Naomie Harris Took Year To Get Into Winnie Mandela's Head for Film

Image: Naomie Harris Took Year To Get Into Winnie Mandela's Head for Film

Tuesday, 04 Feb 2014 11:05 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Naomie Harris, the British actress who played the role of Nelson Mandela's wife Winnie in the movie "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom," told reporters at the London Critics' Circle Film Awards on Sunday that she spent a year studying the woman before portraying her on camera.

The 37-year-old, who's known for her roles in such movies as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series and the James Bond film "Skyfall," portrayed the former first lady of South Africa from her early twenties to late fifties during a pivotal time in South Africa's history.

"She was a huge part of keeping his memory alive while he was in prison for 27 years," Harris told the Sydney Morning Herald. "She was at the heart of the Free Nelson Mandela campaign. She was also, as we know, a huge part of the Soweto youth uprisings."

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"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is based on Mandela’s 1994 autobiography. The story explores his struggles leading the anti-apartheid movement, his 27-year imprisonment, and his climb to becoming president of South Africa.

Prior to filming the movie, Harris added that she met with Winnie Mandela to receive her approval before moving forward with the role, the Inquistr reported.

"It doesn’t bode well for me, and I think for a film, if you portray someone without asking for their blessing in making the film," Harris said. "The Mandelas — both Winnie and Mandela, who were asked to sanction the movie — they were very generous about it and they just said, 'Look, we want you to create the movie faithfully and truthfully, but we’re not going to be involved.' And they were very hands-off about it."

Prior to its international release, Harris recalled that the film was shown to the Mandela family in a private showing.

"It was nerve-wracking," Harris told the Sydney Morning Herald. "All the Mandela family, the nieces and nephews, all turned out, as well as those who'd been imprisoned with him. It was a lot of pressure. These people were all there."

"There was complete silence when the movie was being shown," Harris added. "People were really affected. Winnie was crying. I had one of the Mandela nieces sob in my arms. It was intense."

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