Idris’ dad cried at Mandela role

Idris Elba

Idris Elba based his portrayal of Nelson Mandela on his late father.

The actor stars as the political hero in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, with the news of Mandela’s passing at the age of 95 announced during last night’s London premiere.

As the actor is dealing with the loss of his dad from lung cancer, he reveals his parent was always on his mind while making the movie.

“Funny, because that’s how we designed the older Mandela to assimilate how I would look, and ironically I looked just like my old man. I designed my Mandela on my dad,” he told British newspaper The Sun.

Idris gives a heartfelt performance in the film, which has led him to be tipped for an Oscar at next year’s ceremony.

He recalled his father’s reaction when he first heard his son would be taking on the iconic role.

“He cried. He was so emotional, because I think he must have known, if I’m really honest about it,” he said.

“He must have thought it was one of the last times he was going to see one of my really big performances.

“It’s a sad film and now, when I think about it, it must have been emotional for him. He must have known. We were all in denial. It was a great moment to share.”

The movie gives an insight into Mandela’s life and his long and hard fight for equality in South Africa.

Growing up in multicultural London, 41-year-old Idris still suffered at the hands of racism.

“Canning Town at the time was a big National Front area, and the school I was at had a lot of black and Asian kids and a few white kids,” he remembered.

“We came out of school and, sure enough, there would be lads waiting for you, picking on people. It never got much worse than that but I had to defend myself a few times.

“My old man was very much, ‘Fight fire with fire’. If I came home and said, ‘Oh, I’m being picked on’, he just told me to go out there and sort it out.”

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