The narrative: Based on Nelson Mandela's 1994 autobiography of the same name, the tale chronicles Mandela's life journey from his childhood in the rural village of Qunu through his triumph inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Actor's push: Elba leaned on his now deceased father from Sierra Leone, who held an uncanny resemblance to Mandela, from his rhythm of speech to the way he interlaced his fingers and crossed his legs while in conversation. "My dad had a big silver ball of hair and Mandela has that, so that was my framework," Elba said. Director's pull: "The producers had imagined I'd cast a Hollywood star, but I loved that Idris carried no baggage into whatever role he plays," said the film's director Justin Chadwick of "The Other Boleyn Girl" and "The First Grader." "We weren't going for a lookalike version, but wanted to catch the spirit of the man." Did he meet Mr. Mandela? No, but Elba has developed relationships with Mandela's family. At the film's South Africa premiere, Mandela's daughter Zinzdi from wife Winnie Mandela, referred to Elba as "Dad" when posing for photographs.
Keith Bernstein / The Weinstein Company