As the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, his human side, as well as his accomplishments, are being celebrated. When it comes to his joys in life, one of them turns out to be an appreciation for cars.
Especially in his early days as a lawyer, before joining the African National Congress in the struggle against the apartheid government of South Africa, Mandela had an eye for great cars. It’s all made very clear the in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which just came to theaters, directed by Justin Chadwick.
“Mandela loved these cars. He was a real fanatic as a young man,” says Chadwick. “If you knew Mandela as a young man, you knew he had a love of fine clothes, tailoring and these great vehicles.”
The British-born Chadwick, whose own father is a car enthusiast, said he paid special attention to getting as many unique period cars into the film, which spans the greater part of the century, for the 95-year-old Mandela.
“I was obsessed about having the best cars available. We kept unearthing these great cars. We had over 500 vintage cars in the movie, which has to be some kind of Guinness record for a film. They are in the background and the foreground throughout,” says Chadwick.
Of particular importance was getting the ancient Chevy that Mandela proudly drove as a young man. The filmmakers found a like model and Chadwick spent lots of time in the back seat shooting scenes with Idris Elba, who plays Mandela, driving down South Africa’s winding roads.
The best thing about it was that the 1940s car was in the kind of shape which would have made a young Mandela proud. “The thing about the climate in South Africa is that it keeps these cars in pristine condition,” says Chadwick.