Elba almost missed the premiere in Johannesburg Sunday of "Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom." The actor had an asthma attack Saturday after boarding a plane at Heathrow International Airport and was taken to a hospital.
After catching another plane, Elba arrived just in time, The Guardian reported.
Mandela, 95 and critically ill, was at his home in a Johannesburg suburb. But the premiere was attended by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, played by Naomie Harris in the movie, and his third, Graca Machel, other family members, friends, diplomats and South African celebrities such as Nobel Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer.
"You can see the sweat! No pressure," Elba said as he wiped his forehead. "South Africans love their Madiba and it's a massive responsibility to bring him alive in the best possible way."
Anant Singh, who produced the movie, said he showed Mandela a photograph of Elba in costume and makeup. The leader asked him "Is that me?"
Elba, 41, the son of immigrants from Ghana and Sierra Leone, is best known for portraying a Baltimore drug dealer on the U.S. series "The Wire" and a London police detective in the BBC's "Luther."