The hottest ticket in Cannes this past weekend has been anything to do with “Winnie”, the forthcoming film about Winnie Mandela. The film’s Hollywood stars Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard were in town to promote it. So too were its South African director Darrell Roodt and producer Andre Pieterse. And in the whirl of cocktail receptions, parties and press conferences, I managed to secure one-on-one time with each of them for an exclusive sapeople interview. Whew. Fantastic.
The film will focus on the love story between Winnie and Nelson Mandela – and how Winnie’s enduring love helped free a man and liberate a nation.
I’ll be posting the interviews over the next couple of days (Cannes is really busy, hard to find time to write). As you’ll see – the interviews do cover the film’s largest controversies. Like how will the movie convince us that Winnie and Nelson were the biggest love story of all time when most South Africans consider her a reviled figure? And – the biggie for South Africans back home – why have the Canadian-South African production team cast an American star as Winnie instead of a South African?
Having spent a large part of my weekend in the company of Jennifer and Terrence, I can’t express enough how perfect these two stars are for the roles.
Jennifer has a similar sensibility and physicality to Winnie, and a larger-than-life magnetism that gets her noticed. She is also such a humble, beautiful person that you just know she is going to do her absolute best to honour South Africans and be the best Winnie we could get for the role.
With Terrence, there are moments when you forget you’re with an actor and believe you’re with a younger Nelson Mandela. He’s like a philosophical professor. He talks of the brotherhood of man. How we’re all connected. His father was a member of the Black Panthers. And he’s already got the accent nailed down. He cares so much its palpable.
And they’re both SO excited about spending time in South Africa and say they’ve already experienced some of the country’s “warm hospitality” – so I do hope that the press – who understandably need to sell newspapers and therefore love controversy – can somehow give them a break. Imagine if Americans had reacted in the same way when Charlize Theron “stole” American roles from their locals! That’s what acting’s about. Taking on different characters and different nationalities. And these are two world-class actors stepping in to these roles to help show a South African story to us and the world.
Filming begins on 31 May.