Idris Elba Makes 'Mandela' Premiere Despite Mid-Air Asthma Attack

Idris Elba managed to attend the South African movie of his Nelson Mandela movie Long Walk to Freedom despite being hospitalized following an asthma attack while travelling to the country. The 41-year-old actor was taken off a South Africa bound-plane and missed a press conference in Johannesburg.

 Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk To FreedomNaomie Harris, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Poster
Elba and Watts in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

"I've battled asthma most of my life and it just overwhelmingly took me down on Friday while I was sitting on a plane," he told Sky News. "It was a very scary moment for me. A doctor on the plane helped me through it. Thankfully I am here."

Idris plays President Nelson Mandela in Justin Chadwick's movie and the Hackney-born actor - best known for Luther and The Wire - conceded feeling the pressure.

"You can see the sweat! No pressure?" he told the Guardian, "South Africans love their Madiba and it's a massive responsibility to bring him alive in the best possible way...I just wanted people to recognise him when they heard the sound and say, 'That's Madiba!'"

Based on Mandela's seminal autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom chronicles the legendary leader's early life, his coming age of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and setting about rebuilding the country's once segregated society. For months, the bookmakers had Elba as the big favourite to win best actor at the Oscars, though a handful of lukewarm reviews trickling out of the festivals changed all that.

In fairness, the bulk of the reviews are yet to come in for Long Walk to Freedom and early offerings from big hitters like Variety and the Telegraph suggest the movie's awards hopes are still alive - particularly Elba's. 

"With the magnificent Elba to anchor it, the film gradually achieves a sort of grandeur, in the manner of the hero it depicts," said David Gritten of the Telegraph.

"For all its failings, there is one thing about "Long Walk to Freedom" that can't be denied: Idris Elba gives a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages," wrote Scott Foundas of Variety.

"Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom's story and plot are flawed, but are easily overshadowed by the lead performances by Naomie Harris and an Oscar-worthy Idris Elba," said David Baldwin of We Got This Covered.

Tim Grierson of Screen International largely disagreed, writing, "This nearly two-and-a-half-hour biopic is largely too tasteful and conventional to offer much insight into the remarkable man it wishes to celebrate."

Watch the trailer for Idris Elba's 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom':

Elba - still at decent bet at 5/1 to win the big one - spent a night on Robben Island, locked in a cell next to the one where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years in order to prepare for role. Read our analysis of Elba's Oscars chances here.

"I wanted the audience to know what it was like once Mandela and his colleagues were jailed and the crowds dissipated," Elba told the Daily Mail at the Toronto Film Festival, "It was a s***hole.I had a thin blanket for a mattress and that's all there was between me and the concrete floor. They gave me a bowl. I had no water, nothing to drink at all. I was wearing my sweats and whatnot. I had two iPads to document myself and a cell phone."

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, also starring Naomi Harris, hits theaters in the U.S. on a limited run on November 29, 2013, to allow for awards consideration.

It is released in the UK on January 5, 2013.


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