With British royals and Mandela's own daughter in attendance, the London premiere of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" was in full swing on Thursday when news broke that the South African icon died.
Prince William was informed of Mandela's death while the film was being screened at the Odeon Leicester Square, according to Richard Palmer, the royal reporter for London's Daily Express. And while William and Kate, the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, arrived at the event with smiles, they were seen leaving the event "ashen faced."
Aides told William and Kate of Mandela's death during the screening. The audience held a two-minute silence at the end of the film.— Richard Palmer (@RoyalReporter) December 5, 2013
Prince William, speaking in the foyer of the Odeon, said: "I just wanted to say it's extremely sad and tragic news."— Richard Palmer (@RoyalReporter) December 5, 2013
"We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family," Prince William continued, before leaving. "It's very sad."
Prince William with Kate by his side describes news of Mandela's death as sad and tragic pic.twitter.com/YsVVnShI89— Victoria Murphy (@QueenVicMirror) December 5, 2013
Zindzi Mandela, the late South African president's 55-year-old daughter, was overcome with emotion while inside the screening and left afterward without speaking to the press. News of Mandela's death stunned the audience.
An amazing film but a terribly sad night. As the Mandela credits roled on the Royal Premiere we were told the news. So much sadness RIP— emily verdeyen (@emv1308) December 5, 2013
We were delivered the news as the credits rolled. Silence here in the cinema where the royal couple have just watched Mandela. RIP— Katie Nicholl (@katienicholl) December 5, 2013
Idris Elba, who plays Mandela in the film, didn't address the crowd but issued a statement shortly afterward: “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."
Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company is distributing the Oscar-buzzing film and who was also at Thursday's Royal film premiere, also released a statement. The mogul revealed that he spent time with the iconic South African leader before he died, making note of the late leader's humor and idealism:
"One of the privileges of making movies is having the opportunity to immortalize those who have made a profound impact on humanity. We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela's story and legacy. It's been an honor to have been granted such proximity to a man who will go down as one of history's greatest freedom fighters and advocates for justice. I have had the privilege of spending time with President Mandela and I can say his sense of humor was as great as his optimism. We are deeply saddened by his loss; our hearts go out to his family and the entire South African nation."
[Photos: Nelson Mandela in Film]
Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Mandela in "Invictus," also issued a statement on Thursday: "Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. 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. As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we’ve come, but on how far we have to go. Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us."
Watch 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' Theatrical Trailer 2:
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