Actors Morgan Freeman, Idris Elba pay tribute to Mandela

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Two actors who have played Nelson Mandela on film paid tribute Thursday to the late icon — as experts said his death will boost the box office fortunes of a just-released film.

“Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century,” said Morgan Freeman, who played the South African leader in Oscar-nominated 2009 film “Invictus,” directed by Clint Eastwood.

“Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve—a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind,” he added in a statement released by his publicist.

Idris Elba, who plays Mandela in the just-released “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” said: “What an honor 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 timing of the movie’s release — it opened on November 29 in the United States — will likely boost audiences. It is due out in a string of European countries in the coming months, but that could change after Mandela’s death at age 95.

“Sadly for anyone that dies, it’s never a good time. But honestly, the timing couldn’t be better for Weinstein Co.” Jeff Bock of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations told AFP, referring to the film’s distributors.

“This is as timely as it gets.”

He joked that even legendary Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein would struggle to organize a more effective publicity boost.

“Harvey Weinstein has pulled some great ploys to get his films in the news in the past, but this is even beyond his scope,” he said.

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