Actors who portrayed Nelson Mandela mourn loss

LOS ANGELES - Actor Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Nelson Mandela in the film "Invictus," hailed the former South African president Thursday as a "true giant."

Freeman portrayed Mandela in the 2009 Clint Eastwood-directed film that chronicled the newly elected president's support of the national rugby team as a unifying force in the racially torn nation. Freeman was nominated for an Oscar for his work in the film.

"Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century," Freeman said. "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.

"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," he said. "Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us."

Actor Dennis Haysbert, who portrayed Mandela in the 2007 film "Goodbye Bafana," which focused on the impact Mandela had on the prison guard who watched over him for 20 years, called the role the "defining moment of my life and career."

"We as a society have been blessed to live in a time that Nelson Mandela has lived, loved and led," Haysbert said. "What he has done for his country, his countrymen and everyone on this planet may not be achieved again, ever. I will always honor him as a saint."

Idris Elba plays the title role in the new film "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," a biographical film following Mandela's life from childhood through his election as president.

"What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers and championed human rights before the eyes of the world," Elba said. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

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