In taking on the role of Nelson Mandela, Idris Elba faced a daunting task – playing an international icon over a long stretch of time, in this case from his early years through to his assumption of the South African presidency. It's a risky business, achieved to great acclaim by the likes of Oscar-winners Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose).
Speaking to RadioTimes.com at an early screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom yesterday evening, Elba revealed that he had modelled the activist's latter years on his own father who sadly passed away just last Saturday.
The biopic, which charts Mandela's early years as a young activist, through to his 27-year incarceration and eventual release, sees Elba deliver a magnificent performance as he transforms his fiery young lawyer into a wise statesman, willing to negotiate with his nation's white leaders to establish a lasting peace in South Africa.
The Luther and Pacific Rim actor confirmed his father was aware he had inspired his son's take on the role and that he would be attending his funeral today (Thursday).
Elba gave an insight, too, into the instant chemistry he experienced with actress Naomie Harris, who is captivating as Mandela's wife, Winnie, as she becomes increasing involved in the fight for racial equality during his long imprisonment. He also revealed he had spent three months in South Africa prior to filming to ready himself for a role previously played by the likes of Morgan Freeman, Terrence Howard and Danny Glover.
Despite the film getting mixed reviews when it premiered earlier this month at the Toronto Film Festival, Elba said he is hoping the British audience will give Long Walk to Freedom "more of a pass."
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is released in UK cinemas on 3 January 2014. Take a look at the trailer below...