It was suggested that the producer of the $50-million film would be a South Africa-based Indian, Anant Singh, but a Hollywood studio would be brought in as a partner.
It is no secret that Kapur’s relationship with Hollywood, while making his latest film, The Four Feathers, has not always been harmonious. The film has performed only modestly in the US and has yet to be released in Britain.
In July, 2000, Freeman, who is one of America’s most distinguished actors, was asked whether he had met Mandela.
He replied: “Yes, I have and Mr Mandela and I have a pact that whenever we are within a thousand miles of each other that we will get together because I need to spend as much quality time with him before I play him on film. I need to know him very well, and he understands that and so we get together as often as we can. We just had dinner in Washington DC about a month ago.”
On what he felt about portraying Mandela, Morgan added: “Oh, I’m honoured and terrified that I won’t live up to the job of really presenting this man. Ben Kingsley as Gandhi sort of benchmarked that for us. If you don’t do at least that good, maybe you should stay at home. So, it’s a serious challenge, but I am really looking forward to it. One of the best directors around is going to direct it, Shekhar Kapur, so I think we’re going to come out of that all right.”
The French African actor, Djimon Houson, who has a big role in The Four Feathers, has been tested for the role of the young Mandela.
“That’s how I met Shekhar the director,” he said two years ago. “I tested for him for that role. That’s how I know him. But the film didn’t happen and it was pushed back. I was supposed to play a younger Mandela and Morgan Freeman would have played the older Mandela.”
He, too, may be back in contention.