in the 2010 drama The First Grader about a Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter.

Shot for 16 weeks in Cape Town, Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape, the film also features South African actors Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Deon Lotz and Terry Pheto.

While being very supportive of the project from the very start, I've always said that I couldn't immediately picture Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, and I'm really looking forward to seeing some footage of this, so I can finally see how Idris transforms himself.

The project has been kept tightly underwraps it seems. No pics, no footage, no leaks, no nothing. Except for a single photo that was supposedly of Idris and Naomie in character, but from the rear. So, I'm just as in the dark as most of you are.

Keep in mind that this makes for the second feature length film with a black lead picked up by The Weinstein Company, which trades believe will be pushed during awards season. The other film is Fruitvale, which the company picked up at the Sundance Film Festival last month. So, might we be looking at at least 2 black actors who'll be competing for the Best Actor Oscar next year? And let's not forget Chiwetel Ejiofor in Twelve Years A Slave, which will be out later this year, which could make that 3 black actors in the running!

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  • Surprise123 | February 25, 2013 12:26 PMReply

    Stringer Bell as Mandela? I can't see it.....but, if Harvey Weinstein picked up rights to Elba's film, it must be at least promising.

    It should be interesting to see how Elba transitions from sophisticated thug to kind, peace loving, and persevering Mandela.

    I heard Madela give a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Now, that was an honor. I hope Elba can fully portray his full stature and humanity.

  • AccidentalVisitor | February 22, 2013 10:23 PMReply

    If the director can show some restraint don't forget about Forest Whitaker in "The Butler".

  • ALM | February 22, 2013 7:19 PMReply

    "2014 Oscars Looks Big For Black Actors"<< I would love for 2014 Oscar season to be a big season for all actors of color- Asians, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and African Americans. This problem is, some form of this statement is made EVERY year, and EVERY year very little changes. Only one or two people get their foot in the door. Winning is a whole 'nother mountain to scale. I don't even want to begin to draw false hope based on this statement. Turning to the directing side, Ava won Sundance, and it's like the win never happened. I was just thinking....if you conducted a poll to see how other winners in her category faired post win, I believe that the results would be dramatic.

  • ALM | February 24, 2013 9:19 PM

    "Ronnie", you are the person who brought up the words "racism" and "prejudice". I never uttered either word or even alluded to either word. You brought up ONE person in the history of Sundance. I don't know Debra Granik, and the fact that I don't know her proves my point. Tons of past Sundance winners have gone on to do bigger projects of note, and tons of Sundance films have done better box office than "Middle of Nowhere".

  • Ronnie D. | February 24, 2013 2:53 PM

    Really? What has Debra Granik done since winning for Winter's Bone? People too often like to yell "racism" and "prejudice" nowadays; it's become quite the trend.

  • CareyCarey | February 22, 2013 12:52 PMReply

    Smart money says NOPE-NOTTA-AIN'T-GONNA-HAPPEN. I'd bet 100 dollars to a dusty donut that Idris nor Micheal Jordon B. Jordan will ever get a sniff at next years Oscar.

    And believe me, my opinion is not remotely connected to a racist thang, to me, it's all about acting, and what each actor brings to the table, regardless of their color. But maybe, to some degree, it is about the color of the character and their journey and how the audience relates to that character (and their struggles).

    "I've always said that I couldn't immediately picture Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela" ~Tambay

    I hear you. Idris as Mandela... nope, for many many reasons.

    However, having said that, I believe Chiwetel Ejiofor has a better shot than Idris and Jordan. I base my opinion on the skills of the actor, in combination with the director. In this case, I'm referring to the black director Steve McQueen vs. a white nobody Justin Chadwick and a newbie Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale).

    I can't help but believe the collaboration of McQueen and Ejiofor will produce a product that thoroughly trumps that of the aforementioned films. And, I am still not convinced that Idris Elba is a leading man who can carry a film.

  • CareyCarey | February 24, 2013 6:21 PM

    @ Yogi Bear & Boo-Boo, aka, Snoody & True-romance. I's so sorry. My dumb ass made a mistake. Idris and Michael B. Jordan will both be nominated for Oscars, right?

    Or maybe both of you black Heckles & Jeckles were implying that Fruitvile is a better film than "12 years"?

    Now excuse me while I clear my voice. I think it's time I sing your national anthem... "Oh, it's cryin' time again, you're gonna leave me. I can see that far away look in your eyes... I can tell by the way you scold me darlin' Oooh, that it won't be long before it's cryin' time.

    Now you knuckleheads, come back and prove me wrong. Bet you can't do it.

  • True | February 24, 2013 4:44 PM

    Snoody...That's because its from the biggest dumb ass on this blog.

  • snoody | February 24, 2013 4:36 PM

    this is the dumbest thing i've ever read...

  • rhythmchyc | February 22, 2013 10:21 AMReply

    I do like the odds for this film come awards season 2014. Idris is phenomenal and Harvey Weinstein owns this godforsaken town. But I hope Twelve Years A Slave gets tons more buzz because it'd be nice if a Black director won an Oscar for telling a story about Black people. At least once in my lifetime, someone give a Black man an Academy Award for running the show.

  • girl6 | February 22, 2013 10:17 AMReply

    Wow! This is a big deal. He's a great actor, absolutely LOVED him in "Sometimes In April."

  • brazenRaisin | March 6, 2013 9:30 PM

    Fruitvale was written and Directed by Ryan Coogler, a black male; produced by Forest Whitaker a black male and an Asian woman, Nina Yang

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