Biopics are often accused of painting famous figures in a false light. So you really know you've hit the nail on the head when the person you're portraying isn't sure if it's an actor or themselves.
Which is exactly what happened when Nelson Mandela recently watched footage from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the biopic in which plays the anti-apartheid icon. He was so convinced by Elba's performance he asked, 'Is that me, or is that an actor?', Mark Coulier, Elba's makeup artist reported.
'That is what Idris is able to bring the part,' Coulier observed.
The anecdote comes at a poignant moment for Mandela, who is in hospital on a life support machine for the fourth day running. He has been undergoing treatment at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria since June 8, when he was admitted for a recurrent lung infection. Senior tribal leaders, including Mr Mandela's tribal heir, grandson Mandla Mandela, will be visiting the hospital for further talks with family members and the leaders have been told to prepare for Mandela's death.
As the world waits on tenterhooks, praying for the 94 year old's recovery, the film has become even more significant. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is set for a release this fall and is the result of a twenty years of striving by film producer and Mandela's friend, Anant Singh, to get the motion picture made.
Despite the reverence with which most people view the icon, Harvey Weinstein told reporters in Cannes that this wouldn't be a rose-tinted look at Mandela's life:
"This is not your daddy's HBO version of Mandela," he said. "It's a warts-and-all story of Mandela and the end of apartheid."