Mandela Daughters Learned Of Death Just Prior To Start Of Movie Premiere
They had smiled and posed for photographs on the red carpet and then enjoyed an animated conversation with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
And if Zindzi and Zenani Mandela had any idea that their father’s long life was drawing to a close, they did not betray it for a minute.
Then, in a single instance, everything changed. As they were about to watch the London premiere of his incredible story, the sisters were apparently told that the 95-year-old had died peacefully at home after months of illness.
Tearful and flustered, they tried to compose herself. The two women were said to have left the cinema immediately, but when asked if they wanted the film – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom – to continue, they said yes.
It was an extraordinary premiere. Few in the Odeon auditorium in Leicester Square knew what had happened and settled down to enjoy an evening celebrating one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century.
We can’t even imagine how we would react to such untimely news…
It was only after the credits had rolled that the film’s producer Anant Singh got on the stage to break the news to the rest of the audience. There were screams and gasps of shock while some burst into tears. A two minutes’ silence was held.
Eleanor Simmonds, 54, from Croydon, who was at the premiere to support a Mandela charity, said: ‘There was an audible sharp intake of breath. It was shocking news to hear at the end of the film. Everyone was shocked,’ she said. ‘I was really, really sad news because it was a wonderful evening.’
William and Kate looked ashen-faced as they walked down the stairs into the foyer. Speaking as he left the Odeon cinema, the Duke said: ‘I just wanted to say it’s extremely sad and tragic news. We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was.
‘My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. It’s very sad.’
We’ve got goosebumps just thinking about being in that room…
Shortly after the Royal couple left, shocked members of the audience began emerging from the cinema, in silence at first.
The cast, whose after-show party was promptly cancelled, were too upset to speak. In the foyer, security men surrounded Naomie Harris, who plays his wife, Winnie, as she walked slowly past, head down and close to tears.
In a statement Idris Elba, who is tipped for an Oscar for his portrayal of the great man, said in a statement: ‘What an honour 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.’