Movies

Mandela's daughters learned of father's death at film premiere

Dec. 5, 2013 at 9:15 PM ET

Nelson Mandela's two youngest daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, were attending the London Royal Premiere of the new film about their father Thursday when they received word that he had died.

IMAGE: Mandela movie premiere
Jon Furniss / AP
Actors Tony Kgoroge and Naomie Harris pose with Zindzi and Zenani Mandela and star Idris Elba at the London premiere of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" on Thursday. It was at the screening that Mandela's daughters learned their father had died.

"They received the news of their father’s passing during the screening and immediately left the cinema," the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement.

Mandela's daughters requested that the film continue. Producer Anant Singh announced the death to the audience, which included Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, after it ended. Singh asked the audience for a moment of silence in the South African leader's honor, the Associated Press reported.

Idris Elba, who plays Mandela in the film and met with the Mandela daughters at the premiere, issued a statement after the news broke. "I am stunned at this very moment, in mourning with the rest of the world and Madiba's family," Elba said. "We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth. I only feel honored to be associated with him. He is in a better place now."

Image: Former South African President Nelson Mandela
Odd Andersen
View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela — who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

Zenani Mandela, 55, and Zindziswa (Zindzi), 53, were only toddlers when their father began his prison sentence at South Africa's Robben Island in 1964.

The film, based on Mandela's autobiography, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, and has been shown in South Africa and for President Barack Obama at the White House. Mandela's daughters attended the White House screening.

While the film's reviews have been mixed, Elba's performance has been mostly praised. Variety critic Scott Foundas said Elba gives "a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages."

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