Freeman: How I Got to Play the Hero

An actor recalls the moment Nelson Mandela changed his life

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Keith Bernstein

Freeman and Mandela during the filming of Invictus

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, we have a chance to put the idea of a true hero in perspective. Actually, calling Mandela a hero falls woefully short in adequately portraying the man who fought apartheid, was sent to prison for 27 years, was freed from the living hell of unjust confinement, became South Africa’s first democratically elected President and changed the political landscape of his country.

How many of us could have done what he did upon his release? How many of us could have sworn off vengeance and preached reconciliation? How many of us could have turned the final chapters of our own life into a new beginning for our nation’s people?

Madiba, as his friends called him, and I became friends back in the 1990s when, during a press conference, he was asked whom he would want to portray him in a film. To my everlasting honor, he mentioned me, and thus began our 20-year relationship. I got to walk with him, talk with him, hold his hand and get to know one of the greatest men who ever lived. Nearly 20 years after our first meeting, my company Revelations had the unique pleasure of developing and producing the film Invictus, with me in the role of Mandela. Consistent with the true content of his character, his only comment after we first screened the movie for him was a humble, “Now perhaps people will remember me.”

He dedicated his life to a singular cause, a quest to free the black population of his homeland. In accomplishing that, he freed South Africa’s white population and freed an entire nation. And in freeing a nation, he changed the entire world.

We have lost one of the true giants of the past century. But in our loss is the realization that thanks to him, we have all gained something. For in bringing down the evil of apartheid, Mandela raised us up; his wisdom, patience, compassion and insistence on reconciliation make us aspire to be better people. In his determination to break from the chains of the past, he allowed us all to join him as the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls.

Madiba’s journey may be over, but his legacy lives on in all of us.

26 comments
Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

Freeman is a great actor. A great actor representing a great politician, Mr. Mandela. I admire both of them.

Mayra Medina
Mayra Medina

#madiba U will always on my mind!!!... ;(

Caesar J. B. Squitti
Caesar J. B. Squitti

"Democracy and Freedom"...Nelson Mandela. Sounds great, except this is a half-truth lie. Sorry 'democracies' are not all about freedom at all; the devil lies in the details, especially the missing ones... Most so called democracies incorporate some type of 'free vote' however most all systems don't have 'democratic representation', ie majority wins, there is seldom accountability safeguards, ie 'what they do is what they said they would do', and seldom are 'the people' asked what they want after the elected representatives are elected. Then there is this freedom concept. Freedom from what ? Freedom from paying taxes ? Freedom from rules and regulations ? Freedom to complain, perhaps yes. Freedom of the Truth ? Seldom, what we have is 'freedom of the press' and that is not the same. Yes, we may be free to do what we want to do, however each comes with consequences some legal, some illegal and some choices we do not have, paying taxes to pay for certain things beyond our control is one of them. based on the book, "The Caesar Squitti Code" https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151749000681496&set=a.43925436495.65725.589016495&type=1&relevant_count=1

Zukile Majikela
Zukile Majikela

It is truly sad to hear of Mandela's passing. May his soul rest in peace. When I heard of his passing I couldn't go to sleep and stayed up until 3am watching various international channels and global leaders paying their tributes from the US & UN to the UK. They all say the same thing about the man "who has done so much to free the black masses of SA" and "outwitted and outmanoeuvred the white establishment" in the process. However only history can judge Pres Mandela's true legacy. I'm confident though that as a former boxer he knew that fighting a good fight means nothing if you get knocked out in the final round. And to me that is exactly what happened to the ANC leadership that negotiated the transition to democracy. The liberation movements are the ones that were outmanoeuvred at CODESA and knocked out in the final round by the white minority. They abandoned the freedom charter which was the very cornerstone of the liberation movement and their only mandate or terms of reference for negotiating with the white oppressors. The only people that are NOT FREE in SA are the very ones (blacks and coloureds) that Mandela is purported to have liberated. They are the only ones that to this day don't have land, are discriminated against, are disenfranchised, have no real rights as they can't afford the economic costs required to exercise the rights (enshrined in the constitution) to good health care, food, decent housing, water & sanitation, good education (in own language), social security, human dignity and justice. The only people that Mandela saved/freed were the white minority from the wrath of the black masses with his message of reconciliation and forgiveness (without conciliation and restitution of what was violently stolen). He went on to eternally secure their right to keep the spoils of apartheid and the economic resources by making sure that right is enshrined in the constitution. South Africa is the only place in the world where the oppressed were declared to be free while the control of natural and economic resources remained safely in the hands of the oppressors. Any (political) freedom/right means nothing without the (economic) power to exercise it.

CYprian Onyango Designi
CYprian Onyango Designi

White people chose a black president at the US, but never in Africa will we elect a white president, because all white people are idiots.

Magayon Torres
Magayon Torres

Madiba has shown forgiveness to all humanity regardless of colour and creed.

Martha Bryan
Martha Bryan

Yes.....a man can die, but not his legacy. RIP, Nelson Mandela!

Jake Shaibu
Jake Shaibu

The Long Walk to Eternity has only just begun for Madiba. RIP

Aza Deh
Aza Deh

"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela

The_earplug
The_earplug

There is no way to not read this in Morgan Freeman's voice.

KJ_C
KJ_C

This is not about Democracy or Freedom this is about a man who fought his whole life to give us, black South Africans, what many other nations take for granted. Our country might not be perfect but Mandela fought hard to give us the chance to be perfect. Like in many other countries newly freed from oppression things are going awry but it is in remembering the values that Madiba lay down his life for,that we will always struggle to uplift ourselves and our country.  In Madibas passing I can see how South Africans are being brought together and I truely believe that his legacy will live on and one day things will get better in South Africa

KJ_C
KJ_C

You're the idiot, and Im black. I will vote for whoever will do the right thing. 

tsvskibum
tsvskibum

A black man saying the words of a dumb A#$d redneck. Sounding just like the very people he hates. 


/s/


a brown man

SuzaF1
SuzaF1

That's not really what Mandela stood for, is it?

GabrielEduardo
GabrielEduardo

@tsvskibum so, we finaly have equality? RACIAL INEQUALITY IS DEAD!!!