Weinstein scoops North America rights to Mandela biopic
LOS ANGELES: The Weinstein Company, said Friday it has acquired the North American distribution rights for the film version of Nelson Mandela’s best-selling autobiography.
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” directed by Justin Chadwick and currently in post-production, stars British actor Idris Elba as the former South African president and champion of the struggle against apartheid.
News of the deal is a pre-Oscar coup for Weinstein, which has two films, “Django Unchained” and “Silver Linings Playbook”, in the running for best picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards in Hollywood.
In a statement, company co-chairman and Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein said he has been “extremely passionate” about the the project even since its producer Anant Singh first gave him a copy of Mandela’s memoirs.
“We have been talking about making this film since 1999,” he added.
“There have been a number of stop and goes, but sometimes things work out for a reason, and Anant Singh has done a masterful job in producing this epic story of our times.”
No release date has been set, but entertainment trade journal Variety said “Mandela” was likely to come out in theaters later this year.
The Weinstein deal also includes distribution rights in Australia and New Zealand. British and French rights have already been snapped up by Pathe, which is also handling international sales.
Mandela has been recuperating at his Johannesburg home from a lung infection and gallstone operation.
South African President Jacob Zuma visited him earlier this month and found him “comfortable and relaxed.”
Mandela personally approved Singh to carry his 1995 autobiography onto the silver screen, stating: “He will produce a work of the highest standards and excellence, and it is for that reason I opted for him.”