Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom reveals 'good and bad' sides of South African leader - Idris Elba

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The Nelson Mandela biopic Long Walk to Freedom, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend, shows “the good and the bad” aspects to the South African freedom fighter’s character, according to the actor who plays him.

The Wire actor Idris Elba said during the festival that while he “didn’t want to deface Mr Mandela in any way” he “didn’t want to portray him in a way that wasn’t honest. It was important that we had both sides, the good and the bad.”

The film, directed in which Elba stars as the South African leader, shows Mandela as a terrific womaniser who is violent towards his first wife.

Click here or on "View Images" for a gallery of actors who have played Mandela

Elba, who doesn't bear a close resemblance to Mandela, plays him through to old age, with the help of make-up, prosthesis and ageing effects.  

"I just plugged into the energy of Mandela and the way people respect him," he said. "There was no messing about with this character and this story."

Director Justin Chadwick told reporters at the festival: "We're not going for a looky-likey, soundy-likey version of Mandela.”

Elba, who is famed for his gangster Stringer Bell on The Wire and as British detective Luther, was described by Chadwick as "the brave choice" for the role.

But the critical response to the film has been mixed. The Independent’s critic Kaleem Aftab awarded it Two Stars in his review, describing it as “as a film with ADHD – just as anything becomes interesting, the action moves on.”

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has been in development for many years, during which several other big screen depictions of Mandela have been released.

Other actors who have taken on the role include Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Terrence Howard (Winnie Mandela), Danny Glover, David Harewood and Sidney Poitier.

Mandela, 95, who was admitted to hospital in Pretoria on 9 June with a recurring lung infection, returned home last week where he continues to receive intensive care.

Due to ill health Mandela, known as Madiba in his home country, was unable to meet Elba or to be involved in the making of the film.