The anti-apartheid hero was also praised in Hollywood by the star of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ — a just-released movie whose fortunes could ironically be boosted by the tragic news, according to Tinseltown experts.
“Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century,” said Freeman after Mandela died at the age of 95, triggering outpourings of grief and tributes around the world.
“Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honour, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve — a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom, and the dignity of humankind.”
Freeman — who has also played God and the president of the US — was chosen by Mandela at a press conference in 1994, when the then president was asked who should play him in a big screen version of his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’.
Ironically, the actor did not end up playing him in that movie. But in Invictus, he played Mandela in his first term as South African president, trying to unite his apartheid-torn country behind the national team in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Idris Elba, praised for his title role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, 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.
“I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba’s family. We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth, I only feel honoured to be associated with him. He is in a better place now.”
Oscar-winning South African actress Charlize Theron tweeted: “My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever.”
Veteran comedian and actor Bill Cosby and his wife Camille said Mandela had “surrounded us with his graciousness, care and respect after we lost our son, Ennis”, who was murdered.
“Moreover, it was an honour to sit alongside him on the bed of his former prison cell; as he triumphantly spoke about his survival and the courage of his supporters.”
Soul singer Aretha Franklin said: “Most extraordinary was how he rose above his being imprisoned and exalted himself above apartheid and hatred to unite the country, an unbelievable example of humanitarianism and courage.”
Golfer Tiger Woods said: “I got a chance to meet him with my father back in ’98. He invited us to his home, and it was one of the most inspiring times I’ve ever had in my life.”