The narrative: When Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment, his struggle becomes a symbol to end apartheid. After 27 years, Mandela is released from prison thanks to the efforts of then-South African President F.W. De Klerk, who also lifts restrictions on political groups and bans executions. Together, they provide a peaceful transition to democracy. Actor's push: Poitier had played a South African reverend in "Cry, the Beloved Country" (1951), and a South African revolutionary in "The Wilby Conspiracy" (1975). "I was able to capture the accent," Poitier said. "The important thing for me to do now is to erase Poitier and create Mandela." Did he meet Mr. Mandela? Yes, their paths aligned at a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa.