The life of Nelson Mandela is to be the subject of a $20-million television miniseries spanning six decades and the momentous events leading to his election as South Africa’s first black president after 27 years in jail.
Mandela, now 93, has given his approval for the six-hour drama, which is due to go into production later this year, shooting primarily on location in South Africa.
Casting is still being finalised. Mandela has previously been played on screen by Morgan Freeman in Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film Invictus.
The producers are in talks with broadcasters in the UK and US about the project.
The scripts are based on two books optioned by the producers, the autobiographical Conversations with Myself and Nelson Mandela By Himself, which features authorised quotations. The programme-makers have also been given access to the archives of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Entitled Madiba, the clan name of the Xhosa tribe by which Mandela has often been known, the miniseries is being co-produced by his grandson, Kweku Mandela, and the UK film-makers who were behind The Queen.
Kweku Mandela said Madiba would not just be another project painting his grandfather as “Mandela the saint”, but would seek to credit the many people who helped shape his life story.
He added that the producers were also seeking to educate a new generation about apartheid.
Madiba is being written by Nigel Williams, the British novelist, screenwriter and playwright, whose previous TV credits include an adaptation of his own novel The Wimbledon Poisoner and Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren.
The miniseries is being co-produced by UK filmmakers Andy Harries and Marigo Kehoe through their production company, Left Bank Pictures, which has credits including the BBC’s Swedish detective drama Wallander. Harries and Kehoe have previously collaborated on projects including The Queen and The Damned United.
Harries said that during a research trip to South Africa for the project in May 2011, he and Kehoe had a brief meeting with Mandela to discuss the miniseries and get his personal blessing. They found him at his home in Johannesburg, sitting “in his armchair in his lounge reading the paper”.
Harries said he believed a “quality six-hour TV series with a budget of over $3-million an hour will be able to give the story the space and breadth it needs”.
He added: “There is a whole generation of people who weren’t even born when Nelson Mandela finally walked free from prison after 27 years in captivity in the early 1990s. His story is one that they need to know.” —