A film adaptation of “Long Walk To Freedom,” Nelson Mandela‘s memoir of his time in prison under South African apartheid, his subsequent release, and rise to the presidency, has been, ironically, a long time coming. Back in the 1990s, “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur was attached to direct a version starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela, but the project never came together, and Freeman would later take on the role in Clint Eastwood‘s “Invictus.” More recently, Tom Hooper flirted with the project before “The King’s Speech” got underway and sent him into the stratosphere, but again, the stars never aligned properly.
But of late, there’s suddenly been a rush of activity, and it looks like the film might finally reach screens. A few weeks ago, the surprising choice of “The Wire” star Idris Elba was announced to play Mandela, and now it seems that he’s got a director and a co-star, as Screen Daily report that “Skyfall” star Naomie Harris is in talks to play Mandela’s controversial wife Winnie, with Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl“) in negotiations to take the director’s chair.
Harris and Chadwick previously worked together on uplifting drama “The First Grader,” and that collaboration extends as Origin Pictures (“The Awakening“), who also backed that film, have come on to co-produce with long-time producer Anant Singh. The script comes from William Nicholson (“Gladiator,” the upcoming “Les Miserables“).
Harris is a terrific actress, and we’re glad to see her getting a meaty part like this one; while “Skyfall” will give her plenty of exposure, we’d be surprised if there was a lot to the role. Chadwick we’re a little cooler on, thanks to the disastrous ‘Other Boleyn Girl,’ but “The First Grader” was sweet enough, and he’s done strong work on television, like BBC’s “Bleak House.” Filming will get under way in May in South Africa.