Lawyers for Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife are trying to get script approval over a new biopic that stars Jennifer Hudson as his wife Winnie. Producer Andre Pieterse maintains shooting will start in South Africa on May 31 for 10 weeks. Madikizela-Mandela is unhappy about the way she’s portrayed in the film, which follows her from the age of 19 up until 64. Director Darrell Roodt says that Winnie will not be afraid to show Madikizela-Mandela’s dark side. “We don’t shy away from the controversies in her life,” says Roodt. “It’s not for Winnie Mandela, it’s about Winnie Mandela.” For that reason, Roodt did not want to involve Madikizela-Mandela from the outset.
Winnie Mandela rose to prominence during South Africa’s apartheid era, when she led the African National Congress and vigorously campaigned for the release of her husband, who spent 27 years in jail. Their marriage fell apart a few years after his 1990 release. In 1991, Madikizela-Mandela was sentenced to six years in jail for her role in a kidnapping case. The sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal, but she was later convicted of fraud and theft charges.
Terrence Howard will play Nelson Mandela. Hudson, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Dreamgirls, says she wanted to the role because she empathised with the way Madikzela-Mandela overcame terrible odds. “For that reason we definitely connect,” she tells me. “It’s going to be an incredibly challenging role. I can’t wait to start the journey.”