Antoine Fuqua to Direct Feature Documentary About Nelson Mandela (EXCLUSIVE)

Antoine Fuqua is set to direct a feature documentary about Nelson Mandela, Variety has learned.

Provisionally titled “Troublemaker: The Story Behind the Mandela Tapes,” the doc will use newly discovered audio interviews with Mandela himself to deliver an “honest, accurate and definitive depiction” of the man who remains a global symbol of justice, hope and universal human dignity, according to a press release.

More from Variety

The “Training Day” director has teamed with Mandela’s close friend and former cellmate Mac Maharaj on the project, who will serve as an executive producer. While spending 12 years alongside Mandela in a tiny cell on Robben Island, Maharaj transcribed Mandela’s autobiography before eventually smuggling it out of jail. He later went on to become a minister in Mandela’s government.

“Using recently discovered audio interviews of Mandela intimately recounting his life experiences, as well as the personal reflections and insights of Maharaj, the film will reveal the forces that shaped the global icon that is Nelson Mandela,” reads the logline. “Jailed for 27 years, this pioneering activist lawyer turned freedom fighter walked from prison into a country on the brink of a violent racial conflagration to become the first democratically elected president of South Africa.”

Maharaj will also lend his own experience and insight to the project, shedding light on details such as how he managed to set up an illicit communication link for Mandela to be able to speak to the ANC leadership in exile.

Mac Maharaj in Nelson Mandela’s jail cell, Robben Island (Courtesy of Lorton Entertainment)
Mac Maharaj in Nelson Mandela’s jail cell, Robben Island (Courtesy of Lorton Entertainment)

“It’s an honor to bring to the screen the untold story of Mandela, a man I’ve revered my entire life,” Fuqua said. “For decades, Mandela and his comrades were put through the most inhumane conditions imaginable. Yet they came out of jail with love and forgiveness in their hearts, and rather than seeking vengeance, they sought to unite the country. His compassion and inner strength enabled Mandela to make meaningful change. This film will investigate how Mandela came through his ordeals with his humanity intact, and reveal the tough and shrewd politician behind his iconic ‘nice guy’ persona. I’m incredibly fortunate to be partnered on this project with Mac Maharaj, whose experiences, intelligence and encyclopedic memory of his years alongside Mandela are invaluable.”

Maharaj adds: “I have longed to see the story of Nelson Mandela, and his decades long fight and sacrifice for freedom, equality and justice told in an authentic, complex and revelatory way. It is a story that is more relevant to humanity today, than ever. I am thrilled that a director of Antoine Fuqua’s skill, creativity, and integrity has agreed to take on this challenging task.”

Fuqua began production in South Africa, interviewing a number of Mandela’s former comrades and other key figures who once knew the man affectionately nicknamed “Madiba”.

Lorton Entertainment, the company behind documentaries including “Rooney” and “Supersonic,” are financing the project. Producers are Arthur Landon for Lorton Entertainment and Mark Bauch. Maharaj executive produces alongside Gordon Metz, Hipster Media’s Markus Davies and Zig Zag Productions’ Matt Graff and Danny Fenton.

“During a time of political uncertainty and unrest around the world, this film aims to rekindle the influence of a truly great leader and show how a humble but determined lawyer became one of the greatest politicians in history,” said Landon and Bauch. “We are incredibly fortunate and excited to be partnered with Antoine, who has an incredible vision to show the world a side of Mandela we’ve never seen before, and Mac Maharaj, a true South African icon who fought the struggle alongside Mandela, and is a resource unlike any other.”

Antoine Fuqua and Mac Maharaj
Antoine Fuqua and Mac Maharaj.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.