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March 2014

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12 Post • March 2014 director's chair H OLLYWOOD — Based on his 1994 autobiography of the same name, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom chronicles the inspirational life of the late Nelson Mandela, from freedom fighter to Nobel Peace Prize-winning statesman and international icon. Directed by Justin Chad- wick (The First Grader, The Other Boleyn Girl) and adapted by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter William Nicholson (Shadowlands, Gladiator, Les Miserables), the film spans Man- dela's exceptional 95-year life journey from his early years as a herd boy in South Africa's rural Cape region to his days as a lawyer and Apartheid resistance leader, and on to his 27 years spent in Robben Island prison before becoming the nation's first democratically- elected President. Starring Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther, Prometheus, Pacific Rim, Thor) as Man- dela, with Naomie Harris (The First Grader, Skyfall) as his wife Winnie, the film was shot by Sundance Film Festival Best Cinematography winner, Lol Crawley (Hyde Park on Hudson), and edited by Rick Russell. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Chadwick talks about making the Oscar- nominated, Golden Globe-winning film, the challenges involved and his love of post. POST: What do you look for in a project and what sort of film did you set out to make? JUSTIN CHADWICK: "It's always about a good story with great characters, whether I was making shorts or doing TV, and when [producer] Anant Singh first talked to me about this, I'd just done The First Grader, which I'd shot in Africa with non-actors, but I felt it was really impossible to do this and to do justice to it. He'd been trying to make it for years, and Mandela's book is very inspiring but also very dense and sprawling, so I was resis- tant. But he invited me to South Africa to meet the family and people involved with Mandela in both sides of the struggle, and after I met them and visited Robben Island and talked to people who'd also been in prison with Mandela, I realized that the way to tackle it was to keep it very personal. Yes, the backdrop is the 100-year political struggle against Apartheid that his life represents, but essentially it's a story of terrible loss and sac- rifice, love and forgiveness, and the huge per- sonal price he paid, and the cost to his family. So then Bill Nicholson came on, and he loved that approach, and then I spent a year in South Africa retracing Mandela's steps, talking to everyone who knew him, researching it all, and really immersing myself in the story." POST: Did you feel any trepidation about taking on the movie, given that you come from Manchester in the north of England, about as far as you can get from Mandela's background? CHADWICK: "I was very aware of being this complete outsider, even though everyone was so warm and welcoming, and I didn't want to impose my agenda, so I listened a lot. My main aim was to make this film in a way that drops the audience into this world that feels visceral and real — a 360-feel. So I didn't want to use CGI and ship extras in from other places. I wanted to go to the local com- munities and talk to them and get them involved as the crowds, the people reacting and pushing the story forward in terms of the energy. So the faces you see in the film are people who're still living the struggle, who've known Mandela and heard him speak. I spent a lot of time forming relationships, but there was some resistance from the local crew that we shouldn't go into some of the communi- ties, that it was too dangerous. But I felt if we went in with the local leaders, it'd be fine and far more authentic, which of course it was." POST: Biopics can also turn out like stuffed animals if they're too reverential — pretty but lifeless. CHADWICK: "Exactly, and I wanted to get away from all that. You're dealing with a period piece and a biopic and his book, and I wanted to be respectful, but I didn't want to sugar-coat it all. I wanted to capture the man's energy." POST: Did you get to meet Mandela and did he give you any advice about the movie? CHADWICK: "I did, right before we start- ed shooting. I spent an afternoon with him and it's one of the great moments of my life. He's still so charismatic, and we looked at tons of research images for the film on my iPad, and he was razor-sharp. He knew every name and date. And I also spent a lot of time with Winnie and her daughters." POST: This is an epic story, so what were the biggest challenges in making it? CHADWICK: "We shot it all in South Africa with a largely local crew, and some of the locations were very tough. We had to build a bridge just to reach Winnie's village, we moved around a lot and the conditions were very difficult. It was their winter, and the sunlight's very harsh. So we went 35mm instead of digital, because you can't get any- thing digital fixed when you're in the middle of nowhere, and shooting in Africa you never know what might happen next. So some of the sequences with crowds and locals would sometimes just explode into different direc- tions, because of the people's energy. It was all very raw." POST: Tell us about the shoot. How long was it and how tough? CHADWICK: "It was 81 days on a very small budget — just $25 million, which for the scope of this story, wasn't much. We built a lot of sets when the originals weren't available or had long since disappeared, and we had a record amount of period cars, which is very costly. And it was physically very taxing Justin Chadwick: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Detailing this icon's life-long struggle against Apartheid. Mandela was shot on 35mm film on location in South Africa. By IaIn BlaIr

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