The Winnie Mandela biopic hits screens on Friday with Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard as the iconic South African couple. It’s but one of two films about Nelson Mandela, as Idris Elba will star as the South African icon in the second pic “Long Walk to Freedom.” In the trailers, “Long Walk to Freedom” with Elba as Mandela and British actress Noemie Harris of James Bond fame as Winnie, emerges as the favorite, but seeing Oscar nominee Howard and Oscar winner Hudson in roles well out of their comfort zone could be interesting.
But “Winnie Mandela” hasn’t come without its share of controversy. Although directed by South African director Darrell Roodt, the American cast was criticized by the Creative Workers Union, the Screen Actors Guild of South Africa, and Mandela herself reportedly objected to her depiction. Hudson says the film did take time to reach audiences.
“It was done almost three years ago actually,” Hudson told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. It was originally an independent film and also an international film so it takes a while to get distribution. T.D. Jakes picked it up so we’re grateful for that.” Hudson, an Oscar winner for “Dreamgirls” says that the challenge of playing Mandela forced her to make some changes.
“That’s what started the whole weight loss originally because I had to lose weight for the role and also getting down the accent. So they had me lose weight and work on the accent as well. “ Hudson would famously lose almost 80 pounds, getting a deal with Weight Watchers in the process. Though starring in the film, Hudson never got a chance to study her famous subject.
“I still haven’t had the opportunity to meet her, but hopefully this opens up a door where I can be able to meet her,” Hudson says. She too, has heard that Mandela was not happy with the movie, although Mandela never publicly criticized the actors, just the movie itself. “I’ve heard that in the wind definitely, but hopefully she sees it and she likes it .”
As for working with Howard, Hudson says he’s a Method actor, who remained in character throughout their shoot. Howard is in three films this season including “The Butler” and “The Best Man: Holiday.”
Hudson will be onscreen again this year in “Black Nativity,” also produced by Jakes. She has high praise for Howard as an actor, but is also not surprised he stays in the news.
“Terence is just an amazing actor. He was always in character all day everyday . He would come to me as Nelson and I was always Winnie on and off set. He’s always raising the bar so that was a great partner to be teamed up with. I’m not surprised[ that he keeps making headlines.] I’ll say that and I’m going to shut up. He’s an interesting individual.” “Winnie Mandela” is in theaters this Friday.