When asked about her father’s health as she walked the red carpet at London’s royal premier of the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Zindzi Mandela said: “My father is fine. He’s just a typical 95 year old who is frail.”
Half way through the film, she and her sister – Mandela’s youngest daughters - were informed of their father’s death in Johannesburg and left immediately, but with instructions to the organisers not to disrupt the screening with the news.
As the closing credits rolled, the film’s producer, Anant Singh, announced the death of Mr. Mandela and called for a moment’s silence to a stunned audience.
For the audience of royalty –the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate attended --celebrities, actors and Mandela fans who had gathered for the Leicester premier, it was an all-too-real end to the film on the life of the South African leader.
In a statement issued after the news was announced actor Idris Elba said: "What an honour 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. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Prince William told television cameras "We were just reminded of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now."
The film on Mandela, directed by Justin Chadwick, is the largest South African film production ever mounted, according to its producers. With stiff competition from international media houses to get the rights to a movie on his life, Mandela chose to entrust the task of chronicling his life’s story to the South African producer of Indian descent, Anant Singh, said to be a personal friend of the late leader. The Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory also endorsed the film.
The shooting began in May 2012 after a 16-year period of researching and developing the film. Some of the best of South Africa’s and Britain’s acting talent are in the film. Naomie Harris acts as Winnie Mandela. The film will be released for screening in theatres on January 3.