Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Idris Elba, charged with portraying Nelson Mandela in the upcoming film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom said he was told of the South African hero's passing while he was at the film's Royal premiere in London Thursday.
"What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied the odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world," Elba said. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
At the end of the screening, producer Anant Singh delivered the news to the audience at the screening as the credits rolled. Two of Mandela's daughters, Zindzi and Zenani, were at the premiere, as were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, when his death became public knowledge.
Onlookers said Zindzi "looked overcome" as she was ushered from the room, while Elba broke into tears. Producer Harvey Weinstein's company canceled a planned party that was to follow the screening.
Morgan Freeman, who played the former president in the 2009 film Invictus, posted his own remembrance on his Facebook page.
"Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve -- a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind," Freeman said. "As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go. Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us."
Charlize Theron, a native of South Africa who has taken up AIDS activism, one of the causes Mandela focused on later in life, mourned his passing on Twitter.
"You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever," she said. "There will never be words to say what I'm feeling right now. I am saddened to the depths of my soul. Truly."
My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever— Charlize Theron (@CharlizeAfrica) December 5, 2013
There will never be words to say what I'm feeling right now. I am saddened to the depths of my soul. Truly.— Charlize Theron (@CharlizeAfrica) December 5, 2013