Mandela, As Told by Hollywood

Numerous movies have tackled the story of Nelson Mandela's life and the horrors of apartheid.
3:00 | 12/07/13

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Transcript for Mandela, As Told by Hollywood
Nelson mandela's life played out like a motion picture. Born into royalty, a revolutionary who endured 27 years in prison, triumphing over injustice to lead his nation out of the dark chapter of apartheid. His charisma, humility and generosityf spirit are nothing short of legendary. So what does it take to portray a legend onscreen? Here is abc's chris connolly. We don't have rights. We don't have justice! Trust hollywood to recognize a true story of heroism when it sees one. And to do it again and again. In the life of every nation -- when there are two choices. Submit. Or night! Reporter: With nelson mandela portrayed by idris elba, brings mandela to full hero ic stature. We talk about responsibility. That's -- that avenue one's one of the things I had to pay attention to. We were to go ahead and make that as real as possible on the screen. As he schlepplept in mandela's cell, he pondered how a man of intelligence and physical power may emerge with strengthened capacity for leadership and forgiveness. I spent a night, I needed context, perspective. You and I would never know what it is to not have freedom until it is taken away. In the morning I was angry, man, the injustice. Mandela spent 19 years in that one room. It is mandela's struggle and the extra ordinary individual who d victorious from it, that led hollywood to address mandela's storien so my in so many ways. Hollywood embraced nelson man dell las mandela, the sacrifices, where he was able to take the country out of prison. A rare story. Very dramatic. Personally so, many people in hollywood felt, drawn to him. Each approach mandela as if they're playing somebody, a star in his own right. They bring all their own strengths to it. Sydney poitier, in mandela and de Klerk. No watch would be comfortable in a country dominated. In more than 300 years. You have been dominated. 24s, DENNIS HAYSWORTH. In good-bye, focusing on mandela's relationship with his white jailer. You and I could live peacefully. Terrence howard onscreen alongside jennifer hudson in "winnie mandela." Morgan freeman. This is the time to build our nation in clint eastwood's invictus. Showing a mandela in office. I would look to thank you for what you have done for our country. Mr. President, thank you for what you have done for our country. Reporter: Looking to foster national unity through sport. You look at pictures of of a young mandela. He is a beautiful man. At some point in every one of the movies, with the rare exception, you can see the actor, sort of unluge teash the mandela smile. Because he had this great smile. When they say that happens in so many mandela performances, the am begs ambition of the actor to meet the challenge. I am angry! You are angry! But you must show loyalty. See the fire in the eyes. Fire in the belly. ♪ ♪ free free free nelson mandela ♪ Reporter: When mandela was in jail it was pop music responding to burgeoning protests and news coverage of apartheid. ♪ ♪ organized and fronted by bruce springsteen, steven vansant. Artists recorded sun city in 1985 to support the boycott of south africa. Years afterwards, after he won freedom for himself and his nation, the burdens of office were lightened for mandela by the occasional presence of entertainers. For michael jackson -- for the spice girls. This town which understands star culture, how did they see nelson mandela? He was the ultimate star? He is -- a hero, he is a flesh and blood hero, alive in our time. The entire entertainnt community saw in him, a man they yearned to I've d ed to I've dent dentify with. You are saying to get your picture taken with nelson mandela was the ultimate tribute for a hollywood producer? Definitely. Meant your heart, spirit and conscience was in the right place. Even in a resolutely ironic age. Man dem la's life, a hollywood touch stone. Never massive at the box office. Yet compelling. A hero for and of his time. That so many seem to chronicle and celebrate. ♪ Free nelson mandela ♪ I'm chris conley for "nightline" in los angeles.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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