The U.K. premiere of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" took place on the same day that iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela died.
Though the film opened in the United States on Nov. 29, actor Idris Elba and Mandela's youngest daughters, Zindzi and Zenani Mandela, joined Britain's Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Thursday for its royal film performance at Odeon Leicester Square in London to raise funds for the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund.
The anti-apartheid champion died at his home in South Africa on Thursday after a period of declining health. He was 95.
Mandela's life and work gave rise to several films, the latest being "Long Walk to Freedom," a biopic focusing on his lengthy incarceration and efforts to eradicate apartheid. The Weinstein Co. film is based on Mandela's 1994 autobiography and stars Elba as Mandela.The event reportedly began before Mandela's daughters had been informed of his death, according to the Daily Mail.
After the women learned of his death, they left the screening but asked that it continue anyway, a spokesman told the paper.
"His two youngest daughters were told of their father's death during the screening and immediately left the cinema," said a statement from the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
William and Kate were discreetly notified of Mandela's passing by an aide during the screening.
"It was extraordinary because William and Catherine were at the film," Queen Elizabeth II said at Parliament when she visited a plaque commemorating Mandela's 1996 visit to the U.K. "They were clapping like mad and somebody came on and said, 'Can you just listen please, we have just heard he has died.' It is amazing isn't it. During the first night of his film."The duke and duchess were described as "ashen-faced" after learning the news. The two had jubilantly walked the red carpet prior to the screening, and Catherine spoke with Elba and Naomie Harris, who plays Mandela's wife Winnie, on the red carpet.
"I just wanted to say it's extremely sad and tragic news," William said. "We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. It's very sad."
After the film's credits, "Mandela" producer Anant Singh took the stage to announce the South African leader's death to the theatergoers, who reportedly screamed, gasped and cried, the Mail said.
A two-minute moment of silence was held after the announcement and the after-party for the event was canceled.
Though Elba never met the South African leader before playing him, he did grow close to the family, Movies Now reported.
"What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world," Elba said in a statement Thursday.
Prior to the screening, Zindzi Mandela had expressed her excitement about the film.
The film "is something that makes me feel really proud, what my family went through and the role my father played has been recognized. It is a reward [for him]," she said. "When we document our history in this manner, we do it not just for ourselves, but also for the future generations, young people that my father is really passionate about."
"He has seen clips of the film and said he saw [Idris and] that he thought it was him," she added.
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