Idris Elba is saddened by the loss ''of one the greatest human beings'' ever after hearing Nelson Mandela died on Thursday (05.12.13).

The 41-year-old star plays the beloved South African civil rights activist and former president - who was imprisoned between 1962 and 1990 for his objection to the apartheid regime - in the biopic 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' and he was left shocked as he learned the legend passed away at his home in South Africa at the age of 95.

He told the New York Daily News newspaper: ''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.

''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.''

The star was left broken hearted after filming scenes for 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' and found it difficult to comprehend everything Mandela must have gone through in his life.

He found it particularly devastating filming Mandela being forced to miss the funeral of his son Thembi, who died in 1969, when he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Speaking to BANG Showbiz just hours before Mandela's death at the UK royal premiere of the movie in London's Leicester Square yesterday, he said: ''His son dies while he is in prison and he is not allowed to go to the funeral and that was really challenging. It really broke my heart and it was hard to film.

''[Playing Mandela] was one of the best performances for me I have ever tried to do and I hope people really like it, I really do.''

Idris wants audiences to remember where Mandela ''came from'' and give them a true representation of the man.

He added: ''I wanted to explore Nelson Mandela's younger life. I didn't really know what he has done as an old man. I wanted to get the audience to understand this is what it came from and he was just a human being and he had flaws and made mistakes and wanted the audience to really understand that.''